*Fabric companies change their policies, close, and merge. I’m now updating a version of this list over at Craft Industry Alliance where you’ll also find a vast library of other resources helpful to craft business owners. Join me there!*
Last week I got an email from a blog reader named Heather who asked:
For many years I have wanted to start my own craft business (specifically sewn goods), however as I have been thinking through what goes into producing each item I’ve come to the conclusion that purchasing fabric wholesale would be the only way to make a decent profit.
Are there any podcast episodes or blog posts that you can think of that discus this topic? Getting started buying fabric wholesale seems like it is a large investment but maybe a necessary evil?
Heather is sewing products that she’d like to sell and is looking to source materials more affordably in order to increase her profit margin. That’s one reason many people look to buy fabrics wholesale. Another is to open a retail fabric shop either online or in a brick-and-mortar storefront. And sometimes these two scenarios become intertwined. Lindsay Prezzano of Hawthorne Supply Co is a great example of this last scenario. She began buying fabrics wholesale to sew patchwork picture frames on Etsy in 2007. She opened a second Etsy shop to sell the leftover yardage and that second shop took off, eventually becoming one of the most successful online fabric retailers today.
But how do you get started? That’s what Heather is wondering.
Quilting cotton is sold wholesale by the bolt. Each bolt holds 15 yards of 44-45” wide fabric and is typically priced between $82.50-87.
Whether you’re looking to manufacture items or sell fabric retail you’ll need two things to set up a wholesale account with a fabric company: a business and some money. Proving you have a business is not very onerous; the information needed is very basic. Most fabric companies have an online form to download and fill out in order to open a wholesale account. The form will ask you to fill in the name of your business, your name, your address (this can be your home address), and your tax ID. (Don’t have a tax ID? Here’s how to get one. It’s free and you can apply online. You’ll need your social security number. Once you complete your application you’ll have your EIN within a few hours.)
Some fabric companies will ask for your website URL (this can be an Etsy shop which is free to set up and takes just a few minutes) and others may ask how many years you’ve been in business. (These credentials are essentially the same as the credentials required to attend Quilt Market, the industry trade show, where you can make appointments to see the newest fabrics and place orders in person.)
The second requirement is some money to pay for your first order. If you plan to sell fabric retail you’ll need to meet the manufacturer’s minimum for your first order (the minimum drops considerably, or disappears entirely, for subsequent orders). The first order requirement for retailers ranges from $0-$5,000 depending on the company, but there are plenty of options in the $500-$1,500 range. Some companies require that you order a certain minimum amount each year, others don’t. Note that you can order a variety of different bolts to meet your minimum (they don’t have to be the same bolt or from the same collection).
If you’re planning to manufacture sewn items there’s typically a very low, or no, minimum order but you’ll likely have to choose from a catalog of existing designs rather than the latest lines hitting stores now. The fabric you receive as a manufacturer will likely be on a roll rather than doubled and bolted like it is for retailers and sometimes that means shipping charges are higher.
It’s important to realize that although each of the major fabric companies has it’s own process and pricing, all of this information is publicly available on the companies’ websites or by making a quick phone call. Fabric companies want to sell fabric and they need retailers and manufacturers to buy it. Nothing here is secret.
I did some searching to see if there was one central spot to find all of the information from all of the companies, but came up empty-handed so I created the handy chart below (or open it as a Google doc). This information is up to date (as far as I know) as of today. I’ll work to keep it current, but if you have information to correct or add please let me know.
If you’d rather not order a lot of fabric from a single manufacturer, consider opening a account with one of the wholesale distributors like Checker, EE Schenck, or Midwest Textiles and Supplies. This will allow you to order a few bolts from many different manufacturers, although not every manufacturer sells through distributors so the selection may be a bit more limited.
A few caveats about use of this list. The first is that fabric companies are aware that there are group buying clubs that set up wholesale accounts to buy fabric to divvy up among friends. This is a sketchy space. Some companies have an explicit policy against selling to coops, and others don’t. (The group buying company, Massdrop, also falls into this grey area.)
