I’m one of those cosplayers who does pretty much all my fabric shopping online. I only have one fabric shop within several miles of me and the selection never really seems to have what I want. There’s a Hobbycraft as well but that selection is only just bare basics. But that’s just the way it goes sometimes, so I turn to the many online fabric shop websites.
But here’s the major advantage to buying in store rather than buying online. As with practically anything, when browsing fabric in a physical shop you see the exact colour, feel it, look at how it drapes, test how it will photograph, etc. You cannot do this online. A lot of people who order online tend to find that the colour of the fabric that arrives doesn’t match the colour of the fabric they saw on their screen.
Therefore, samples. A lot of fabric websites will give you the option to order samples. These are first and foremost the best way to check that the fabric is actually the colour you want. They may also help give you an idea of the weight, weave, how it will photograph, etc of a fabric, though some of these things may be a little hard to guess from just a small piece. Of course it will add to your cosplay costs, but spending £1 on a fabric sample to discover it’s the wrong colour is far preferable to dropping £50 on several metres only to discover it’s not what you want.
Please note: this is a UK list only. As I am a UK cosplayer, I tend to only order from UK websites. I’m afraid I wouldn’t know where to begin compiling similar lists for other countries.
This list will probably be updated with other places from time to time. And please feel free to comment if there’s a place you know which I’ve missed off this list. Considering the vast amount of fabric websites available to the UK alone, that’s entirely possible.
Abakhan – roughly 23 x 16 cm and cost £1 each. Free shipping is available.
Ainsberry – samples cost 94p, I think free shipping is available.
Beckford Silk – samples measure 13 x 18 cm. 95p each, with free shipping available. Swatch cards showing fuller ranges are also available.
Calico Laine – samples are charged at £1 each with free shipping within the UK
Cheap Fabrics – roughly 6 x 4 incles at 99p each. Free shipping available.
Croft Mill – the first 5 samples are free, with a charge of 25p each after that. Shipping will cost £2 for just samples but are free if samples are part of a larger order. You may order samples online or request by post by sending a stamped addressed envelope. Further details on this can be found here.
eBay – this is worth a mention because many sellers here will offer samples. If a fabric search result ever shows you 99p or very cheap listings, those tend to be samples. Some listings will be just samples, some will allow you to opt for samples first, some will require you to contact the seller. Your best option is to read each listing carefully. You may even have to go to the seller’s shop to see. Not all sellers offer samples. Selecting fabric on eBay can often take some time and this is just part of it.
Eurofabrics – samples here are 90p each with free postage available.
Online Fabrics – order up to 10 samples at a time at 75p each. Delivery is £1 per order.
Ralston Fabrics – samples are available but you will have to contact the owners with details of your name, address and what you wish to order a sample of.
Remnant Kings – order up to 3 free samples at a time. There is a charge of £1 for each additional sample if more are required.
Spoonflower – not a UK website, but worth mentioning as some sellers offer prints which can be used in cosplay outfits. You can also design and upload your own. Test swatches will cost $5 and shipping to the UK will cost about an extra $2 for standard (8-10 days). Don’t forget to take processing/printing time into account. Colour guides and colour maps are also available.
Textile Express – samples are available through either phoning or emailing the shop owner. Contact details are available in each fabric listing.
Tia Knight – roughly 6 x 6 inches and cost 50p each, plus £1.25 postage.
Truro Fabrics – samples measure 10 x 5 cm. Up to 15 samples can be ordered at a time, costing either £1.20 or £2.40 each, depending upon the value of the fabric. Free postage is available.