Where do you shop? Part 2: Online Sources

While I’d rather be able to get everything I need locally at a decent price, it’s just not possible, so I shop online a lot. I used to shop a lot at Hancock’s of Paducah, but their shipping is kind of high depending on the size of your order, their “new and improved” website is dog slow and painful to use and calling to place an order isn’t always the most pleasant or easy experience either. Backorders have always been a problem with Hancocks as well, since they can never tell you when (or if) the backordered item might show up. I’ve shopped at Jinny Beyer’s site a few times over the years, but the last experience was soooo painful and required two phone calls and at least that many emails that I won’t do it again unless I’m desperate.

Lately I’ve discovered some new sites, some great, some not so good. I’ll list below some of my recent online shopping destinations (and some old faves) and my experiences with them, in no particular order:

Quilting Warehouse—I really like this place. The online shop is easy to use, well laid out, and has great prices from what I’ve seen so far. I discovered it while searching for the cheapest prices on fusible Velcro by the box. Not only are their prices good, they don’t kill you on shipping, and add nothing for handling at all. A small-to-medium box with two boxes of 15 feet of Velcro each, and two small packages of needles only cost $41.60 for product and $3.85 for shipping. They shipped my order within two days of receiving it, and it was in my hands in a week. Definitely a keeper.

eQuilter—Not that this is a recent find, and I’m sure you all have shopped here before. Great for fabric shopping, shipping costs are average, but it took them six days to ship my last order which was too long IMO. I do like their virtual design wall where I can see fabrics together before choosing which ones to buy. However, I wish that they would list the manufacturers names and style numbers with the fabrics in the shop, but that’s one of my giant pet peeves with many online fabric retailers. It would make it so much easier to shop for a certain fabric when you have that information in hand, if the shops would note it in the item name or description.

Amethyst Quilts—Not much to say about this place since my order never was completed. I was searching for a certain fabric and found it here through the Quilt Shops Search Engine, only to have the shop email me the day after I placed my order to say they didn’t have the fabric after all. Sad, very sad. That’s another of my huge pet peeves right there. Online shops that show fabrics and products that they don’t have in the store and don’t keep their stock levels current are really frustrating and definitely don’t inspire me to go back. The only thing is, it seems like all 210 online quilt shops that are designed and programmed by the folks that run the Search Engine look about the same; I might not even realize it if I ran across this same shop again a year down the road during another fabric hunt until after I’d placed my order for something else they might not have.

Thread and More—This one’s a mixed bag. The first time I ordered, my order was shipped the next day, and the shipping fee seemed average. The second time, it took them two weeks to ship my order out, and they charged me $7.99 shipping and $1.50 handling for a teeny tiny little Priority Mail box that cost them $4.80 to mail. The product total was only $19.92, so $7.99 was a bit steep to begin with but to add insult to injury, there was no “packaging” to speak of that would have cost them a huge amount of money or extra time. The four packages of finger cots and four packs of John James needles I ordered were inside a plastic zip top bag with the receipt, and the box was free from the Postal Service! I’m not too impressed with this place after the second go round.

Sewing Supply Warehouse—I can’t say enough good things about the service here. I buy Sulky thread from them, because they have the cheapest price that I’ve found on the ‘Net at $2.09 per spool. They ship orders out the next day for an average shipping cost without extra handling fees, and their online shop is powered by Yahoo!; nothing stellar, but very usable and gets the job done without glitches. The only complaint that I have is that they don’t carry more of the items that are on my “need to order” list. How simple life could be if they did.

Soft Expressions—I’ve been ordering from this site for years, so it’s not a recent find, but worthy of inclusion here. They have great prices, mostly much lower than retail and other sites. Timely shipping, usually just two days from order placement to shipment, with slightly lower than average shipping fees and no extra handling charges. The site is not laid out the best, but it is functional and gets the job done.

