A Case for Buying Only High Quality Quilting Fabric

The alternate title to this post was “A Cautionary Tale About Using Low Quality Inexpensive Fabric”.

First let me make a disclaimer in case you are already cringing  that I am about to get “preachy” about only buying high quality quilting fabric at quilt shops. I am only going to share my experience and my personal lesson, not make or imply any judgements on where you buy your fabric!

So let’s start at the beginning of my quilting journey, 17 – 18 years ago and see where this post goes from there…

My Early Days of Quilting: “I am not spending crazy money on fabric!”

I started quilting in 1999 or 2000 when my friend Judy, my now “Quilting Momma”, convinced me to make my first quilt. Being a seasoned quilter, she tried to guide me towards only buying fabric at quilt shops. I refused.

Sure, I enjoyed going to quilt shops with her and looking at all the pretty fabric. When I looked at the prices however at the shops I would exclaim: “I am not spending crazy money on fabric!”. To her dismay, I would only shop at JOANN Fabric for my quilting fabric.

Screen Shot 2018-01-26 at 6.19.11 PM.png

Image credit: joann.com

Judy tried gently on numerous occasions to get me to reconsider my fabric purchasing location. She said: “You are spending all this time and energy making a quilt, don’t you want to invest in good fabric that will make the quilt last?” (Well she said something like that, I do not remember the exact statement).

Toshiba Digital Camera

Our first miniature schnauzers Fritz and Snickers wrapped in the first quilt I made with all JOANN fabric.

In Love With JOANN Fabrics & Crafts

My first couple years of quilting, I was absolutely in love with JOANN fabric, I thought it was a magical place. I would always wait for their sales – especially on fat quarters (pre-cut 18″ x 21″ pieces of fabric for the non-quilters reading this post). The fancy-smancy quilt shops sold fat quarters for $2 each but I could get them at JOANN’s for 99 cents and when they were on sale, I could get them for 69 cents and occasionally 49 cents!

I remember walking out of JOANN Fabrics after a major sale with a huge bag of fat quarters.

Made with Inexpensive, Low Quality Fabric

My first couple years of quilting, every quilt I made was made with fabric from JOANN Fabrics, including a wedding quilt I made with all blue fabrics. The pattern was called “Around the World”.

I loved the quilt so much, and the fabric I used to make it was so inexpensive, that I made  second one for myself.

This quilt has been well used over the years but around 5 years of moderate use, it began to wear in spots and even tear. I carefully stitched up the tears to fix the quilt. Until recently after many washings, the tears became more profound and I needed to do something else.

tear

Here is an example of one of the tears as I prepare it under my sewing machine for repair

Before I share what I did to fix the tears, I want to discuss the lesson I feel I learned: my friend Judy was right – you want to use high quality fabric if you want a quilt to last and hold up over the years.

The fabric I used on this quilt was so incredibly flimsy, it obviously had a low thread count and did not wear well over the years. The picture may not fully capture it but the fabric has nearly the feel of paper, thin paper.

Yes this quilt is likely 15 – 16 years old but it should not have worn this way where the fabric feels like it is dissolving away!

Luckily, in my opinion, about 5 years into quilting, I stopped buying fabric for making quilts from JOANN Fabrics (I would still buy it for making gifts such as potholders, etc.) and “bit the bullet” and began only buying high quality fabric from quilt shops (and eventually also online resources that offered discounted high quality quilting fabrics).

“Spot Welding” a Quilt

After years of numerous hand stitched repairs to my beloved shabby blue quilt, I had to figure out another way to repair it or get rid of it (which seemed like a very sad option as I feel quite sentimental about this quilt).

I decided to patch the quilt with a fabric in my stash (yes high quality quilting fabric) that was the closest match I could find to the original JOANN Fabrics fabric.

2018-01-22_10-47-44_355.jpeg

The quilt looks quite crazy but I “spot welded” the torn areas all over the quilt and saved the quilt:

2018-01-22_10-44-29_6672018-01-11_18-26-39_8822018-01-24_15-41-29_277

It is not pretty, but the quilt no longer has tears. I am sure I am going to have to continue to “spot weld” different areas of the quilt in the future.

I love this quilt and imagine if I had used high quality, high fiber count, quilting fabric from the start? As a new quilter, making an “Around the World” pattern quilt was fun but was also a lot of work and I should have invested in higher quality fabric.