Second, if you begin buying fabric as a manufacturer and then start selling yardage as a retailer, like Lindsay did, reach out and let the manufacturers know your change of status. You’ll get access to the latest lines (and a sales rep may reach out to visit in order to show you what’s available) and your fabric will ship on a bolt so it’s easier to cut and sell.
And third, I’m aware that right now is a hard time to be in the retail fabric business, especially brick-and-mortar, but online as well. Competition is fierce and Amazon is even fiercer. Making a living selling fabric is hard and many shop owners feel resentful that fabric companies have what seems to be a low bar when it comes to determining who can open a wholesale account.
In a podcast interview a few years ago I asked Mickey Krueger, the president of Windham fabrics, about why Windham sells to Etsy shops and Fabric.com along with local quilt shops (listen to that interview here). “The barrier is low. I’ve got fabric on the shelf and if you want it I’m going to ship it to you,” he said. “We have a low minimum so as long as you meet the low minimum we’re cool. We do want to know you’re a legitimate business so if you’ve got a tax ID number we’re cool. And if you’ve met those two thresholds we’ll ship you fabric.”
Gathering this information in one place and offering access to it isn’t going to change the reality of today’s retail environment and becoming a successful manufacturer or retail store requires a lot more than digging up the basic information needed to buy fabric wholesale. As Mickey said, “The world is changing…The internet is here today and it’s not going away. If we refuse to sell to an Etsy store with the thought of saving the brick-and-mortar store well, we’re not going to be able to make that happen. It’s not a reality for anyone.”
That being said, some companies are now cracking down. I recently spoke with Ken Gamache, president of QT Fabrics, who told me that over the last 18 months they’d deactivated or closed over 400 wholesale accounts. “Internal research revealed most were consumers, crafters, or guild members who gained wholesale accounts years ago and were not retailers,” Gamache said. “Most established accounts when we had a $300 opening order minimum. We felt continuing to sell directly to these people did not help legitimate online and physical retailers.”
In any case, I hope this list is helpful to Heather and to you in whatever endeavor you’re undertaking that might be made better if you could buy quilting fabric wholesale.
Maria Bywater says
Thanks for sharing this great info and your insights.
I have a fabric shop that is going out of business I will sell all material, notions, patterns , shelving all below wholesale price
If anyone is interested email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lynda Bergeron says
FIRST I want to say I am sorry for the goin outa biz. However I am interested in what you have left to sell. Please let me hear from you.
Odilia Fletcher says
Where are you located I’m opening a fabric shop would love to see what you have for sale
Denny Fox says
When I started selling fabric online, I went to the manufactures to find who the distributors were, then applied for a wholesale account with them.
What I can add to your info is:
1) Try to use a distributor close to you or at least on the same side of the country, unless they offer free shipping (which most do not do with fabric bolts) this will help with cost.
2) If you need just a wee bit of a certain fabric for a pattern, say for a nose or ears, center of a flower or another small part, buy retail. Unless you can and will use up a bolt for another project. If it is a one-off, you are not saving any money by having bolts of fabric laying around.
3) Fabric available today may not be available 6 months from now or next year. Collections turn over as quickly as the latest and greatest computer and cellphone. I have people asking if I have or can get a certain fabric from an older collection that they need to finish a project. If it is within a year of the fabric line’s first printing, then there is a possibility. Anything older than 1 year, there is no chance of finding it wholesale. But I will check then search and often send them to another retailer that has it.
Finally, if readers of your article are looking to get wholesale prices only for their own or their friends personal use, they should think about their actions. Small fabric shops, whether online, like mine, or around the corner, are there to help you with your next project with a personal touch you may not be able to get from a big box fabric store. Even I shop at my local quilt shops, because all shops can’t be all things to all customers! Shop Small, Shop Local!