There you have it, almost all the online sites I’ve shopped at recently. I’m sure I’ve left out a couple of favorites that I’ve not visited recently. I can think of Red Rock Threads off the top of my head; always great service with extra reasonable shipping rates, probably some of the lowest in the business actually. I’m sure more sites will come to me as soon as I hit “Publish.” 🙂

Your Voice: Where do you turn when your LQS doesn’t have what you need for your latest quilting project? What are your favorite online shopping haunts, and how do they stack up when it comes to the real nitty gritty of it all with shipping times, costs and handling fees?

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Monday’s Melange #3

Monday's Melange

I’m back in my Bookmarks folder today to bring you another Melange on this happy Monday. More quilting bookmarks:

StenSource International, Inc.—I found this place in 2004 when they had a booth at the Houston show. Home of the Creative Iron, fusible, laser cut fabric appliqués. I’ve yet to make something with these appliqués, but it’s on my list of to-dos. And check out these coordinating stencil sets that you can cut apart; they have all the stencils you’d need for a quilt, big blocks, small blocks and borders, all on one stencil. I suppose you wouldn’t even have to cut them apart, and then they’d be all together when you need to use them.

Red Rock Threads—This place is my favorite to buy threads! Based in Pahrump, Nevada (near my Las Vegas hometown), this nice lady has LOADS of different brands of thread in stock, all the time. She does one thing, thread, and she does it very well indeed. (Okay, she has some needles and embroidery supplies, but she does them well too.) Shipping is extremely reasonable; it used to be free, and just after she was forced to change policy due to rising Postal Service fees (long after the fees actually rose, btw), I talked to her on the phone and she actually apologized and said she felt soooo bad that she’d had to start charging shipping. If only other mail order businesses were like this, right? There’s lots of extra, free info on the site about threads, as well as conversion charts. Quick ordering, quick shipping, great customer service, what more could you ask for? Well, I could ask for YLI Soft Touch, which seems to be the only thing I’ve ever wanted that she didn’t have!

The Quilters Quarter—I have no idea why I bookmarked this one, or when for that matter, but I am happy to see that they have YLI Soft Touch cotton thread! I have a heck of a time finding this thread online for some reason. I use it in the bobbin for machine embroidery, though I’m not sure why I started that either. Somehow it just seems to make sense to use cotton thread if I’m doing embroidery for quilts; you know, that “cotton fabric, 100% cotton thread” thing. Quilters Quarter has a pretty nice selection of other quilting items, and I see a good selection of stencils there. Continue reading Monday’s Melange #3

Monday’s Melange

I was digging around in my browser bookmarks the other day, and thinking how badly they need to be organized. I have hundreds (maybe thousands??) of bookmarks, some of which probably date back to the beginning of my serious Internet usage more than 10 years ago. I’ve been carting these bookmarks around from computer to computer, and from browser to browser for all these years. After all, if whatever it is was important enough to bookmark once, it must be important to save it, right? Well, maybe. Yes, I’m just as much of a packrat on the computer as I am in the rest of my cluttered life. Inside my Firefox Bookmarks folder, I even have folder of Internet Explorer Bookmarks from the time of my great sickness back when I thought IE was the only browser in existence. (Psst! Get Firefox!)

I’ve decided to plow through a few of these sites weekly with the intent to cull and organize, so that hopefully when I open my bookmarks folder, it doesn’t look like this—Eeeewww:

The evil bookmarks folder, before

And guess what? I’m going to share a few with you every week as Monday’s Melange! This week, I’ll start with some (related to) quilting links, since that is my “thing,” but obviously not all of my bookmarks pertain to quilting, since I do have a life outside my studio (an unfortunate fact, sometimes!). As I’m sure that my readers have that kind of “life outside the quilting” thing going on too, I figure that there might be something of interest in the “non-quilting” bookmarks, even for quilters.

Without further ado, here is the Melange on this happy Monday:

Monday's Melange

San Francisco Stitch Company—Okay, this is not a bookmark from years ago, this is a very recent addition, like from just yesterday. Their machine embroidery designs are really beautiful and got my creativity totally spinning off the map, and the design packs are downloadable and reasonably priced, too. I found this machine embroidery design company via Irene at Sunimp. She’s made a beautiful quilt (top?) with some embroidered medallions from San Francisco Stitch Company. Love her blog, too!

