Should You Buy Quilting Supplies on Massdrop?

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I’m sure many of you have heard by now that the e-commerce website Massdrop is making a big push to enter the quilting market. There’s a lot to like about Massdrop, and they’ve had some good offerings of modern fabric and notions in the past, so I thought it’s worth taking a closer look.

How does Massdrop work?
Massdrop allows its users to suggest the products that are available for purchase. Any user can create a poll for a certain product (such as a fabric line, rotary cutters, thread, etc.). If enough people vote for that product in the poll, Massdrop will contact the manufacturer and try to arrange what they call a “drop”—which means the product will be available for purchase on Massdrop for a limited time.

Once the drop becomes available for sale, the more people who commit to purchase that item, the lower the price goes. As soon as the drop’s time frame ends, buyers are charged for the item and the purchase is final.


What can quilters buy on Massdrop?
Offerings change frequently, and there doesn’t seem to be a huge selection available at any given time. (Obviously, that could change if quilters become more active on Massdrop and use it more frequently to buy their supplies.)

Right now, you can join a drop of a fat-quarter bundle of Feather River by Birch Fabrics—you’ll get 13 fat quarters of organic fabric for $42.99 (that’s 23% off—there are 3 days left on that drop, and the lowest possible price has already been unlocked).

You can also get this Simflex sewing guage for $16.99—7 days left on that one.

Past drops have included Oliso irons, Frixion pens, Clover Wonder Clips, Cotton + Steel prints, Gingher scissors, and more.

Should you buy on Massdrop?
Massdrop does offer some great deals, but their business model requires some work on your part to take advantage of them. Checking the website frequently and voting in their quilting-related polls will help you get the most out of Massdrop. And be aware that at this point, Massdrop’s quilting selection on any given day is quite small. Still, over time, Massdrop has made many products available that appeal to modern quilters. And more user involvement could up the selections even more.

You also have to be patient when buying on Massdrop. Orders don’t ship from the manufacturer to Massdrop until after the drop ends, so it can be 2 to 3 weeks or even more between when the drop ends and when the order actually arrives in your mailbox. And the entire process from start to finish is even more lengthy: You have to wait for a poll to get enough votes, then wait for the drop to be arranged, then wait for the drop’s on-sale period to end, and then wait for the drop to ship from the manufacturer to Massdrop and from Massdrop to you. However, Massdrop appears to be good about keeping its buyers informed of the shipping status in the drop’s comment section and via email. So if you’re willing to wait for a bargain, Massdrop might be for you!

Another drawback: It looks like some buys on Massdrop may be better bargains than others. There was some discussion in the comments on a recent Clover Wonder Clip drop that indicated the clips were cheaper (or at least similar in price) elsewhere. So a little homework might be in order before committing to a drop.

Finally, this recent post from Sew Mama Sew about the types of businesses we frequent for our sewing supplies may be worth a read before you purchase anything from Massdrop. Still, with Massdrop vending at QuiltCon in a few weeks and actively promoting their offerings to quilters, I don’t think it’s going away any time soon! It’s yet another option to be aware of in the ever-growing list of online sources for quilting supplies, and an option where you might just be able to score a few good deals with persistence and patience.

22 replies
  1. shilsenbeck
    shilsenbeck says:

    Thanks for the review. This is not something I have ever heard of. Seems like this might be a useful adjunct for a company to get feedback on what people want, but as a primary approach to buying for the consumer, sounds very cumbersome — unless you value your time at $0/hr, any $ savings will be eaten up by the delay and time wasting of repeatedly checking, etc. Also, does not support vendors who work hard to carry products we like. Just my opinion — have not tried it.

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  2. charlotte
    charlotte says:

    I have used Massdrop for a couple of items. I don't think the savings on some things justifies going this route. I would never buy fabric bundles here, for example. But I did buy the Gingher scissors, which was great for me. A good enough savings and the time frame didn't bother me. I also bought some Auriful thread. Again, a good enough savings to me, to justify the time until it shipped. It's not for everyone, and you do have to pick and choose your items. I will still support the shops I currently support for all my fabric needs, and that is the biggest part of my quilting budget anyway. Thanks for the informative piece.

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  3. Katie
    Katie says:

    There was quite a discussion yesterday on the Kaffe Fasset facebook page about buying from Massdrop. It was interesting to read, as I'd never given it a second thought before. It was mentioned that as a "buying club" Massdrop likely gets fabric cheaper than many of our brick and mortar shops and our favourite online stores do. Kind of a win/lose situation. Yes everyone wants, even needs, a bargain, but not at the expense of potentially losing real quilt shops by undercutting them. I will buy from Massdrop for things I can't buy locally or from my favourite online shops (hello Gingher!) but not for fabric. We need to support real people!

