Novelty Fabric Prices are on the Rise and they are already at an all time high

Novelty Fabrics in J&O Fabric Store

Fabrics are more than simply functional textiles. Fabric can be used to conserve memories or to tell stories, as in quilts. Fabric can be used to shape our identity, as in the clothes we wear. Fabric can make a house more livable just as it can make furniture more comfortable. In other words, fabric is part of the fabric of our lives.

Over the past few years some substantial changes have overcome the fabric industry that have jeopardized its stability. For instance, some longtime manufacturers have closed, such as Chris Stone and Shamash & Sons. Waverly was bought out by P. Kaufman. Wal-Mart dropped fabric from most of its stores. Hancock Fabrics filed for chapter 11. Despite these changes, what most preoccupies fabric enthusiasts is the rising cost of purchasing their favorite fabrics. Why has the cost of fabric gone up?

The pinch is felt by both fabric retailers and their customers. 100% cotton novelty fabrics that were once no more than $6.00 per yard have now increased to more than $10.00. As owners of a fabric store for over 40 years, we have quite a bit of perspective on the realities of the fabric industry. Occasional price increases are expected as part of a manufacturers’ response to inflation, fabric advances, etc. Over the last year and a half, however, we have been hit with at least four price increases from our standard mills. Companies such as Robert Kaufman, Michael Miller, Timeless Treasures, Fabric Traditions, Andover, RJR, Moda and VIP Cranston Village among others form the foundation of the novelty fabric industry. These mills are the backbone of J&O Fabrics as well as of many other retailers. What explanation have the mills given for the increased cost of their goods?


One response we have received is that the “gray goods”, or base cotton used for printing novelty fabrics, have been increasing in price. China is the main provider of “gray goods”. These price increases are in turn passed onto the mills. The mills increase the cost of purchasing for retailers. And many retailers feel they have no choice but to raise their prices to compensate.

Could it be that the absence of Wal-Mart’s buying power has allowed “gray goods” providers to increase what they charge mills? In comparison, we haven’t seen equivalent price increases in finished fabric goods such as garments. Without the leverage Wal-Mart exerted over “gray goods” providers, it is probable that they have responded by increasing their prices to make up for the lost volume. Furthermore, a number of mills sold virtually exclusively to Wal-Mart. Formerly, their fabrics would sell for $1.00-3.00 less than those of most novelty fabric mills. Without Wal-Mart, the prices of their fabrics have in some cases increased to more than those of the premium novelty fabric companies.

Sadly, many mills see no other way to combat their costs except by raising prices, despite knowing that doing so will inevitably hurt the fabric buyers’ market. For those who love to sew or quilt, the increased prices could make them think about simply purchasing a finished item instead of starting their own project.

At J&O we make every effort to keep in tune with our customers’ needs and observations. Unfortunately, we too have had to slightly increase our prices for some of our novelty fabrics. At the same time, in order to combat what we perceive as over-the-top prices, there are certain mills whose fabric we simply refuse to carry.

What are your thoughts and concerns regarding the price increases in novelty fabric? What would you like to tell the mills? What ways have you found to continue your fabric passion in the face of rising prices? We’d love to hear from you.

At J&O Fabrics we have more than forty years of experience working with customers and mills. We have found a way to meet our customers’ needs for four decades and look forward to doing so for many decades more.

Post by J&O Fabric Store

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4 Responses to “Novelty Fabric Prices are on the Rise and they are already at an all time high”

  1. Teresa Vasser says:

    I own a small sewing and alterations shop specializing in scrubs and uniforms. The way I’ve chosen to combat the rising cost of novelty fabrics is I buy a yard of novelty print, which I use for accents, pockets, neckbands etc. the bulk of the uniform is a solid cotton or poly cotton blend. This makes a beautiful set of scrubs and is less costly than making the entire top out of the novelty print.

  2. Jan says:

    My concern is that fabric companies will start (continue, actually) to print their designs on a cheaper base cloth. As someone who puts lots of time into her quilting, I hate to see the current decreasing quality with lower thread counts. (Kona solid cotton is a good example.) I’d rather purchase a little less than compromise the quality if cost is an issue.

  3. Jeannine says:

    I have decided to buy smaller amts of fabric and also try to use up what I already have on hand. When the price reaches a certain threshold, we as consumers and sewers have only so much money in out wallets, we just buy less or make do with what we have on hand.

  4. Sandra Davidson says:

    You think fabric is expensive down in States you should come to Canada where most fabric (good) costs bt. $16 and $18. or more. It is getting almost to expensive to indulge ourselves in fabric for quilts. I use to buy my fabric on-line from American Quilting stores but the mailing prices have become so high it sometimes is more than fabric. Sandra

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