What became of all the JOANN fabric I bought all those years ago? All gone from my stash – all donated to thrift shops. I donated most of it many years ago and got rid of the last of it over the past couple years during my purging related to embracing “semi-minimalism” (see posts in the category My Minimalism Journey).

I am interested in your comments and please know I am not being preachy or judgmental about where you buy your fabric!


Postscript

I finished the coil for batik fabric baskets and bowls that I discussed in posts: Prepping to Make Fabric Bowls  and Prepping to Make Fabric Bowls, Continued.

2018-01-26_17-19-53_930.jpeg

Yay!

I am so glad to have it done and now I will put it away until I feel like making another basket…

I have other projects calling me!

36 thoughts on “A Case for Buying Only High Quality Quilting Fabric

  1. Melanie McNeil says:

    No judgment from me, either! I do still occasionally buy fabric from JoAnns, but their better fabrics are priced at about 40% more than my local quilt shops sell for. That means they have to be on deep discount or I need a big coupon to make them comparable or less expensive. The lower-priced fabrics they have now, in my opinion, are on average much worse quality than they used to be. Since I’m not much of a shopper and don’t go there just for pleasure shopping, I don’t buy there much these days. I do buy my batting there, since I buy it by the roll.

    Good save on the early quilt. At some point your patches won’t be enough to hold it all together, but in the meantime, it looks very cozy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. bagheeracr says:

    Ah, the early days of quilting. I don’t miss them- I don’t miss quilting honestly.
    But I do have a few threadbare quilts from then.
    I have been known (even now) to just stuff the threadbare quilt under a new quilt top and just call it good.
    I’m hoping no one will ever be using my quilts as a study! Unless it is what not to do. 😁

    Liked by 1 person

    • tierneycreates says:

      Thanks so much for your comments and sorry about those threadbare quilts. I had one from my early days of quilting and buying cheap fabric that I gave as a gift and it is like the quilt melted from repeated washings and my friend had to make it a dog quilt and finally throw it out. I was kind of a crappy quilter too in the early days and took too many shortcuts (I was inpatient) – my bad quilting bindings are legendary – ha! 🙂

      Like

  3. myquiltprojects says:

    Here is where Joanns get ya, their fabric is usually far less than 45. It is closer to 40 inches. If you are buying fabric for a pattern and do not know this, you will have to go back to purchase more fabric. They get you in the store a second time to spend more money! Pretty sneaky eh?
    You know all my early quilts are doing what has happened to yours. In my early quilting days I took tops to the longarmer for quilting. She used poly batting. Poly batting acts as a Brillo pad on the back of cottons, no matter what the quality. The more you use the quilt the more it shreds. My poly batting quilts are all falling apart, and most of them come out of the chest once a year for a couple weeks and then back to storage they go. All that work, if I only would have known.

    Liked by 1 person

    • tierneycreates says:

      Oh my goodness, I think this quilt has a thin poly batting too! (That I bought from JOANNs because I quilted it myself and I was all about being thrifty!) Thanks so much for your comments and I did not realize about their fabric not being standard sizes. A friend of mine showed me how big name fabric manufacturers will do two lines of a fabric – a high quality thread count for quilt shops and then a lower quality thread count for places like JOANNs. I actually bought the same fabric at a quilt shop and then at JOANNs and saw the difference myself – it was a novelty print that I was making coasters out of and my local quilt shop ran out. Now I love JOANNs for rulers and other support items to quilting, their prices are awesome.
      Sorry your early quilts are having the same challenge and I appreciate you sharing 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. craftycreeky says:

    Good quality quilting cotton over here in the UK is about £14 a metre (about $20!) so cheaper cotton is tempting, but it just feels so much thinner and rougher that with all the time I spend on a quilt I’d rather invest in decent fabric, so I’m with you on this one 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Chela's Colchas y Mas says:

    I have been making quilts since 2015. Recently, I reviewed the different quilts I have made. Most of my quilts have been made from quilt shop fabric. My friend, who owns a quilt shop, is the person who helped me when I first started making quilts. She pointed out the difference in fabric quality. The quilts I have made using fabric from stores like JoAnns, have basically been to coordinate with fabric I purchased for specialty quilts… like the Spiderman and Star War quilts I made. I purchased the trademark comic fabric for the small center of the Spiderman quilt and for piecing the back of the Darth Vadar quilt.
    I use non-quilt shop fabric for purses, pillow cases, and crafts.These items do not need to stand the test of time. If I want to make a special placemat or table runner I will use quilt store fabric.
    My dad always said to use the proper tools and materials if I wanted a quality product. I agree.