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  4. Cindy
    Cindy says:

    I've bought three times from Massdrop. Patchwork Threads t-shirts, pink wonder clips, and an assorted fat pack of fabric. I was very happy with the t-shirts and wonder clips. I was very disappointed in the fabric. It wasn't what they claimed it to be and I didn't complain as it arrived during the holiday and I forgot. I'll still use them for some great deals but will only buy fabric from a quilt store or online quilting.

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  5. Lee Heinrich
    Lee Heinrich says:

    Katie, that's an interesting suggestion, that Massdrop is getting a lower price on fabric than a brick-and-mortar shop. I don't understand why that would be—don't most "standard" quilt shops (whether brick-and-mortar or online) buy far more fabric from these companies than Massdrop does? What incentive does the fabric company have for giving Massdrop a lower price than their more-regular retail customers? I would think the fabric companies would want to discourage "buyers' clubs" rather than offer them a lower price. Just curious where that suggestion is coming from or what evidence the person had for suggesting it.

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  6. Debra
    Debra says:

    Never heard of Massdrop before, but it doesn't seem to be something I would use for quilting. Buying quilting fabric is just as much an emotional sale as it is fulfilling a need. I think it is hard enough to accomplish that online.. is the color right? how does the fabric feel? will it match what I have? Never mind having to request it and then wait once it appears for sale. Don't we all tend to buy more in person in a quilt shop than online? I think this add one more hurdle to making that sale. Just my opinion.

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  7. Laurelle
    Laurelle says:

    I live in Australia and have bought quite a lot of fabric and notions from Massdrop because the postage is so cheap. About a quarter the price if I buy from a US fabric store. The aussie dollar has gone back down now so I have to be careful and work out after conversion if it is worthwhile. Fabric prices in Australia are double so massdrop prices with the postage are fantastic for us . As I said not as much now with the exchange rate but for a while I was loving massdrop!

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  8. mtnquiltr
    mtnquiltr says:

    Thank you for the thoughtful piece on the pros and cons of using Massdrop. I have bought from them several times. As you have suggested, buying tools is probably is probably the better deal. After I bought backing fabric from them, I did the math and found that their cheapest price could easily be found as the regular price elsewhere. I suggest doing your homework before agreeing to buy.

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  9. KathyinMN
    KathyinMN says:

    I've bought several things on Massdrop and have been happy with the purchases. Like all shopping experiences, if the buyer does their homework they are more likely to be satisfied. I've bought batting, tools, thread and fabric. Free shipping is awesome. And also that you can join a drop, but not really join unless the lowest level is unlocked (and they tell you the price that will be). Less risk that way. Sure, like anywhere else a buyer may be able to find a cheaper item, but I don't spend a ton of time there, I depend on their emails to me (all that involves from me is a quick glance). They oftentimes have fabric bundles on there (like organic fabric or Liberty) that I never see on sale. I do recommend them and have and will continue to do so.

    The green clover clips that were the most recent price related discussion were slightly more expensive than their red counterparts on Amazon, and amazon is the cheapest I've seen. But they only have red, so for $2 more you could get the green. And they sold, despite the – its cheaper over here posts in their forums.

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  10. Kim
    Kim says:

    I don 't know why but I tend tend to stay away from groups like Massdrop. Maybe because I don't know if the quality is good or not because although they may claim it's from the manufacturer but at a discount the products might be second grade. I would prefer if I can to go into a quilt shop or a reputable online shop to buy my fabrics.

    Reply
  11. Joanna @ Riddle and {Whimsy}
    Joanna @ Riddle and {Whimsy} says:

    This discussion has been popping up a lot in a few places lately, and to be honest it's getting a little frustrating, in that way that it often comes across that people think quilt/fabric shops are above and beyond having to deal with the everyday issues other retailers face . Quilting and fabric shops are a retail business just like any other retail business. Just because as quilters we prefer visiting them than other random small businesses, doesn’t make them any more special. I know we are a quilting community here so that's the issue we discuss, but in some of the discussions I've come across, people are tarred as the personal cause of the problem for choosing to shop online vs buying locally etc and I have to ask, how many small retailers do you (general you) look over, for whatever reason when choosing to buy other products elsewhere? Such as using a national chain mechanic over a small family business one because it's more convenient to get to and from, or buying your groceries at a large supermarket over going down to the corner store where a bottle of milk costs twice as much. At the end of the day, we're all doing something that affects one business or another, so I don't like the finger pointing that's been coming out of this discussion in the quilting community because I'm sure those doing the finger pointing are doing something that is causing issues in another industry – an industry where there would be another group who feels just as passionate about the same thing. Is it sad when people have to shut their business down? Of course, but it is for anyone no matter the business they run, and the hard truth is “that’s retail”. Things are changing, moving towards online etc. It’s just how things are and bricks and mortar stores need to keep up. Things change all the time. Blacksmiths went out of business when cars started becoming more prevalent than riding horses, for example.

