Apologies to those who read the title and thought this would be a “listicle” post- I’m not Buzzfeed, nor The Warrnambool Standard*, and I think we can all agree writing lists requires a certain brevity which I do not possess.
This Spoonflower review is a long time coming – almost so long as to make it redundant! (Sorry, guys.) But I figured if I was going to share the garments I made from my Spoonflower purchase, I may as well share some thoughts on the quality of their fabric.
My story began in late 2015 (yikes!) when I saw this tweet, featuring pop-sci personality and personal style icon, Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, in a shirt covered in daleks. Being a lifelong Doctor Who fan, I had to have that fabric, and luckily (so I thought!) found the exact print on Spoonflower. I chose the cotton poplin, and placed my order. After spending more money than I ever have on fabric before, what I received was not what I had expected.
The fabric was off-colour, badly. The vibrant red of the background had become a faded orange. The Daleks were dull and indistinct. Worst of all, when I put it through the wash, the dye came off in streaks, leaving white lines travelling across the width of the fabric!
When I contacted Spoonflower, they offered me the same print on their Organic Cotton Sateen Ultra, which was supposed to be a new, superior printing process. The colour certainly was different, and a much better match to the original image. It even survived a wash! What it did not endure, however, was being sewn with.
Not only did the needle struggle to pierce the fabric, making a dull “thud” sound when it made a stitch, it actually made holes in the fabric which did not disappear. The regular cotton poplin had the same problem – even my sharpest needles struggled to sew through the oddly thick, stiff fabric, leaving lines of skipped and malformed stitches.
The needle also took the Ultra dye off, leaving a series of white holes from which the dye had been stripped. Further investigation showed that the dye was so poorly applied, it could be scraped off with a fingernail!
Frustrated, I emailed the Spoonflower rep again. She refunded my costs, and attempted to justify the fabric issues:
I’m sorry to hear about the trouble with this fabric! It is true that our unique printing process causes us to face some challenges that traditionally dyed fabrics face, however we feel it is worth the sacrifice to be able to offer non-toxic, environmentally friendly products.
Large areas of darker colors are the most difficult to achieve and retain with pigment inks, so if you use Spoonflower again, you may want to start with test swatches of a design with more lighter areas.
We hope you will consider donating your fabric to a local scrap exchange or sewing club rather than throwing it away in order to help us stick to our core values of low waste and sustainability.
I thought I had researched Spoonflower well before ordering, but it’s entirely possible I just read sponsored posts and fell for the marketing hype. Either way, as soon as I did some Googling I found many, many posts from customers who had the same complaints. Except they didn’t frame them as complaints – most found their rapidly fading fabric charming, or shrugged off the white lines as a rustic look.
Now, I’m no fabric snob – stained vintage sheets work just as well for me as cheap poplin from Spotlight – but if a fabric loses its dye in one wash, or from the very act of being sewn, that is a faulty product. Especially when you are charging customers a premium – my fabric order cost about $100AUD, once you factored in the post and shitty exchange rate, which is more than I would usually pay for any fabric. But in this case, I assumed I was purchasing a premium product, and the cost reflected that. Clearly, I was wrong.
It is evident from Spoonflower’s emails that, at the time, they were well aware of this problem and didn’t seem intent on rectifying it. And trying to brush off fabric quality issues as a matter of sustainability struck me as patronising. Surely making a product that survived one wash would be a more environmentally friendly option.
After this experience, Spoonflower passed the point of no return, whereby I’ve had so many problems with their products that I will never purchase from them again. After having the fabric sit in my wardrobe for months, I finally decided to sew it up with the assumption that whatever I made would not survive more than a few wears. (I’ll review the garments I made – the Burda Emily Shirt and a basic box-pleated skirt – next time. Sneak peek pics below!)
I’m curious! What is your experience with Spoonflower? 2015 is a long time ago – have they remedied their mistakes? And does anyone have other suggestions for fabric printing services?
* Seriously, that article. It’s like he was trying to see how far he could go without getting fired.