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Jan 8, 2011

Where can I buy good cotton shirting?

Friends, today I want to talk about online resources for men's shirting.

As you know, I am one of the fortunate few who still have access to brick and mortar fabric stores.   I buy many sewing items online: sewing machines and sergers, notions, ALL my patterns, but fabric, not yet.  So in preparing today's post I went to the experts.

I picked Nancy K's brain so much yesterday I left little red marks.  If you've ever scanned the Pattern Review message boards or read her popular blog Nancy K Sews, you've seen Nancy in action.  Nancy has great taste and knows her stuff.  Nancy's recommendations for cotton shirting include Fabric Mart, Michael's Fabrics, and Philip Boyne on Long Island.

I had heard positive things about Fabric Mart, and after checking out their website I can see why.  Fabric Mart currently has gorgeous Italian shirting for $7.99/ yd.  (I recommend buying three yards to make the Negroni shirt, though for a short-sleeve shirt you can get away with two-and-a-half.) 

They have a beautiful selection of high quality, conservative shirting and I found their website to be very easy to navigate and fast.  I love this elegant steel gray windowpane:

I also checked out Gorgeous Fabrics, a slightly more expensive alternative.  They also have lovely shirting for sale, in the $10/yd. range.  This petit houndstooth in burgundy is simple and beautiful.

And then there's

Blogger and frequent MPB booster Debbie Cook, who has apparently tired so much of hearing me talk about sewing for Michael that she has taken up the challenge herself (I kid you not), found her beautiful cotton shirting at this popular fabric resource.

I find's website to be slow to load and a little overwhelming, but they have a wide range of choices and excellent prices.  I found cotton broadcloth there for as low as $3/yd.  Michael loves this brown/blue gingham; perfect for an "Autumn."

(Parenthetically, Debbie also helped me code my Men's Shirt Sew-Along button and thank goodness she lives in a right-to-work state or I could never afford her.  I plan to outsource most of my sewing to her in the near future.)

NOTE: these online sellers have frequent sales and discounts available to their mailing lists, so you might want to add your name to them.


There are many different types and qualities of men's shirting and I found two sites with clear descriptions of the difference between Oxford cloth, poplin, cotton twill, broadcloth, chambray, piqué, etc.

Mens shirt fabrics

Shirt fabric glossary

For those of you sewing the Colette Negroni pattern, you may want to choose a more casual fabric -- a print, say, or a small plaid, or even flannel.  You'll see there's plenty on offer at the sites listed above.  I'd stick to 100% cotton.


You are also going to want to interface plackets, collar, collar stand (if you choose to make one) and cuffs.  I like woven weft weight.

Nancy purchases her interfacing from Pam Enry, here.  All of Pam's interfacing is 60" wide, Nancy says, "which makes her prices a bargain."  Many of you will recognize Pam's name from her blog, Off the Cuff.  Pam has downloadable PDFs of instructions for using the interfacing too!

A final word -- well, many words -- about shirt fabric:

I made my first six shirts using sheets from the Salvation Army.  Some were even  -- gasp! -- cotton/poly.  I intend to make a Negroni muslin from a sheet.  Used bedding is our friend, readers. No one has to know your shirt was slept on -- or worse -- in another life.

Friends, that's it.

Given that you all have way more experience shopping for fabric online than I do, if you'd like to recommend resources you've used, please share them below, especially for those shopping overseas.

I'm here to answer your questions and if I can't I'm sure someone else can and will.

I'll be posting about other shirtmaking supplies soon, as well as favorite fabric resources here in NYC.

Happy Saturday everybody!


  1. Online fabric shopping - a topic near and dear to me (I have links on the sidebar of my blog for my favorites). Here's what I recommend for shirting:

    Michael's Fabrics (been to the store in Baltimore - incredible - and MIchael himself was so nice to me and my kids and gace us a huge discount since we were stopping by from NC)
    Fabric Mart - shopped online and in person - amazing bargains and great quality
    Elegant Stitches - they specialize in heirloom sewing, but that means lovely cottons by Spechler-Vogel and Fabric Finders - nice online store, but I am fortunate to live near enough to be a regular customer
    and finally, join Ressy's Co-op through Yahoo groups (Fabric and Notions is the group name) - periodically, there is a group buy on gorgeous Italian shirting

  2. I haven't bought fine shirting from this site, but I do know that carries imported Italian shirting. I usually try to enter the search word Italy or import in order to weed through all the junk.

