By Candace Cruise

As a fashion design student, I am constantly reminded that creativity does not come easy. Our most important grades, and greatest satisfaction, hinges on successfully creating garments of original design for assignments and fashion shows throughout our school career. Many do not see the time, energy and money that goes into the finished product. One of the most time consuming aspects is selecting the perfect fabric.

The problem at hand is that there are not a lot of options in this area when it comes to good, old brick-and-mortars or retailers who cater to our fashionable and creative needs. The same issue is especially true for students who may not have the luxury of owning a car to whisk themselves off campus and whose list of friends willing to “uber” them to and from New York (the fabric mecca) every weekend is…well… just not long enough. Not to mention, the short list of physical stores that are available tend to take advantage (price wise) of the fact that they’re on a short list. We won’t name names, like the one that rhymes with “Schmo-Ann’s”. I, myself, being a full-time student and mom, do my best to “make it work”, as Project Runway’s Tim Gunn so affectionately says it.

But thanks to the oh-so-convenient, age of technology, shopping is at our fingertips 24 hours a day. Buying fabric online can have many advantages including discount pricing, wider variety of choices, low shipping costs, and obviously, delivery to your door…even on Sunday! All you need to know is where to look. To get you started, here are my “Top Fab 5″ sites for buying fabric online:

Fabric Mart Fabrics – Affordable– Awesome discounts (including $1.99/yard sales)– Easy to navigate, Lots of designer fabrics and other categories, Very detailed photos and fabric info, Fast shipping.

Spoonflower – Unique offerings of fabrics with patterns and designs by individual designers like you and me instead of big companies, You can put your own designs on fabric to order, Huge selection to choose from.

Joann Fabrics – Great selection that may not be in stores, Coupons always available, Low shipping costs, Can also check availability in stores.

Mood –Not the most affordable on the list but if cost is not a primary issue this is an excellent choice, Very high quality fabrics, Huge variety to choose from, Designer fabrics, May be able to order swatches. – Great pricing and sales, Easy to navigate, Low shipping rate, Designer fabrics,