    I've ordered from Massdrop before for a few things. I like it for the personal bulk buy options (eg. I bought a pack of 15 rotary blades which I can only buy packs of 1 locally and it's $10 for one locally or it worked out $70 for the 15, with shipping). I've also bought thread. Unless there was a super great fabric deal, I'm not likely to buy fabric as I'd prefer to get that from a fabric shop, where I can fill up a whole flat rate envelope. One of the downsides for Massdrop for me, is since they don't charge until the drop is complete, that's a week's worth of changes in currency rates so if the dollar is on par when I sign up but slumps by the time the drop goes through, then there can be a huge price difference. As an international buyer as well, I need to pay shipping, and their shipping rates are too up and down where the same item, when offered at different times my have a different shipping rate (a box of Aurifil thread was offered at $6 post but then another time the threads were offered the shipping was $13 – of course when there were threads I wanted – but then the next time threads were offered they were $6 again). I like to see price consistency so I know I'm not being diddled out of money, but I do like they show the price upfront with the drop price.

    Reply
  12. Joanna @ Riddle and {Whimsy}
    Joanna @ Riddle and {Whimsy} says:

    (… my comment was too long!)

    In regards to someone's comment about getting a cheaper wholesale price – bulk rates/cheaper prices are generally on how many of the exact same item you buy over buying multiples of different items. Eg. If I buy 100 FQ bundles of Fabric A and another shop buys 20 FQ bundles of Fabric A, 20 Fabric B, 20 Fabric C, 20 Fabric D and 20 Fabric E then that's not the same "bulk rate" as it's not the same fabric creating demand. I've seen MD sell 70 odd FQ bundles of the same line. How many bricks and mortar shops actually buy 70 of the exact same FQ bundle for their store? Some of their bundles I think MD make custom, by buying yardage on bolts and then cutting it before they ship, so I would suppose they'd have a different rate for bolts as well.

    To maybe explain it better: I used to work for a high end department store. We often got complaints that other stores (such as Kmart – discount department stores) sold the exact same item cheaper. What people didn't stop to think about is that Kmart had three times as many stores as my company did, and therefore needed to purchase more to fill up more stores. For each store to carry 10 of an item, with 300 national stores, they would have to buy 3,000 items. For my employer, with only 60 stores, to have 10 items per store, they only needed to purchase 600 of the exact same item. So we would get a lower bulk rate, and thus pay more than Kmart. This price is then what is reflected to the prices customers pay and what makes the item cheaper in a discount store vs more expensive in an "exclusive" store. When it comes to online retailers, as they are accessible worldwide, any time of day they will have a larger customer base than a LQS who has set hours and is only accessible to those in the vicinity during those set hours. So an online store would end up with more demand and would need more stock – hence MD being able to sell 70 of the exact same bundle, getting a cheaper rate on it. A LQS is quite unlikely to buy that many as they wouldn't sell the bundle as quickly and they'd probably be left with quite a few left over past the season, perhaps losing money on them if they have to mark them on clearance.

    Reply
  13. Valleydale
    Valleydale says:

    Your posting is the first time I've heard about Massdrop, but judging by what I've read, I'll not be jumping on this particular bandwagon. The process is far too protracted and cumbersome, and there are just far too many variables and unknowns to make it worth my while. I regularly by fabric online, where I know what I'm getting, how much it'll cost, and how long it will take to arrive at my door (usually as little as a few days). I am not a patient person. I first check my local quilt shop, and if they don't have what I'm looking for, I shop online. In order for Massdrop to truly catch on, I think they are going to have to adjust their business model to make the process less hassle-filled.

