Frequently Asked Questions

 

Problems/Issues
Wholesale Customers
Details, details
Specific sewing questions

Help! The shopping cart doesn't work!

The most common reason for people to have problems with our shopping cart is that they're using AOL's browser, which doesn't work well with the shopping cart software many smaller businesses use. The quickest fix? Try a different browser, like FireFox, Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari and Opera.

The other common problem is people getting caught in an endless shipping loop in the shopping cart and never actually making it to the payments page. You'll need to be sure to enter your zip code or choose your state to help you escape from this endless loop.

If you try both of those suggestions to no avail, contact us and we'll find an alternate solution for you -- generally placing your order through email.

Can I get a complete set of swatches?

With an ever-changing inventory of around 300 fabrics, we discourage the purchase of every single swatch. This tends to be overwhelming in the sheer quantity and frustrating because our inventory does change frequently. Instead we encourage our customers to request swatches for fabrics only for the next few projects they're planning.

Compiling swatch orders is very time-consuming for us, and we tend to ship orders of less than 10 swatches within a few days. Orders of 10-30 swatches usually take about a week, and 30-100 take about two weeks. Orders of 100+ swatches tend to go to the back burner, behind other smaller orders, and can take longer still. There's simply no way we can send out large swatch orders quickly, though we do the best we can.

Can you send me a catalog?

With a constantly-changing inventory of approximately 300 fabrics, it simply doesn't make sense to have a printed catalog. By the time the catalogs reached our customers, they'd be obsolete: some fabrics would have sold out and others would have been added. It simply doesn't make sense from an environmental, financial, or business standpoint. Instead we concentrate on keeping our website up-to-date and with as much information as possible. We encourage people to peruse our website at length and request swatches to get a better feel for the fabrics.

How do I order from another country? How is shipping handled?

We welcome orders from other countries, and a significant percentage of our business is non-US orders. You need to be aware that your country may add additional charges when your package passes through customs. We cannot affect the customs procedure for your country, and it is illegal for us to mark packages as a gift so as to avoid fees.

Once an international package leaves our facility we cannot track the package unless you choose Express Shipping. Express packages generally take 4-10 days to arrive. The estimated shipping time for Priority Mail is 6-10 days but First-Class and Priority Mail can take as long as a month to reach your destination.

I'm afraid to purchase online. Is your site secure? Is it safe?

Oh, we understand. It hurt when we were dragged, kicking and screaming, into the Internet Age. But ordering online is fun and sometimes too easy (just ask our credit card statements). It's also quite safe, as long as you follow a few simple rules. First of all, never enter your credit card number anywhere that isn't secure. That is, the URL (web address) should begin with https (the "s" is important), and in many browsers a little key or lock will show up next to the URL. As you progress through our website to shop, you'll see that these pages are not secure; that's because you're not entering any private data. Once you're ready to enter your personal information, the URL changes to https://nearseanaturals.com/... . This is a secure site, and any data entered will be transmitted securely. So don't worry -- it's a secure site, your data is transmitted securely, and we're all very happy about that.

I'm in a hurry. Can I have my order by yesterday?

People have called us miracle workers in the past, but unfortunately we still can't turn back time. We have no control over the postal service, and can't make your package go faster than humanly possible. We also prefer to process orders in the order for which we receive payment unless we're given a compelling reason to do otherwise. We do try to accommodate special requests, but we're generally unable to send out packages without at least a couple of days for processing. ("Processing," in this case, is a fancy word for picking up the 60+ pound rolls of fabric, measuring out the proper yardage, performing quality control, cutting, and packaging it. In addition, of course, to performing whatever administrative work is required. And there's always some, isn't there?) So talk to us, but don't expect miracles. See our shipping page for more information about what's possible and what isn't.

I have a swatch for a fabric that's not on the website anymore. What happened?

One of the neat things about being a retail business is that we sell things. Indeed, sometimes we sell so much of a certain fabric that it actually sells out and we don't have any more. That's when we remove it from the website, so people don't keep requesting it. Unfortunately that's probably what happened to your favorite fabric; it usually happens to our favorite fabrics too. Could we help you find another one that might work instead?

What happens if you run out of a fabric while I'm purchasing yardage or a swatch of it?