Felice Regina says
As a small business owner, I just have to pipe up and say Checker Distributors has been a huge godsend. I believe the opening order has to be $300, and any order after that has a $150 minimum with an annual $1K minimum. I can get a bolt of Kona, backing fabric, a ton of zipper, patterns, notions, and other materials all in one place. When I’m getting samples ready for my own fabric collection for market, it’s nice to be able to stock up on interfacing, thread, etc. that I know I’ll be burning through without having high minimums from individual brands.
There are other distributors like Brewer, EE Schenck, and United Notions that each have different catalogs and brands to offer. If you’re looking for more than just fabric, getting an account with one of these is the way to go.
That’s so helpful Felice. I have an account with Checker as well, but I didn’t look into the minimum for fabric. Is the per bolt pricing about the same as it is from the manufacturers? I’m guessing yes since Checker buys at 30% below wholesale.
Felice Regina says
There is no separate minimum for fabric, only the $150 overall order minimum applies. The pricing is very close to manufacturer’s prices. For example, a wide back from Windham costs $8/yd from Checker, but $7.95/yd from Windham themselves. I think the benefits you miss out on are that Checker seems to sell out of new collections fairly quickly and there aren’t any special perks that you may get directly from the manufacturer.
Don’t forget that if one begins to buy wholesale with idea of selling the fabric retail, collecting and reporting sales tax is on you (assuming it’s required by your state or local government). My accountant tells me that a sales tax audit is much more likely to happen for small businesses and have a significant impact of you don’t do it properly than an audit from the IRS. This is likely to trouble these buying groups in the end.
With the ease of getting into business these days, many small shops come and go with varying results but all this diluting of where to get fabric has a huge impact on bricks and mortar shops. Admittedly, B/M shops can’t be all things to all people and no one needs to be guilt tripped into buying local but I’m concerned with the idea that shops might not carry things because people are buying it from online shops while at the same time people would buy online because they can’t find it in their local shops. Seems like it could be a sad little death spiral for local shops that do provide a valuable service of letting us see the goods in person, touch it, and provide valuable interaction and service.
I agree on all points. You definitely want to properly collect and remit sales tax and retail has already shifted significantly in all sectors, including quilting, and that will only continue. I do have faith that excellent local shops will survive.
Jacqueline Richards says
I love B & M shops, but all of them are at least 40 min. From our town. Do not assume it’s just people choosing online. Some of us can not get to a shop.
Great info everyone.
P.S. That’s why I’m thinking about opening a shop.
I am also thinking about opening a shop, I live in a small community and just recently our fabric store closed down not because of lack of business it was intertwined with a hardware store and they just decided to close the door. I am interested in did you open you shop and how did you get it started?
Gwen Sloas says
Marianne, I am considering opening a shop in a small town. The closest location to purchase fabric is 45 minutes away. Do you have any information on opening a shop. This article was the first one that I saw that was helpful.
I’d appreciate any insight. I hope your shop is opened now!
Hi Gwen, You might consider joining Craft Industry Alliance. That’s a community for craft industry professionals that I co-founded. We have lots of information there that will be helpful to you, including templates for creating a business plan, and with over 1,3000 members, many of whom own brick-and-mortar shops, I think you’ll find answers to lots of your questions. You can check it out here: https://www.craftindustryalliance.org
Lindsay Rodems says
This is an example of reading the right information at the right time! I have been contemplating utilizing wholesale fabric for my Etsy shop. This information and even your readers’ comments are packed with information. I have found myself supporting more and more small fabric businesses and less fabric.com, but there are still things that I’m sure would make more sense for me to purchase wholesale. Thank you for writing this!
Sure thing, Lindsay. I hope it’s helpful to you in your business.
Thank you for taking this on as a post. As usual thank you for being a powerhouse of information!
Patti Carey says
Amy, please consider adding Northcott to your list: http://northcott.com/
I will work on it Patti!
I’ve added the Northcott information. Thank you for the suggestion!
Peggy Brown says
I thank you for this post. Most helpful!