    Reply
  14. BJ
    BJ says:

    I can't imagine buying quilting supplies on Massdrop. Every time I turn around another brick and mortar quilt shop is closing. It's not due just to sites like this, of course, but exactly what do they bring to the party? My LQS has classes, free-sew days, design and fabric selection support, long-arm services, the willingness to try to special order anything for me that it doesn't already carry and, most importantly, phenomenal comraderie. I do some on-line shopping, but it doesn't amount to more than about 10% of my total quilting $$ outlay, and it's mostly for things I want NOW, which Massdrop doesn't seem to support anyway. I'm fortunate that I don't have to watch every nickel I spend, but even when I have a twinge of guilt over a buying spree at my LQS, I think about the scrap quilts I'll make to justify the extra $$. Before all the beautiful, "new" scrap quilts became so popular, I would discard (or give away) my cuttings. Now I can get an extra quilt (or part of one) out of those trimmings. For me, for now, Massdrop offers no advantages.

    Reply
  15. LJ
    LJ says:

    Did you know that there are others who are selling "wonder clips" that are not the quality Clover Wonder Clips? I read not too long ago about non-authentic Wonder Clips but didn't give it much thought until I was checking online with a large sewing retailer and wondered why 50 Wonder Clips were nearly the same price as 100 wonder clips. Figured out that the 100 were NOT authentic. Not sure if they are just as good as the originals; I'd love to know, though.

    Reply
  16. Julie
    Julie says:

    Massdrop does get a better price because they negotiate with the manufacturers for large amounts of the same item. Same with Fabric.com which is owned by Amazon. We independents are having a hard time staying afloat due to things like this. The woman who does the craft supply buying for Massdrop used to be one of my customers she is local to me. I don't want to put her out of a job but I also don't want to see the local independent shops go out of business.

    Reply
  17. Katy Cameron
    Katy Cameron says:

    It's interesting, I've not found it to be a huge bargain for fabric (albeit I tend to shop at sale time for envelope stuffing purposes!), but some tools, like the Simflex gauge, I've never seen before, so I'm waiting on that one ending to complete my first purchase

    Reply
  18. Melissa Miller
    Melissa Miller says:

    I've been noticing these types of posts appearing lately about where fabric and supplies should and should not be purchased with the general opinion being traditional local brick and mortar or established independent online businesses. It makes me wonder if sometimes there is influence on these posts based on the sponsorship of the blogs.

    How and where purchases are made is a personal decision. A number of factors can come into play — economics, location, availability, etc. Somebody may make a purchasing decision entirely on cost. Another based on their own remote location. Someone else based on what's available locally. For me it's usually a mix of cost and local availability. Most often, what I like and/or am looking for is not available locally. I prefer to support a local small business when I can but consideration of my finances outweighs consideration of theirs.

    Regarding Massdrop, they are not a go to place for fabric and supplies. You don't decide you need XYZ item and go right to Massdrop and purchase it. At this moment, they have only two sewing related drops. Using their website and purchasing from them is not onerous. You do not have to participate in polls. You can receive an update email from them letting you know what's new. You can commit to buy only if the drop reaches the lowest price. The drop is open for a certain number of days. Once it ends, then Massdrop orders the product. They then ship it out once they receive and process their order. Their drops are pretty specific. It's not often there is any type of variation to choose from. They are selling genuine products purchased from the manufacturers or distributors for the manufacturers. You would have to determine if a product you are interested in is the best deal for you based on what's available to you elsewhere. I have made a few purchases from Massdrop and have been completely satisfied with each transaction.

    That being said, Massdrop is utilizing technology and innovation. Some can say brick and mortar all day long but technology and innovation are a reality. Businesses need to adapt. There are plenty of local brick and mortar and established independent online businesses that are not utilizing what's available fully or at all to reach and interact with potential customers, such as taking advantage of social media platforms or local brick and mortars that don't have an online store. There is a natural life cycle with various types of businesses and industries. How many of you no longer have a landline in your home with service provided by a local telephone company because you have a mobile phone with service provide by a national company? Do you no longer subscribe to your local newspaper because you get your news online? Do you shop at membership only warehouse clubs like Sam's Club or Costco? There are many things taken into consideration when purchasing products and services local vs non-local, small vs big, independent vs corporate, etc.

    Reply
  19. diane
    diane says:

    there return policy is bad. I ordered speakers that were not compatible with my computer and they said, Oh well! I lost out on $75. I also agree in supporting my local brick and mortat and online shops so much more.

    Reply
  20. Christina
    Christina says:

    I have participated in 4 massdrops. I felt they were a great bargain, and I did my homework first. My online shopping is due to the fact that the brick and mortar store near me makes its $ selling machines and has a very limited supply of fabric. When I need notions I'll pay more and buy from them but for new and modern fabric lines I'm limited to online unless I can make time to drive an hour or two. So for me massdrop is nice but you do have to check prices, some things are not bargains at all.

    Reply

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