    Liked by 1 person

    • tierneycreates says:

      You have such thoughtful comments! I see you had a mentor like I did that advised you about fabric quality, except in your case you listened! I have bought novelty fabric in recent past from JOANNs for a kids quilt that I knew they would grow out of in time. I like the quote from your Dad! 🙂

      Like

  6. Claudia McGill says:

    I went through the same process as you did when I worked with fabric. I did the same thing when I started painting; I’ve of course got rid of all my watery cheap acrylic paints and now only buy top quality. Good work deserves good materials.

    Liked by 1 person

    • tierneycreates says:

      Thanks Claudia for that perspective from your art experience! See if I began painting I might be tempted to buy the cheap stuff too which might be okay while I practiced (and oh would I need a lot of practice). Your work on your blog is wonderful and I suspected you were using high quality materials for your high quality art 🙂

      Like

      • Claudia McGill says:

        Thank you. I always tell my students to buy better paints and brushes rather than the low priced – the cheap materials affect the work and could influence a negative feeling about doing art any more for the wrong reason. People always say, I might not keep doing this, but I say, buy fewer paints but buy good ones, then. I also knit, and the same thing is true of yarn – Big Pound O’Yarn is not going to give nice results. It just isn’t.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. handmade habit says:

    Oh boy, thank you for this – I can see that there’s a big difference in how long the different quality fabrics last. If I extend this to knitting, then it’s time I start being more selective about my yarn (i.e. using better quality yarn and fibre). Acrylic is as cheap as it gets, but it goes bad and pills up very quickly, especially in the wash. Thanks for this reminder that we are crafting for keeps!

    Liked by 1 person

    • tierneycreates says:

      So I won’t tell you about my early YARN purchases, you would definitely cringe (and yes they were from that discount shop). I have donated most of my suspicious early yarn purchases (somewhere someone is walking around with a sweater made from sad acrylic yarns donated by me I suspect, ha!). Then I discovered wool and high quality blends when I friend took me for the first time to a yarn shop! I remember my first trip to a yarn shop on my own while visiting Victoria BC and taking the plunge and buying expensive yarn – it was very yummy as was the scarf I made from it!

      Liked by 1 person

      • handmade habit says:

        Great to hear of your yarn-shop success and the scarf that resulted! The prices can definitely feel scary at first (they were for me, and still are in some cases!), but the more I knit, the more I notice pretty big differences of the kind you describe with your fabric. Lovely to hear your first yarn-shop visit was in Canada, too! And yes – yummy is exactly the word!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Facetfully says:

    This is part of the learning curve on anything, as pretty well noted here. I may be mending some early makes too, but not too sad that I went through the process. As for JAs, also well covered here, I am happy to have a pretty good store in Bend. We have a plethora of LQSs and can use those great coupons for notions, etc. Thanks for sharing your story!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. thecookmanlife says:

    Love this. I know I would have gone the cheaper fabric route if my sister in law hadn’t shown me what a difference it makes. She owns a quilt shop in MT. From now on I’m definitely going to call her my “quilting momma!” ^.^

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Cindy Anderson says:

    I don’t buy quilting fabric from them either. I’ve seen what happens to their fabric and don’t want to risk it. My time is worth far more than the hefty discount they offer. I do buy notions and rolls of batting from them as well as home dec fabric but that is all. Great post. I didn’t take it as preaching. Well said! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • tierneycreates says:

      I’ve seen your fabric on your blog (and your super high quality photos, I envy your camera skills) and I can tell you only buy high quality fabric! What is funny (and I should have mentioned this in the post) is when I take TTQH to JOANNs for say I need a new ruler or something, he ALWAYS goes into the fabric section and several times has come out of it with fabric he wants to buy. I am gentle but several times I have agreed to a yard or two if he really loves it (usually dog prints or craft beer themed prints). I figure I can make some small craft item with it (or let him make some small craft item with it). I do not want to discourage his excitement, I just have to encourage him to enjoy such excitement at quilt shops. He is attractive to novelty prints and JOANNs is full of them!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s