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