Tuesday, February 9, 2016


I have been fascinated with the evolution of fabric sampling since I first began at Wesco Fabrics. There have been many changes in fabric sample design over the years and where it is headed next remains to be seen. The image above is a store in late 19th century England with fabrics merchandised over tables for customers to see. Up until the 1960's many department stores like Bloomingdales stocked bolts of drapery & upholstery fabrics.

Since the 19th century fabric cuttings were often glued into books for future reference.
When Wesco Fabrics first ventured into drapery fabrics in the early 1950's they created sample racks like those shown above. They needed to come up with a new type of sampling when the business expanded around the country. The image shows Joline Weiss presenting fabrics to her husband Harry. They founded the company in 1946.

Wesco Fabrics created "Caddy Books" with snap out fabric headers shown in the top picture. The bottom image shows bedspread hanger samples and large print hangers on the right. These were very popular in the 60's up until the 80's. Though they showed the fabrics well the cost to produce was excessive.

This is the Wesco Fabrics' line in the 1970's which included fabrics, bedspreads, woven woods, & trimmings.

Many stores around the country featured Wesco Fabrics' "Mini" hanging samples similar to the above.

I've designed numerous sample books over the years for our customers around the U.S. Because of the high fabric & labor cost of sampling they must be placed with our best volume clients.

Many designers complain they do not have room to carry as many samples books as they used to.  I would find it very difficult to work on a clients' design with so many samples.

Some design firms store small fabric samples in bins. I'm not sure how practical or efficient this system really is. It would be difficult to keep track whether a fabric swatch is still available from the source and current price.

Is the answer smaller fabric ring samples or swatch cards? 

We have all our current fabrics on line at www.wescofabrics.com. It gives a helpful & fast overview of what styles and colors are available. Obviously a sample is needed to obtain a true sense of scale,  "hand" or drapability, and the color in various lights, etc. 
The world of fabric sampling is evolving and it will be fascinating to see the next stage!

***I would sincerely appreciate your comments regarding sampling as we enter this new era!

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