Abby – great article! I appreciate all your well written and thoughtful posts. I actually stopped selling fabric on my Etsy shop as I no longer wanted to compete with the precious Brick & Mortar quilt shops. Plus I was terrible and making fat quarter sets and I hated cutting yardage. It is interesting – at first I just sold handmade items on Etsy and then when I added in fabric by the yard and jelly rolls (bought wholesale from EE Schnecks) my sales increased quite a bit. For now I have put my tierneycreates Etsy shop on hold to rethink what I want to do with it – if I am going to just sell handmade then I need to come up with something I reasonably make part-time (I work full-time in healthcare) and something my quilting husband can help produce also.
tisha @ quiltytherapy says
Great article Abby. Checker was great for my business needs. They have most of the stuff I want/need. A distributor is a good way to go for those looking to explore the options of wholesale fabrics. It just seemed overwhelming for me to reach out to each manufacturer and have to maintain minimums for their accounts. I’ve put the business on hold right now. I
During the hay days of Rachel Ashwell I starting making soft furnishings for independent retailers around the US from my home. I purchased fabric from wholesalers and sold to US customers when the Canadian $ was floating between .55 and .75 US. I made a good profit when calculating the cost to make the pillows, shams, quilts, aprons, etc. etc. – but do you pay yourself a living hourly wage. The answer is ABSOLUTELY NO.
Because I had no overhead costs I was able to make enough money to put my daughter through university and buy a vacation property on the west coast of Canada.
My hourly wage was maybe half or less the minimum wage. However, the convenience of working from home and not being the major breadwinner in the family I was able to make it work.
But no matter how much you enjoy designing, sewing and marketing – it turns into a job like any other and you have to work evenings, weekends and late into the night to fill orders for customer deadlines.
So if “fabric” is your romantic fun job – let me tell you it is still better to have a day job employed by another with health benefits.
It worked for me for 8 years that I needed the income and to be at home, but hands down you work many many many more hours than you would going out to work.
Hope this helps folks out there thinking about this as a job. LAUREN
This is really helpful insight for me. I’ve often thought my handmade goods would cost far more than anyone would want to pay if I only paid myself a minimum wage. This should be considered when romancing the idea of a “side hustle”. It also gives me a bigger appreciation for the real costs of handmade items.
Rochelle Faye Annala says
Your story is my story right now. I’m not the main bread winner but I am manufacturing children’s items from home getting by. What I am having trouble doing is finding actual Canadian wholesalers. They seem to be a well kept secret or something. I have found a couple but they have HUGE minimums. Could you possibly help me in my quest to find wholesalers for my home based business? I do have a tax number and business number. Thanks so much Lauren, your story really struck a chord with me.
Sandra Holloway says
I appreciate this post and all of the comments from other readers. I find Whileshenaps.com a great source. This article comes at a great time for me. Thank you, Abby, and thanks to those who have commented.
Sure thing Sandra!
Eileen Keane says
Abby, I bought bolts of fabric several years ago from Marshall Dry Goods. They’re a wholesale business out of Arkansas. I’m a longarmer and had hoped I’d be able to sell backings. Unfortunately, my clients’ taste was not the same as mine. I still have most of that fabric, some was never even unwrapped.
I’m posting this as a caution-be careful with what you buy.
Rachel Nevarez says
I recently discovered Birch Fabrics, specializing in organic cotton, knit, guaze, and canvas. While their per yard wholesale price is higher, $7.50-$8.25/yard, its a great option for anyone looking specifically for organic. I believe $450 is their minimum order with no minimum reorder or annual commitment.
I work in the fashion industry and specialize in apparel design, development, and mass production. I am used to purchasing wholesale fabric by the roll at 50-100 yards per roll. My biggest hesitation before starting my Etsy shop as a side project was how do I buy small quantities of wholesale fabric? Fast forward to about 6 months ago, I discovered most of these companies and was blown away by the fact that I could order 15 yard BOLTS at a reasonable per yard price. I had no idea and I have been in the fashion industry for over 12 years, sewing for myself for over 28!