Treadleart—Heh, I’m already seeing that this bookmark exercise will probably cost some $$ as I rediscover things I’d forgotten about! Treadleart is a fine example. They carry Shisha mirrors (the page includes a great explanation of the different types of mirrors), made popular in the quilting world by Ted Storm, as far as I know. Treadleart also has Tidy Totes which you can buy already made up in various fabrics, or they have the kits including the pattern and kit refills to make your own. I’ve always wanted one of these, but I’ve never run across the pattern anywhere, and maybe now I’ll just buy one ready-made. Lots of other cool stuff awaits at Treadleart, but my only complaint would be a lack of a shopping cart system for online shopping. I could put on my Web developer hat and fix that for them… Continue reading Monday’s Melange

Techie Coolness: LibraryThing

Visit LibraryThingI discovered LibraryThing a couple of weeks ago, and I’m in book lover’s heaven! I could instantly see major potential here, and I’ve already started to get a couple of long-term goals accomplished. Ever since I started writing at Quilt Epiphany, I’ve wanted to make a Library page, showing all the quilt books in my collection, and either linking to my review of the book (if there was one) or to the book at Amazon.com, or both.

I do have a Worpress plugin called Amazon Media Manager (AMM) which makes it possible to insert a pretty picture of a book or product into my posts and have it linked directly to Amazon where readers can buy it. Oh, and the veritable river of cash that flows from the Amazon Associates account into my wallet is staggering, as well. 🙄 However, while AMM works great for one at a time inserts, or lists of two or three books or CD’s in the sidebar, I just couldn’t see spending the amount of time it would take to input 140 quilt books into my AMM list, and then program the thing to display them on a separate page. Never mind.

Here’s why LibraryThing is such a killer app. I made a free account at LibraryThing (a one step, two word process, believe it or not), and added a couple of books to my Library. It’s a simple process, since you can either enter the ISBN of the book, or search by title or author, and then select from a list to add the book to your Library. You can see the contents of your library, add tags, write reviews, share your profile with other users, see what other users are reading, etc. This is social networking for book lovers, Continue reading Techie Coolness: LibraryThing

Online shopping should be easier

Clover White Marking Pen (Fine)**Warning: what follows is ranting, but with substance.**

I’ve just spent the last hour and then some shopping online for quilt supplies; specifically, a marker from Clover Notions called White Marking Pen (Fine), pictured at right. Why should something as simple as this take an hour to find? Actually the first question might be: why should I have to look online at all, since the local quilt shop should carry it, right? Well, no, the local quilt shop didn’t have it, despite the fact that I asked them to order it months ago when I saw that they were out of it. Obviously, it didn’t happen at the quilt shop, so I came home and searched online.

What’s the big deal?

Most of the quilt supply sites I usually shop didn’t have this notion at all, which surprised me. This pen is the greatest thing since sliced bread when used properly. I say “when used properly” because I can well imagine that there has been some negative feedback from quilters who had trouble removing the markings from fabric due to not following the instructions, just like happens with the washout blue markers that people are scared of. Anyway, none of that says anything about why this sucker is so hard to find, unless quilt shops don’t want to carry it because people complained about it. *shrug* This white marker has always worked for me, so I want to order more.

How to lose business online

If an ecommerce site has no page that says where they are located, with a phone number where I can reach the company, I don’t place an order. (This personal policy of mine holds for everything but Amazon.com. Amazon doesn’t have a phone number—that I know of—but it gets my money anyway because it’s a giant in the ecommerce business, and it’s never let me down shipping wise) Why would I give my credit card out to a company I can’t reach by phone? Ecommerce sites that don’t have a page to tell me about shipping methods and how to reach customer service or track an order don’t get my business either.

I’ve been to sites in the past where I’ve placed an order and haven’t heard a thing from the company: no order confirm, no email, no shipping confirm, nothing. When I call the company, I get a message that says they’re on vacation and no orders will go out until they get back, which causes me to cancel my order. Continue reading Online shopping should be easier