“ sunflowerfabrics.com is a site that's quite possibly "The world's largest online shop for Patchwork & Quilting supplies". With over 1000 products to buy online, since 1996. „
Sunflower Fabrics is a specialist patchwork and quilting supply shop based in Bedford, but I have only shopped online from their web site so far. Unlike many sites on the web, Sunflower Fabrics is a joy to use. The online shopping site has been around since 1996, and although this won’t get it a quick feel by Hugh Scully on the Antiques Roadshow, the years of experience and willingness to adopt suggestions from users has resulted in a quick loading site that makes online shopping a pleasant experience. NAVIGATION & PRODUCTS When you enter the site by clicking on the sunflower on the first page, you are presented with a page containing links to the rest of the site. The layout is clear and uncluttered, and wherever you go on the site you will find the same easy navigation. The What Our Customers Say clickable text link on the left of the page leads to several pages jam packed with glowing reports from customers. One customer was left speechless by the speed of a delivery - her parcel travelled 6000 miles in only three working days! You can buy fabric, patterns and kits, books, haberdashery, threads, wadding, lighting, and even a small selection of teddies from this site. The principle products available are a vast selection of beautiful crisp cotton print fabrics, all of very good quality. After using this site for the first time in 1999 I have not bothered with anywhere else. In that time the site, whilst very good anyway, has improved enormously. ORDERING FABRICS Fabrics can be ordered in a number of different ways: You can use the collection box to select fabrics from the many different fabric collections on the site. The collection box is a drop down menu to the left of the screen on the fabric pages. There are selections of fabrics from manufacturers and designers such as Liberty, Hoffman, Debbie Mumm and Kaffe Fassett. These fabrics are displayed as small jp
egs, and where possible any pattern is to the same scale as the actual cloth. This speeds up the page load time considerably, and each image can be clicked on if you want to see a bigger image. Under each image is the name of the fabric (Sunflower Fabrics name for it, which is not always the same as the manufacturer’s name), together with the price per metre and a Buy button. Clicking on the Buy button will take you to a page where you can add the fabric to your Shopping Basket. I have found the jpegs to be largely accurate in terms of their closeness to the original fabrics. Sunflower Fabrics also gives guidance on how to alter the display settings on your desktop to view the images on site optimally via a clickable text link on the fabrics main page. You may buy the fabrics individually, as packs, which are themed (and represent good value), or by joining the Fabric Club. THE FABRIC CLUB The Sunflower Surprise Fabric Club is an excellent way of building your stash of beautiful fabrics for future projects. There are four different levels, Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum, each with the option to purchase monthly or bi-monthly. Whichever level you choose, you will be sent a package every month or two, and you can also cancel membership whenever you want. You will receive your parcel from the Fabric Club in the first week of the month. Each package will contain a selection of Fat Quarters, with the quantity dependent on the level of membership you have chosen. You will also qualify for a discount on all other purchases from the site with the exception of the CD-ROM and any Special Offers. The amount of discount varies with the level of membership from 3% with the monthly Bronze membership to 10% with the monthly Platinum membership. I joined the Fabric Club in December, and received a package of beautiful fabrics, together with a Christmas card from “Maggie and all the Sunflower G
als” welcoming me to the Club. This is typical of the personal touch that makes Sunflower Fabrics such a special site - a personal touch that is lacking in most other sites - except for dooyoo of course, my other favourite site. Whenever I have ordered from Sunflower Fabrics, I have always found a personal note in the parcel. The postage and packing for the Fabric Club is £1.50 in the UK, which is well below what it actually costs them to send the parcel. 4th January 2001 - I have just received my January parcel, which is again packed with beautiful fabrics, all of which are perfect for the toddlers first big quilt. I think I had better get that machine going! 2nd February 2001 - I have just received the February parcel - and have to recommend the gorgeous Folk Art Wedding Favourites, designed by Robyn Pandolph, and from Moda. They are beautiful in lovely muted colours: pinks, greens and creams. There are checks, florals, and dots, all co-ortdinating beautifully, and once again proving that Maggie has superb taste in fabrics. If you join the Fabric Club in January you will get an extra eight Fat Quarters of fabric free. Curses! I missed that one by a whisker. SPECIAL OFFERS These are available in the Sunflower Fabrics Bargain Basement. You can buy fabric cheaply in here, using the Bargain Bales offer, starting at 10 Fat Quarters for £15. The usual price is around £2.20 per Fat Quarter, so this could be worth a look. With my January parcel I also received my £15 Bargain Bale, ordered on the 31st December 2001. As you can see the turnaround time is pretty quick. As with the Fabric Club, you can return the Bale if not satisfied. I am definitely happy with the fabrics in my Bargain Bale, so I will be keeping them. Other offers include 20 skeins of DMC embroidery cotton for £10, which can be tailored to a colour theme of your choosing. THE CD-ROM There are over 2