    I've also purchased some really nice shirting from Eunice Farmer, but I don't know if they sell online at all?

  3. I bought my fabric for this saw-along from Sawyer Brook ( They aren't cheap unless you find something you like on sale, but the quality is always beautiful, and you don't have to pick through a bunch of stuff to find what you want. I also have used Gorgeous Fabrics a lot and am always happy with purchases there.

  4. Those also look like excellent resources. Thanks!

  5. I laughed when you wrote that you had used old bed linens for muslins. I've been watching a video on pants fitting by Peggy Sagers and she recommends old bed sheets because of their tight weave that will not stretch out of shape. If you don't have any you want to cut up I bet you can find plenty at the Salvation army or other thrift shops. I know that it's a tighter weave than the muslin that's available at Joann's that mecca of mediocrity.

  6. You're a gem, Peter! Now I have an excuse to browse fabric for hours. Perfect.

  7. I buy quite a bit of fabric from There are definite plusses to going with them. One--anything over $35 ships for free. Two--wide selection. Three--the clearance section. They have Everything's $1.95/yard. Four--returns are easy...and free. They always pay return postage. Five--prices. They run sales so frequently that I can get designer stuff at cut rate if I pay attention to the sales.

    This one I'm not. Mine came locally from Hobby Lobby. And I'm going cotton/poly to cut down on the ironing, because I know that none of my brothers have touched an iron in years. I will, however be placing another order in the near future. They will have what I need to finish a project next week.

  8. Laura, there are definite advantages to cotton/poly and not having to iron is a big one!

  9. Oh thank you! Those links on shirting types are just what I was looking for. Now I will feel less ignorant as I trawl my local fabric store. Wonder if I can convince the hubbykins to come with me....

  10. Farmhouse Fabrics has some beautiful shirtings also and I've always been pleased with their service.

  11. Rosen and Chadick in New York used to have a fantastic selection of shirtings, but I have not been there in probably 10 years. Maybe they are not so famous for that any more.

    Re interfacings, in David Page Coffin's Shirtmaking book, he recommends using self fabric or other shirting fabric for interfacing. Since I read that, I have followed this advice and it works well.

  12. I don't make shirts, but I do all of my fabric shopping online. I've received some amazing swatches and yardage (via bundles) from Michael's Fabrics. That is the first place I would go to look for shirting.

    I don't like to take chances with fabric purchases, so I only shop at places where I know they only sell the best quality. That way, even if the fabric isn't perfect for the project I had in mind, I can keep it for something else and I will still love it.

    Online shops that I trust not to disappoint me are: Michael's, Emma One Sock, and Gorgeous Fabrics.

  13. I've been looking for cotton flannel in the NYC garment district. Would you be willing to share the fabric store name? Thanks!

  14. I bought my flannel at AK Fabrics at 257 West 39th. Great selection.

  15. Very cool, such a great resource you put together for all of us on the internets. Thank you.

  16. I buy a lot from Fabric Mart. Their prices are very good, shipping rates reasonable, and they ship very fast! (They had the stretch velour, "suitable for a warm-up suit", that is currently occupying my brain on clearance in May for $2 per yard. You can't beat that price with a stick.) I've also bought from Fashion Fabrics Club. They have some interesting things in their clearance dept, and good prices on other fabrics, as well as a great selection. Their shipping is slower, however, but worth the wait if you choose carefully.

  17. Peter, thanks for all the info! I ordered my pattern yesterday and purchased my fabric today. Weeee!

    The only thing I haven't purchased is the interfacing. Would you recommend a sew-in interfacing or fusible? Or self-fabric facings, like couturearts mentioned?

  18. has a lot better range at present than when I have occasionally checked in the past 2 years. It's a very user friendly website also.

    I have ordered from Etsy and Ebay sellers, and also EmmaOneSock. I've been very happy everytime. EOSock will hold fabric for you if you wish to peruse for a few more weeks until you pay for everything at once. I love that about her business, as she posts regularly and sometimes you hanker after something just after you have made an order.
    I found the Liberty sellers on Ebay very good also; I couldn't tell why they were seconds quality at all.

  19. Does anyone have any online sources for good quality (but not expensive ;) shirting fabrics UK please? I could spend hours walking to the shops but it's cold, wet ''n horrid in London at the moment, and sitting at home in the warm with my laptop and a cup of coffee in hand seems far, far more appealing ;) LOL

  20. UK sources:

    I would definitely recommend Croft Mill fabrics. The choice may not be huge, but they have some *really* nice stuff for not too much money! Not quite so cheap but equally gorgeous are Ditto Fabrics, and if you're willing to brave the website, there's always Fabricland.