Although we make every effort to remove sold-out fabrics from our stock as soon as possible, there are occasions in which multiple people request the same, limited-yardage fabric. In those cases, we fill the order for which we received payment first. Other orders that include that fabric are credited for the cost of the fabric, and we write on your invoice that the fabric is sold out. We do not backorder most fabrics, because so many of our fabrics are a one-time purchase that we won't be able to restock. If you have requested swatches of any fabrics that are either sold-out or temporarily out of stock, we will do our best to substitute those with swatches of similar, in-stock fabrics.

While we will try to let you know of a sold-out item in your order, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. We try to err on the side of sending out your order quickly, rather than waiting for extended communications about sold-out or backordered items.

The price of a fabric I was interested in changed. What happened?

Although we make every effort to maintain consistency in pricing, occasionally the mills change their prices and we pass that change through. We occasionally also raise the prices just a tad to account for increased costs throughout the business -- fuel costs have really affected us, for instance. We also do notice that we've made a mistake and priced a fabric either too high or too low, and we fix that as soon as it comes to our attention. Because of these factors, prices are subject to change without notice.

How do I cancel, change or add to an existing order?

Orders usually ship in 1-5 business days. To make it possible for us to make changes to your order it is imperative that we receive your communication immediately. Please email orders@nearseanaturals.com and include your order number and phone number.

To cancel an existing order email orders@nearseanaturals.com immediately to alert us that you are cancelling your order and include your invoice number.

To make changes to your order email orders@nearseanaturals.com to alert us that you want to change your order and include your invoice number and any comments. When we start making changes to orders and emailing back and forth about the changes, your order is frequently delayed considerably and mistakes can happen. If your changes are not simple changes it works best for you to enter a new correct order and in the Comments section of the shipping cart ask us to cancel the incorrect order and payment.

To add to an existing order email orders@nearseanaturals.com immediately to alert us that you want to add to your order and include your invoice number and any comments. Then place a new order online with the items you ar adding to the existing order. In the Comments section of the shopping cart, ask us to combine this new order with your existing order (if it has not already shipped). Pay for your new order. You will receive a shipping refund for any extra shipping costs if we are able to combine your orders. Otherwise we will treat the new order as a unique order and send it by itself.

Which fabrics are offered wholesale?

We offer many of our fabrics by the full roll for a deeper discount for our current customers.  Some rolls are shipped from NearSea Naturals' Asheville headquarters, while others come direct from the mill, enabling us to offer wholesale prices direct to our customers, along with our superlative customer service.

Wholesale purchases are not returnable. Please note that organic and natural fabrics can and do vary from roll to roll, depending on many factors involving how the fibers are grown and processed, including the rainfall and other climate conditions form season to season. Occasional flaws, seams, and/or snags are to be expected, and rarely affect the usability of more than a yard or two in the entire roll. We cannot offer refunds for these instances, but the discount we offer for these full-roll purchases is generally more than enough to make up for any lost usability.

Pricing is subject to change without notice, just as the prices the mills charge us occasionally change without notice. Shipping costs are extra. We also offer cut yardage that you can use to plan your lines. Our prices for cut yardage are listed on our website.

Swatches of our wholesale fabrics are available on our swatches page.


Can you get me a special fabric? I need ------.

This depends. How much of the fabric do you want? If you're looking for a fair amount (at least 500 yards), we can often get a fabric specially milled for you. If you want something we don't carry and never have, there might be a reason for that. There are certain fabrics for which we're always seeking a reliable, ethical, affordable source, and we're thrilled to add them to our inventory. If you have suggestions, let us know.

Do you recommend any seamstresses? How about manufacturers? What should I know about environmentally-sensitive manufacturing?

We don't currently recommend any particular manufacturers or tailors. We, do, however, suggest visiting Fashion Incubator, which is an amazing resource for environmentally-sensitive manufacturing. Tell her we sent you!

How much extra is shipping for batting/stuffing? How is that handled?

We can't determine final shipping costs until we pack and weigh your order. If you order just a small amount of batting/stuffing, it's entirely possible that there'll be no additional shipping costs, but if we need to use an oversized box or multiple boxes shipping will be more. The exact amount depends on weight, box size, where you live, and the shipping method, and we'll let you know the additional costs once we've determined them. (Generally the additional cost is between $5 and $10.) We will ship your box(es) once we receive this additional shipping cost. We do offer our organic cotton batting/stuffing in full-roll, wholesale quantities.

Can I return my order?