000 images on the Sunflower Fabrics site. Browsing a site as large as this is only practical if you have toll-free Internet access. In recognition of this problem, Sunflower Fabrics have produced a CD-ROM of the entire web site, available from the site for £5.00, plus P&P. I have toll-free Internet access, but if I didn’t, I would order this CD-ROM, and only go online to place an order or to check the What’s New page, where all the updates to the catalogue are stored permanently, and accessed via a drop down menu. THE SHOPPING BASKET If you decide to add the fabric to your Shopping Basket, you can choose the quantity (generally in units of Fat Quarters or Metres), and whether you want a substitute fabric sent instead if that fabric is not available. There is also a check box that you can click to add matching cotton thread (Gutermann, 100m, £1.10) to your order, and you can easily add or cancel the item from this page too. The Shopping Basket page is clearly set out and it is easy to amend or cancel your order. When you go to the checkout, you can send your details and order online using the Sunflower Fabrics secure server. You can also send your order offline by phone, fax or post. There is a text box on the Checkout page where you can add any additional comments or information you wish to send with your order. POSTAGE & PACKING Postage and Packing is detailed on a separate page, via a clickable text link on the Checkout page, and is added after you send your order. Surface Mail (Royal Mail ParcelForce) worldwide - P&P is 10% of your order value. Airmail within Europe - P&P is 12% of your order value. Airmail within Zone 1 - P&P is 20% of your order value. Airmail within Zone 2 - P&P is 23% of your order value. There is a clickable text link that takes you to a page explaining the Zones. Whilst the percentage will give you an idea of how much your order will c
ost in P&P, what you will be charged is the lowest figure, either the actual postage charge or the estimate. If you are outside the United Kingdom you will need to specify Surface Mail if that is what you want, because the default is Airmail for orders outside the UK. Still on this page there is a useful link to the Universal Currency Converter for overseas customers. COMMUNITY SPIRIT Sunflower Fabrics, although whirling out there somewhere in cyberspace, does have a community feel to it. Click on Office on the top menu, and you will find a Gallery, where you can send in a photo by post or as a jpeg via email with 100 words about you and your work, and have your quilt exhibited for others to see and comment on by email or in the Guestbook - you might even sell it! The Post Bag is where you will find offline comments made by customers and visitors - all very satisfied with the service and the site. The Guestbook - this suffered an unfortunate incident in 1999 where all the entries were wiped. However a few pages of entries have built up since then, and are mainly from international customers and Quiltmakers looking for information or friendship. I have just emailed a Senior lady in Novia Scotia who was homesick for Yorkshire, and who is also an avid quiltmaker herself, and am hoping for a reply soon. **Update** I have just had an email from the lady in Nova Scotia - she seems lovely, and I am really glad that I checked out the Guestbook. **End of Update** Services - this includes workshops by Maggie or one of her circle of visiting teachers at Sunflower Fabrics, or even a workshop at your own quilting group (dependent on area), starting from £100 plus petrol. Maggie also does talks on Quiltmaking and and various topics, and you can also send for a basket of goodies on a sale or return basis for your Quitmaking group, with 10% of the sales going to your groups funds, or
have Maggie herself turning up in her Peugeot with a bootful of beautiful products for a day of full on-site trading... THE VERDICT I just cannot fault this site. They have shown consistent improvement over the last two years, and are outstanding when it comes to customer service. I have concentrated on reviewing the fabric side of the site as I have not bought any books or haberdashery from here, but I would have every confidence in them to supply any items to my satisfaction. Sunflower Fabrics should be held up as an excellent example of what an e-commerce site should be like. The site loads pretty quickly, comsidering the huge numbers of images it contains, and the CD-ROM should provide an acceptable alternative to browsing online for those without toll-free Internet Access. Sunflower Fabrics is the best online shopping site I have used. It is great to look at, has a wonderful selection of products, and the customer service and attention to detail is superb. Congratulations to Maggie, the Sunflower Gals, and especially Chris, the Webmaster. Well done.