After all the hassle with the fabric for my Anna skirt I thought I should give a proper review on Spoonflower.
If you’re not aware Spoonflower is a website where you can have custom fabric made up. They also do gift wrap, wallpaper, and decals (although I think they’ve been phased out in favor of something new). You can buy fabrics other people have created or make your own. Really it’s perfect if you’re into costuming and want a specific pattern, or just want something no one else will ever have (you can keep your designs private). It is quite pricey though. For example a yard of Kona cotton will usually run you around $5-6, but on Spoonflower it’s $18. Is your wallet crying yet? Their silks and performance fabrics aren’t much more though, so it’s not so bad if you really wanted something in a more thrilling fabric. They also have a discount of 10% for designers when they buy their own prints (you can’t just become a designer and get a discount on everything). You’ll also get a small commission if other people buy your fabric.
The site is pretty straight forward and easy to use. The search bar at the top can be modified so you’re only looking at fabric, wallpaper, designers, etc. Not all images can be printed onto all materials. I saw some where you buy a fat quarter and it had a newborn onesie printed on it. You just cut and sew. Obviously this design would make for weird looking gift wrap. But there’s a lot of flexibility to make different things. It just basically has to fit onto a yard because the pattern simply repeats. Here’s one of those project panels, I’m very tempted by this one.
I think it’s kind of awesome and for $20-25 why not right? They have a lot of things like this. Now obviously these will pretty much only work for infants and toddlers, but it’s still a cute concept. I don’t think I could ever generate something like this myself so my hat’s off to these designers.
Now you can do all this fun stuff on Spoonflower, and there’s just sooooo many fun prints. I could (and have) literally browse the site for hours. Even though it’s expensive, some of these prints are just so amazing and there’s really something to be said for getting to get exactly what you’re looking for. But the problems start when you don’t get what you’re looking for, even when you’re staring right at it.
If you’ve been following my blog you’ll know I’ve been sewing a Anna costume. I bought my fabric from Spoonflower and was just so excited. The CG image looked great, so did the printed sample shown by the designer. Here’s what it looked like.
It looks great right? It even has the flecks that simulate the “fuzzy” look of Anna’s skirt. Sadly this is not what I received. My fabric was dark, very dark. The flecks were difficult to see, the upper blue blended into the hem blue, and the “embroidery” just seemed to fade into the background. If I hold the fabric in very bright sunlight it looks okay. But who is only going to stand in direct sun only? I want to wear this skirt to a Halloween party, at night. If it’s just going to look navy blue with virtually no detailing at night I could have saved myself a fortune and just bought blue Kona cotton from JoAnn’s and called it a day. But I spent more than three times that much per yard because I thought this print was worth it. How could I have known how wrong things would go? Here are some side by side images. I took these photos closeup in very bright sunlight today, it’s produces the best effect with the Kona. Otherwise it’s very difficult to see the pattern.
Sorry for all the fuzz on the left fabric. My son stole my lint roller and I still can’t find it.
The basic combed cotton is on the left and my original order of the Kona is on the right. As you can see the “flecks” are clearly visible on the left and just sort of fade into the background on the right. It’s also easier to make out the “stitches” on the left vs. the right. Again, this photo was taken in very bight sunlight and it’s the only way you’re even able to see this level of detailing or such brightness with the Kona fabric.
Here again we have the basic combed cotton on the left and the Kona on the right.
Basic combed cotton on the right, Kona on the left.
Basic combed cotton on top, Kona on the bottom.
I think the differences are pretty pronounced. Especially since for some reason the basic cotton holds it’s color even in dim lighting and the Kona seems to look even darker. I’m guessing since it’s so dark and kind of purpley grey to begin with. I don’t think the purple hue comes across in photos, but I promise you it’s there in real life. It’s just so dull. I was devastated when I opened the package and would have been so embarrassed to wear the other fabric had I been left with no other option.
After seeing the fabric I did what anyone would do, I went back to the website. I looked at their contact info and called the phone number. It was just a recording that hung up. Okay fine, it was late at night I’d just send an email. So I fired off an email and waited- for two days. After 48 hours with no response I went back to the website during their chat times (noon to 4pm EST). Chat was offline, so I tried calling again. All I ended up with was the same recording that told me to send an emil and hung up. Left with no other option I went to their Facebook page and complained. Suddenly, as if by some miracle chat popped back online! Tara was really interested in helping me (I’m sure) and wanted to know what the problem was. Clearly she spends too much time on Facebook and not enough time on email or chat. I told her what was happening, gave her my order number, and she found my email. I sent her an image of the fabric as requested and she agreed it was pretty bad. So she told me it was probably just some error and they’d reprint my fabric and she’d supervise the process personally. She then logged off chat without so much as bothering to say goodbye so I was talking to myself for a while. A few days later I was devastated to get a new email saying my new fabric printed out exactly the same and would I just like to pick a different print? Umm, no. I was very explicit in why I bought this particular print, so no, I didn’t want something else. There was some more back and forth and eventuality she agreed to print again using a different fabric. That printed out fine and she FedExed the new fabric. I got it, and whipped the skirt up, and now things are okay. But I think Spoonflower still has some major issues to work out.