Since then, I have had the pleasure of meeting a lot of these wonderful vendors at the textile shows I attend on behalf of my day job. They all tell a similar story (it is a hard time to be in the retail fabric business) and are reaching out to trade shows outside of the quilting market to try and secure other avenues of business. I opened two accounts with most of these vendors, one for my Etsy shop and one for my day job, and look forward to providing them additional avenues of business. I find their prints work great for both children’s clothing and men’s shirting.
Last thing to point out for anyone else who does larger volume is that most of these companies can also offer rolls of about 60 yards. You know for when your small sewing business does explode and you need more volume!
Thanks for the great read Abby!
You have a great perspective, Rachel! Thank you so much for sharing it here.
Delina Aberle says
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Debbie Starling says
Thanks for posting this. I am just starting to make quilts for sale. Buying retail, there was little to no money gonna be made. I have just started advertising Have 3 quilts to make already. But I don’t want to buy from some where that is going to say I have to spend so much money a year. I do have a business license and a wholesale license.
Very informative .
Marge Harvey says
Is it possible to get the chart you created for the wholesale information as a PDF? Or an email attachment. It is wonderful information to have, but I can’t seem to print it off from this article.
No, I haven’t done that yet. It’s here and I’m betting you could select, copy and paste?
Hi! Do you have any good sources for organic cotton quilting fabric beyond Cloud9? I looked through the others recommended above and didn’t see any. Looking for a wholesale supplier but must be organic. Cloud 9 is awesome, and I’ve also found Birch, but I want a bigger selection to pick from (and their stuff is all a similar style). It’s for a new product I’m launching in 2018. Thanks!
Christine Craig says
Thank you for the information. Please sign me up for your newsletter.
Great article, thank you for putting it together and the work to compile that list for us!!!
Tammy Carpenter says
This is helpful information. I am in the process of completing a business plan for a brick and mortar shop. I have talked to many shops around the Midwest, regarding how they market, choices they made, ect. But I find getting the actual amount of the bolts and such remained a mystery. I look forward to more information.
I do not have my Website set up yet.
Congrats Tammy. I’m so glad this was helpful. You may also find FabShop to be a good organization to join. It’s for quilt shop owners and they have a Facebook group and magazine.
Neita Gortze says
I’m having trouble finding information on using wholesale bought fabric and creating your own precut bundles. Does anyone have any information about this? Am I even allowed to create my own precut bundles with someone else fabric?
Yes, you’re allowed to do that.
Gwen Sloas says
Tammy, I am just starting on my business plan for a brick and mortar shop. I would appreciate any tips you can give me for the business plan. I saw a template on SBA website. Is that the one you used? I Hope your shop is up and running by now!
Megan Silverthorn says
This is a great article! I have a small Etsy shop as d I make little girls dresses/skirts/baby blankets etc… I did my first craft/market this weekend and learned that as much as I love sewing, I need to find a way to do it cheaper or I’ll never be able to quit my day job and make some money at this thing. This is just perfect. Please sign me up for your newsletter.
I’m so glad it was helpful to you, Megan. I’ve added you to my email list.
Beth Patton says
Great post and info. I am a graphic designer and dedicated quilter and I am in the final stages of launching a division (Quilt4Joy – website coming next month) that will market graphic design services to quilt designers who want to turn their quilt designs into salable patterns. The info you provided on wholesalers and the distributor comments following your post is priceless! You have saved me hours of research. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
Rochelle Faye Annala says
I am a small manufacturer of children’s clothing and shoes in Canada and I am having a really hard time finding distributors of wholesale fabric in Canada. I was wondering and crossing my fingers and toes that you might have some info in this area? I love your site by the way, very valuable information that has been so helpful starting my business!!
Did you look at TrendTex https://www.trendtexfabrics.com/?
Lee-Amy Choate says
Thank you! This information is very helpful! I am about to start a quilting business.
Shawnda Ewing says
Please add me to your list for your newsletter. Thank you!
Was not including Art Gallery Fabrics an oversight, or do they do things differently then those companies? Their website seems to push towards a representative. Any info on them would be great too! I’m interested in their apparel fabrics mainly.Thanks so much for puttting this together!