Swatches are neither returnable nor refundable. Everything else except wholesale, special orders, and seconds/precut merchandise is returnable, though cut yardage may be subject to a restocking fee. Please review our return policy.

What's a linear yard? How is fabric weight determined?

The fabric weights listed on our website are all by the linear yard (except in the few cases where we specify otherwise). To get a linear yard, we roll out the fabric and cut a yard. That means if the fabric is 60 inches from selvage to selvage, we end up with a 36"x60" piece which is then weighed. Many other fabric companies measure fabric weight by the square yard. Keep this in mind when choosing a fabric; if the weight of a linear yard of 60" wide flannel is 15 ounces and you're comparing it with an 8-ounce-per-square-yard fabric, they'll actually be similar in weight.

Are the fabrics made in the US? Are they sweatshop-free and fair labor?

Australians and Canadians will be pleased to know that the vast majority of our organic cotton fabrics are made in the US; where they're not, we clearly specify country of origin. We specify this on the customs forms, to help in determining the correct duties and fees. None of our hemps are currently US-made; the fact that industrial hemp can't legally be grown in the US has something to do with this.

Our fabrics are not certified fair trade or sweatshop free, but the ethical aspects of their production is very important to us and we work with the manufacturers to ensure that they're produced in fair labor conditions. This is facilitated by the fact that most of our fabrics are made in the US, where it is generally fairly difficult to legally run a sweatshop. (We all know, though, that it's far from impossible; that's why we're so careful.)

What's certification? Are your fabrics certified?

Certification is when a third-party certifying agency certifies that the fibers are raised organically. There are many such agencies, and different manufacturers/growers often use different agencies. The majority of our organic fabrics have certification for their fibers; where they don't, we try to clearly state it in the fabric description. There are also a few cases in which we know the manufacturer of a certain fabric and who it was made for, etc, and have enough information to know that it's organic but we don't have the paperwork. In practice in the US, certification is generally a photocopied piece of paper with the certification number on it. It's so important to know and trust the people from whom you're buying fabrics (and, really, anything else); that's why we put so much effort into our relationships with our suppliers. Some people are working toward the establishment of a sustainability certification for fabrics, which is a very exciting idea that we wholeheartedly support.

To clarify, manufacturers get certification for their products; stores do not -- they buy certified products and then sell them to you, the consumer.

How big are your swatches? Are they labeled? Can I make things out of just swatches to save money?

Our swatches are approximately 3"x3.5". A label on each swatch gives the fabric name, number, and composition. While you could make things out of our swatches, we strongly encourage you not to. First of all you'd lose a lot of the fabric to seams, but more importantly we lose money on each swatch. Making swatches is labor-intensive, the postage is expensive, and too many swatch-only orders would literally bankrupt us. That said, we are happy to offer swatches because they're the only way to get a real "feel" for the fabrics and how they'll work in your projects. Swatches are a labor of love, so please, please, use the swatches for the purpose they're designed for (helping you decide which fabrics are right for you), and actually buy the fabrics you need for your projects.

What does Colorgrown mean?

Although we're used to cotton's natural, unbleached color being a creamy off-white, the native peoples of the Americas traditionally raised colored cotton as well. Now commercially available in shades of brown and green, these fabrics give you interesting colors without needing to use dyes.

How should I wash Colorgrown cotton? How can I affect the color?

Colorgrown cotton is unique because the color is naturally occurring; the cotton plant has been specially bred to grow in shades of brown and green. You can affect the shade of your ColorGrown fabric or yarn by how you wash and care for it.

To deliberately darken the colors, use a higher pH water (more alkali or basic) to wash or boil the cotton. To raise the pH you can use common laundry detergents, washing soda, or baking soda. Your tap water may have a slightly high pH on its own. (If you get really into this, or into home canning, you may find a pH meter a very useful investment.)

The more minerals in your water, the brighter the colors will be, and to see the most dramatic color change, boiling is definitely the way to go. Try using about 2 Tablespoons of baking soda in about a gallon of boiling water, and be sure to have enough water to completely cover the yarn or fabric when it's pressed down. (At first it'll want to float on the surface and you'll need to keep pushing it into the water.) Bring the water to a simmer and keep it simmering. Around 20 minutes will give you the maximum color for browns, but green will keep getting darker until it reaches its maximum depth of color at about one hour.