  21. For those of you living in California's Central Coast, the is a small Robert Talbott outlet in Carmel Valley. In their back room, there are bolts of high quality, factory surplus shirt, pant, jacket, lining and tie fabric available at unbelievable prices, most around $5 per yard. Amazing stuff!

  22. In Dallas, I find the most beautiful Italian shirtings at a fabric outlet called Golden D'or. If you're within driving distance, it's worth the trip. This week they're having a inventory clearance sale, too.

  23. @Lucy - thank you for the links, I shall try them this week (I shall have to do so quietly as Hubby thinks I'm not cluttering up the spare room with yet "MORE" fabric for the forseeable future mwah hahahaha! *evil cackle*) ;)

  24. UK sources: Sewbox ( has some amazing men's cotton poplin from Liberty on sale at the moment, it's only £8 a metre. I bought this one -

  25. I already had the pattern and fabric so now just waiting to start. I bought "blah, blah, blah" from Michael Miller to tease my DH about how he is always talking to the dog! Hope that he likes bright blue!

  26. For those of us close enough to make the pilgrimage to San Francisco, Britex Fabrics is not only a source but an experience. They are one of the suppliers for "impossible to obtain" shirting cottons mentioned by David Coffin in his book. They don't sell online per se., but have a web presence and also have a mail order service (remember those..?).

  27. Britex Fabrics will be selling a selection of their fabrics online starting this spring. They will be starting with wools (including suitings!), and hopefully shirtings. They already sell buttons (including horn buttons and blazer buttons) online.

  28. Another Michael's Fabrics lover, here -- I bought the dreamiest shirting there for the sew-along. He has some Italian shirting in right now that is to die for. If you are even within an hour's drive of Baltimore, I highly recommend visiting the store in person to fondle the fabric. The brick-and-mortar store is called A Fabric Place.

  29. Peter, I just rediscovered your blog. I'm a perpetual-motion graduate student now, but waaaay back when I started my seemingly endless post-secondary journey I was in a theatre costume construction program!

    It was enough to put me off sewing for a long time, but, having become bored of knitting, I'm getting back to my roots and trying out pattern drafting to boot! I really enjoy your blog, and am very encouraged by your progress. I think there is hope for me, too!

    Anyway, blah blah blah . . . . You should check out Acorn Fabrics ( for the *finest* quality English men's shirting. The site looks like it's only for commercial producers, but they have sent me lengths as short as two yards -- and they are the most beautiful fabrics I have ever bought. Prices range from $18-35 Canadian. They also blow out their discontinued and end-of-roll shirting at 50% off.

  30. I found fine cotton shirting at B&J Fabrics, 525 Seventh Ave, 2nd Floor (above Duane Reade Drugs), Manhattan ( ). I found many beautiful italian stripes on egyptian cotton, a number of sea isle solids, and pima cotton in a mix of prints and solids. Prices seem to range between $15 to $35/yard. For the truly adventurous they have fine silk fabrics that melt on one's skin.

  31. hey Peter, great blog, have really enjoyed reading up on shirting and looking at what you've made - cool shirts.

    I was wondering, have you found any websites that sell good shirt buttons? especially multiple colors, materials, shapes...

    Thought you might know the best place to start looking, thank you


  32. Haydn, try eBay or Etsy. Search under "vintage plastic shirt buttons" (or shell).

    You'll find some wonderful buttons at good prices too!

  33. for shirtings try: farmingdale, ny (will send swatches based on jpeg photos on the site)

    hwa-seng textiles (google search) expensive, but top notch also sells MOP buttons as well (i think their site is or something like that)

    if you are willing to wait and pay anywhere from $40 - $80 per meter for cloth, Harvie ane Hudson, Turnbull and Asser, and Hilditch and Key as well as Ascot Chang, (not stateside but their mainland China, Kowloon operation) sell a dizzying array of shirtings. shipping is relatively good, though costs can be prohibitive.

    Rosen and Chaddick still sell shirting, in fact they sell retail for American Sember in NYC who only sell to those in the trade now...
    by way of note, American Sember has a fantastic range of ultimate quality cloth. i have bought from them for almost ten years and their cloth is luxurious. i started out as a home sewer and now operate a small custom shirt making business from my home tailoring workshop.
    there are a number of other places you can purchase from; the internet has taken much of the leg work out of it, thankfully.


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