Hi Tara, Oh my! Total oversight on my part. I’m actually talking to Pat and Walter Bravo tomorrow evening for the podcast so I will ask them then and add the information to the spreadsheet. Thank you!
That is great! Thank you so much!!! I love what you do….I am not a quilter, but I find it so helpful to keep up with the industry, and your business info is so helpful across other genres.
Thank you, Tara.
Karen M. says
Wonderful information that you have worked hard to assemble for others to use. May many good things come your way as a result!
I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on two things I have noticed in the retail fabric market. First, every B/M quilt fabric store I have been in is not set up in a way that makes it feasible for me to find the fabric I am looking for. I learned to quilt through online sources, like many thousands of other quilters, and we are used to the convenience of being able to: (1) see all the fabrics in one collection altogether and (2) see other items that are available that are not necessarily offered by our B/M store. I’ve tried many times to buy locally (I live in a metropolitan community in a county with more than 1.1 Million people), but when I go in those stores, I can’t find anything that looks interesting and appealing! I seriously think this is a big opportunity for someone to develop some kind of technology that B/M stores can use to help buyers find what they want in that maze of fabrics they offer. Too many are stuck in the organize-by-color method, which is not how I buy fabric! Second, I find most of the patterns I buy online or through quilting magazines. They are often attractive to me because of the fabric collection they feature. As you know, those lines can disappear quickly because of their popularity. But where I have found the Etsy shops to be the most helpful is when they offer the popular fabrics (usually by designers like Kate Spain, Bonnie and Camille, Lori Holt, etc., or manufacturers like Moda, Riley Blake, etc. that I have come to prefer, but more are added each season) but because they don’t move products as quickly, I can still get many if not all of those individual fabrics by the yard at Etsy retailers where stores like Missouri Star Quilt Co. has been sold out long ago. That is a HUGE benefit to me as a quilter and I find myself doing at least half my quilt fabric buying through Etsy stores. That adds up to at least $1,000 a year, if not more. So being seen as a niche seller in this area would be a real asset to an Etsy retailer.
Patty Baumeister says
When buying a “lot” of fabric from someone who is going out of business and wants to sell all remaining fabric, most of which is still on bolts. What is a fair price per bolt? Or percentage of original cost? Owner thinks there is about 1500 bolts remaining. His wife owned a quilt and fabric shop and passed away unexpectedly and he just wants to liquidate. Thanks!
$3 – $4 per bolt plus shipping., assuming it’s all quilters weight, woven cotton. Also, depends on the brand. Their are cheaper brands like Springs Creative. Sometimes “flat cuts” are cheap and not wrapped on a bolt. You should try to get a look in person and see exactly what and the brands being offered are. Or do a FaceTime live video phone call to get a “tour” if you can not go in person. Ask to see the bolt labels.
Sorry, meant $3-4/yd not bolt ⬆️
Rochelle Faye Annala says
$50 Canadian on the low end for an entire bolt of quilters cotton, $60 for knits
Thank you very much I have enjoyed this article as well as the comments I have just started my own on line fabric shop and in February I will be opening my own fabric and quilt store
Ellenmcminns I am ellen says
I am open fabric shop in Nassau Bahamas I am looking for bolts fabric in the Miami but I call is so high
Thanks for sharing, amazing post.
said baadi says
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I’m a bit confused about the spreadsheet information for Moda. It sounds like there’s a way to purchase directly from them without a wholesale account? Is that at retail price? I haven’t been able to figure out or find reference to that anywhere else… any insight you have would be much appreciated!
Hi Amber, No, Moda doesn’t sell direct to consumer. You need to purchase Moda fabrics from an independent quilt shop. In order to purchase fabric directly from Moda you need a wholesale account. The $400 minimum order is for small batch manufacturers. I’d give Moda a call to ask if you might qualify.
2 questions about availability of latest prints for product producers:
– If you go to quilt market to order directly, are you able to order the latest lines without a minimum (as a maker)
– If you sign up as a maker then switch to fabric retailer, do you avoid having to put down the large initial order amount (bypassing the process)