Digitally printed fabric comparison

I recently placed a small order at Spoonflower for the first time in three years since they now do “performance knit” as a base fabric option! I mostly wanted to see how it compares against other wicking lycras and also FunkiFabrics’ digitally printed (non-wicking) lycra, as it could potentially be a great source of wild running prints for me.

I had stopped ordering from Spoonflower because their international shipping was taking an excessively long amount of time (over a month!!) and getting lost fairly frequently. I also stopped because, at the time, the only knit fabric they had was the organic cotton interlock, which both faded in the first wash and had zero recovery, and was pretty much useless for my purposes. But in the past three years, they’ve added a bunch more knits to their range and sorted out their international shipping, so I tentatively made a small order to try them out again.

I ended up getting three samples and a fat quarter, all in the performance knit (plus a swatch book), and I’m really impressed. Spoonflower’s performance knit is a smooth lycra base with about 40% widthwise stretch and no lengthwise stretch. They print onto white base lycra, and although the weight is thinner than FunkiFabrics’ base lycra (which has four-way stretch), I’d still feel fine using it for actvewear, though you’d want a busy print to distract from any lumps and bumps.

I’m also relieved to report that they’ve sorted out their international shipping – I ordered on 13 March, they shipped it on 17 March, and it arrived on 31 March. Much improved!

Now, the price. I always expect that I’m going to get shafted on shipping fabric from the States (and I’m usually right!), but the shipping on my above order was only $7, which I found wholly reasonable. In fact, I started getting curious so I actually worked out a price comparison for having digitally printed lycra shipped to me in the UK:

Spoonflower: 1 yard “performance knit” ($24) + UK shipping ($7) = $31 (~£18.62)

FunkiFabrics: 1 metre “printed lycra” (£18) + VAT (£4.59) + UK shipping (£4.95) = £27.54 (~$45.77)

So, as depressing as it is, it actually makes economic sense to have my fabric printed halfway around the world and air shipped to me than it does to get it printed locally (well, at least in the same country). This isn’t to say I’ll stop using FunkiFabrics entirely – I think their lycra is of fantastic, hefty quality, great stretch, and a great range of prints, and they tend to print and ship a bit quicker (plus they print onto different coloured base fabrics). But for sheer price comparison, Spoonflower comes out almost a third cheaper, even if you have to gamble with customs fees.

UPDATE: Spoonflower have since added a “Performance Piqué” to their choice of base fabrics, and I actually prefer this over the “Performance Knit” now. Despite the name, the “piqué” isn’t textured at all, but it does have considerably more crosswise stretch than the knit (still minimal lengthwise stretch though), and a more cotton-y handfeel. The colour absorbption is good and so far it hasn’t piled, either. Oh, and it’s only $20/yd, so it’s cheaper, too.

Oh, and I since I had these samples on hand, I realised that you can fit both Lower Side pieces of the Duathlon Shorts (biker short length) nicely into a Spoonflower sample! Bargain!


(I’ve just folded away the top & bottom seam allowances to show it does fit into the printed area!)

At $5 a sample for the performance knit, this could be a really great way of injecting some fancy prints into your shorts that coordinate with your base fabrics!

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