If you don't need the dramatic color change you'll see with boiling, you can also see change with washing. Adding 1/4 cup of washing soda to the machine for the first few washes will help bring about change, as will washing in warm or hot water and drying with as much heat as possible -- heat and moisture bring the color out. Again, the more minerals in your water the brighter your colors will be. You may continue to see color change for up to ten washes.

Much like litmus paper, the green color turns yellow when exposed to acids and then goes back to green when exposed to bases. For example, if you drip lemon juice on a piece of ColorGrown green cotton, you'll see a yellow spot develop; this spot will disappear with laundering if you use a basic (non-pH neutral) detergent.

Although the colors don't wash out, they will fade in the sunlight; for that reason we don't recommend ColorGrown cotton fabrics for curtains if they'll be directly in the sunlight. The green is most susceptible to tanning in the sunlight; that is somewhat reversible with laundering, but not completely.

What kind of dyes are used in your fabrics?

Oooh, dyes are a controversial issue in the natural textile industry. Although it seems like "natural" dyes would be the best choice, significant environmental problems can result from the growth, collection, processing, and use of the natural materials for dyes. (Unless they're organic natural dyes, plants are grown with pesticides, fertilizers, etc; if they're harvested from the wild they could very easily be overharvested and lead to the plant or animal's extinction; the mordant used to set the dye can have repercussions, etc.) However, using synthetic dyes isn't a wonderful option either; the chemicals used in making the dyes, the environmental impact in their use, etc, can be very detrimental. Many people choose not to use any dyes at all to lessen the impact of their fabric choices; for these people, the option of our wide selection of Colorgrown fabrics is particularly helpful. Others want to wear organic and natural fibers without sacrificing color; for these people we offer a wide selection of colored fabrics. In these cases the dying is done with low-impact, synthetic dyes in an environmentally-sensitive facility. Generally our fabrics piggyback onto a larger dye lot, reducing the impact even farther.

I'm chemically sensitive. What can you do for me? Can you guarantee that I won't react to your fabrics? How are they packaged?

Oh, living with chemical sensitivities can be so hard -- we sympathize with you. Unfortunately we can't do too much more than that; there are so many different things that people react to that we can't guarantee our fabrics won't affect you. We strongly recommend requesting swatches of any fabrics you're considering, to see if you have any issues with them. We generally wrap our fabrics in tissue paper and package them in cardboard boxes with all open edges sealed with packing tape. If you need a different type of packaging, do let us know. There can be an additional cost for that service (and a delay in shipping time) if it takes significant amounts of time or requires the purchase of additional materials.

Do you have a bricks-and-mortar store so I can see the fabrics? I'm visiting Asheville on vacation/I live mere miles from you; can we come see your facility?

As part of our quest to keep costs as low as possible for our customers, we decided early on to keep the internet as our base of operations. Not having a storefront means we save on money for overhead like rent, utilities, insurance that allows customer visits, handicap access, salaried employees for regular hours of operation, etc. It also means we can draw from a world-wide customer base rather than having to move our operations to a location that would actually support an organic fabric business (unfortunately there aren't yet enough of those, though we live in hope). So we're not able to accommodate customer visits, though we wish we could meet each and every one of you!

Are the fabrics pre-shrunk? How should I wash them?

Many of our fabrics are pre-shrunk, and we do try to state that in the fabric description. However, even with pre-shrunk fabrics you should still expect between 2 and 10% shrinkage depending on the fabric and how it's washed. (Deliberately felting wool can result in more shrinkage, of course, as the fibers grow closer together in the process.) We recommend prewashing and drying the materials in the harshest conditions your finished project will ever encounter to ensure that any fabric changes happen before cutting the pieces. That is, if you're making baby clothes you'll want to pre-wash and dry on so-very-hot because it's entirely possible that you'll need to wash the finished garment on hot later, but if you're making a dry-clean-only outfit you'll need to be much less concerned about fabric changes.

What is a knit fabric? What is a woven fabric? When would you choose one over the other? Is it hard to sew with knits? I'm afraid to try them!

The easiest way to think about it is that your T-shirts are made of knit fabrics while your blue jeans are made of wovens. Most patterns will specify what type of fabric you should use, and patterns for knits will often say how much stretch you need. Sewing with knits can intimidate beginners, but it's really not hard to get the hang of. And knits give more leeway for minor sewing mistakes than woven fabrics do, thanks to the built-in stretch.

How much batting do I need to make a pillow? What's the difference between batting and stuffing? Is the batting washable?