I looked at a few reviews yesterday and it seems like most people are really happy with their fabric, and that’s great. But the few that aren’t couldn’t seem to get into contact with the company so just gave up or didn’t even bother to try. Likely because of the nature of the product so they figured they’d be ignored. I get that, I was almost one of those people. Actually I feel really lucky I even got in touch with someone. Because while they were dealing with me they had been actively ignoring someone else who’d bought $3,000 worth of wallpaper and every last roll was printed incorrectly (the patterns didn’t line up at all). I feel horrible for her and really hope she got things sorted cause she’s out quite a bit and that’s not funny. For a company that claims to serve over a million individuals they certainly aren’t doing a great job. I really don’t know how a company gets so big without having great customer service.
Spoonflower has a chat program and really, it’s the only way to speak to someone at the company. That is, short of driving to their offices and banging on the door until they let you in. They claim to offer tours but I don’t know how you’d set one up when no one will get back to an email. Or perhaps they only respond to positive emails and just ignore the complaints? All I know is that if you offer a phone number and say “call this number for help” it needs to not be a recording that simply hangs up on you. And if you’re really only going to have chat up for four hours a day it needs to be available. It’s just not okay to have no one available to help when something goes wrong. Because something will go wrong, nothing in this world is perfect. It is possible that they grew too quickly and need to expand certain departments but just haven’t yet. That’s fine, but they need to work on that and the sooner the better.
My other issue was with the excuses for the color variations. I’m sorry but if they know one fabric will always print light and another will always be dark, then they need to adapt the file to the fabric type they’re printing. To try and shift blame onto the designer saying they made a dark file is unacceptable. Take Michael Miller fabrics for example, you can get his prints on all sorts of fabric, minky, flannel, quilting cotton, etc. The colors are usually exactly the same despite the fabric type and the reason for that is simple. They adjust their colors to meet the needs of the fabric they’re printing on. Spoonflower needs to be the same. They cannot just say “buy a $5 swatch and see if you like it” there needs to be more consistency. Because otherwise you’re going to spend a lot of time and money trying all the fabric types and if you still don’t like the color you’ll need to tweak it yourself or hassle the designer. Or just learn to live with a custom fabric that’s not what you want.
I think if they can work on these issues then the company will continue to grow and will see even greater success. No company can expect to ignore their customers long term and do well.
Here are some swatches of samples I had bought in the past and was very happy with.
The first three with the larger pattern are Silk Crepe de Chine. It’s quite lovely, thin, drapey, and a smidge sheer. The last one with the tiny design is in their performance knit and be warned, it has zero stretch. I’d meant to buy one of these in that fabric and another in their performance pique but somehow ended up with two in the performance knit. I’ve been debating going as Rapunzel for the Disney Princess Half Marathon, if I do I’ll be buying one of these prints. I’d want the modern jersey as it’s the only fabric with a 4 way stretch. They seem to be out of stock with that one right now. I really hope they get it back in stock before December if I do decide to go this route. I wouldn’t need much, a yard of each, maybe even just a fat quarter for the skirt (the center panel is printed, the rest of the skirt is plain colored). A fat quarter is 21″ x 18″ and the skirt will obviously be short so that should work. Though even if I bought a yard I’m positive I could find use for the scraps in the form of cute things like headbands and even a scarf. The performance pique (which is made for workout gear) is 56″ x 36″ so that’s more than enough for an outfit plus accessories. I’ll also be making a top that resembles her bodice, just a basic tank I think. A yard should more than cover it.
So I’m not completely out of love with this company. They do have some issues to work on but it’s a great concept and when things print as shown they look beautiful. I think I’ll just keep an eye out for when they do free swatches. They did one a week or so ago and I picked this little gem. It can be found here, I had it printed on their Eco Canvas. I think it looks a bit blurry but that’s just the photo, it’s much crisper in real life.
Recognize that? It’s the facade of the It’s a Small Word ride at Disney! Someone just posted an image of an infinity scarf they made with this and I’m in love. I will be copying that design! For now I’ll probably play around with this for a bit. Finish the edges and do a little freehand embroidery to embellish it. It’s 8″x8″ so I’m going to cut it to fit a 4″x4″ frame and use it as artwork in my soon to be sewing room. It’s something I’ve done in the past and I think it’d be the perfect way to help decorate the space.
So basically, I say order from Spoonflower knowing that if the fabric turns out the way you expect it to you’ll be thrilled beyond words. But if it’s not what you expected it to look like, you’re pretty much on your own. I’m lucky they bothered to help me, it seems like they ignore most people. It’s expensive, and you need to be sure of what you’re getting before you buy. I suggest waiting for their free swatches and if you like what you get then order. Or look for people who have used the fabric you’re looking to buy. Sometimes the designers can help you out too, so ask!