First things first, the batting and stuffing is the same thing. Well, the wool batting and wool stuffing is the same, and the (non-packaged) cotton batting and cotton stuffings are the same. They're simply sold in different ways -- by the yard or by the pound. When sold by the pound it can be in multiple pieces; when sold by the yard it's generally in a single piece. Cotton batting and stuffing is washable in an item or, sometimes, in a pillowcase; if you put it in the washer by itself, you'll end up with lots of little pieces of cotton fluff and a clogged drain.

And as far as how much you'll need for a particular project, that depends on how big and how firmly stuffed you want the item to be. Cotton batting compacts over time, becoming much firmer. (If you've ever had a cotton pillow, you've probably experienced that.) Many people choose to make pillows out of a central cotton core for firmness, surrounded by wool for springy comfort. If you're redoing a project (a pillow, upholstering a chair, etc) you can also weigh the stuffing that's already in it to get a general idea of how much new you'll need assuming they're of the same type.

I want to make sheets and bedding. What do I need to do?

Bedding is one of the most popular things for our customers to sew, and it's generally very easy. These resources might be of help: Making fitted sheets, and again. Making a bedskirt/dust ruffle; Making pillow cases; Making a duvet cover, and again, and again.

What fabrics should I use for diapers? for upholstery? for lingerie? for kids' clothes? for straightjackets?

This is a hard one -- there are so many different options, so many different ways everything could be made. We're happy to give our suggestions, but please don't take them as gospel. Just use them as a starting point and let your imagination take you from there. And remember, this is the perfect place to take advantage of our swatch program -- the best way to get a real feel for the fabrics and how they'd work for you. So, that said, here're some ideas.

For organic diapers, you've got three main concepts -- prefold, contours, and fitteds. Most people choose flannel for prefolds, though there are also some splendidly soft prefolds made from knit jerseys, velour, terry, etc. For contour diapers, many people choose to make one side from flannel and the other from a terry, or some other poop-containing fabric. (Contour diapers are shaped somewhat like an hourglass.) For fitted diapers, people tend to choose flannel, velour, sherpa, and the like, sometimes with a brighter fashion-fabric on the outside. (Our printed wide-width sateens work well for that.)

For upholstery, you'll probably want a heavier woven fabric (generally at least 12 oz/linear yard), preferably with a tighter weave. If you have rambunctious kids, furniture-hopping dogs, or the like, you'll want a sturdier fabric; if your furniture sees lighter use, that's not as important. Look through our selection of cotton and hemp wovens to see what appeals to you and request swatches of them.

For lingerie, you have many options. For underwear and bras, women often like our cotton/spandex knits; they provide comfortable support. For slinky, consider our superfine crepes or the like. For comfortable nightgowns, camisoles, etc, look at our jerseys and lighter rib knits.

One of the most important considerations for kids' clothes is durability -- these things are worn and washed and washed and worn and washed and washed. Some people choose hemp blends because of hemp's strength, while others simply look for more tightly-woven fabrics in general. Just about every fabric can be used for kids' clothes, of course, depending on what you're making -- an outfit for art class or playground visits will be very, very different from one for going to church!

I'm expecting a baby. What can I sew for him or her?

Oh, so much fun! Making stuff for babies is satisfying in so many ways -- it's generally quick to make and doesn't require large amounts of fabric, and it's so wonderful seeing a little one dressed in and surrounded by things that you made. And when you use organic fabrics, you know baby's surrounded by the purest material possible. We carry many patterns for little people to inspire you, and so many soft fine fabrics that you'll want to use. And don't forget the felted wool puddle pad to protect the mattress from any escaping liquids. You'll find it worth the cost many, many times over!

Do you want to see what I made with your fabrics? Do you want my feedback about them?

We would love to see what you make with our fabrics. So often we get to hear about the wonderful projects people have planned but we never get to see the final items. Please do send pictures to us at info@nearseanaturals.com. Let us know what materials and/or patterns you used, how it went, how you feel about the finished product, and anything else you feel like sharing. If there's a link to your website you'd like us to add, send that too.

If you have comments about one of our fabrics or notions, please tell us them too. So often our customers are more skilled than we are at certain areas, and we'd love to share your expertise. If you know the gauge of one of our yarns, or if you've found that a certain fabric doesn't work well for shirts because it's too stretchy, or you've found that one of our materials is perfect for smocking, or anything like that -- let us know, please!