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Thread: Does fabric quality differ?

  1. #1
    Super Member Naturalmama's Avatar
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    What I mean is - does it matter if you buy your fabric at Wal-mart vs a quilt shop? I'm not trying to be a snob - I was just thinking about all the work that goes into a quilt and if typically quilt-store fabric is of a better quality (and hence will be more durable) - or not?

  2. #2
    Super Member zyxquilts's Avatar
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    The fabrics do differ from WalMart to your local quilt shop. The griege (pronounced 'grey') goods (the base fabric) has more threads per inch, and is usually the same amount of threads in the warp & weft. This not only makes the fabric somewhat stronger, but I've been told that it's much easier to hand quilt when it's "square". (I don't hand quilt, so can't say from my own experience)
    Then again, this may only make a difference if you are looking to make an heirloom quilt. I've personally used fabric from WalMart, JoAnn's, local quilt shops, online shops....and no one has even told me that their quilt came apart! As long as your workmanship is the best you can do, you can use any fabrics you like. Look at some of the very OLD quilts - many are made from fabric that has already been used in clothing, and worn & washed uncounted times, and THEN made into a quilt...that may still be on a bed today! :D

  3. #3
    Super Member Prism99's Avatar
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    It's not necessarily so. However, what I have noticed about Walmart fabric is that often the "hand" is not very nice. The fabric is often stiffer and not as closely woven as quilt shop fabrics. Also, the patterns are often very slightly misprinted and the colors are often not exactly right.

    Theoretically, at least, quilt shop fabrics -- even if the pattern is the same -- are made out of a better "griege" with more attention given to exact colors and exact pattern placements (so you don't get a slightly smudgey look from one color not having been aligned perfectly with existing colors). They are also supposed to have been given additional chemical baths or treatments to soften the "hand" of the fabric and to protect against fading from sunlight (although that protection is gone once the fabric is washed).

    However, buying from a quilt shop is not a guarantee of getting higher quality fabric, and sometimes Walmart is able to purchase lots of higher quality fabrics at a huge discount. I have seen some of the same fabrics in both places where the difference in quality was pretty obvious, but I have also seen the same fabrics in both places where it seemed as if the Walmart fabric was exactly the same quality as the quilt shop fabric that cost two or three times as much.

    In general, though, I have found that the patterns in Walmart fabric are not nearly as sophisticated as those I find in quilt stores, and that the hand of Walmart fabrics is usually not as fine. If you practice looking closely at the fabrics and touching them, you learn to see the differences pretty quickly. I wouldn't hesitate to buy a Walmart fabric, though, if it met my criteria for color, pattern and feel.

  4. #4
    Super Member Naturalmama's Avatar
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    Thank you - that answered it perfectly! :D

  5. #5
    Super Member charismah's Avatar
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    Actually...there is a difference...

    Wal-mart fabric is called first run fabric..lower thread count and designs are painted on and since it is lower thread count they starch their fabric to hold up until you wash it...doesn't wash up well and shrinks more.

    JOanns and Hancocks is called 2nd run fabric..a little higher thread count and colored a bit better...doesn't shrink as much as wal-mart fabric.

    Designers get limited amount of fabric press time so they will do their first and second runs on these fabrics and then change what they want to change for third run fabrics ...

    Third run fabrics are quilt quality fabric..fabrics sold at your LQS. These fabrics have a higher thread count, are dyed not painted and they have minimal shrinkage. Hope that helps you.

  6. #6
    Super Member Naturalmama's Avatar
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    Wow - you guys are an amazing source of info!

  7. #7
    Community Manager PatriceJ's Avatar
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    i buy waaaaaaaaaaaay too much fabric from a variety of sources. having bought tons so far, a few facts have proven themselves time and time again.

    true: better selections from the shops, whether in-person or online.
    true: fabs from the shops usually feel fancier and finer straight off the bolt.
    true: le shops usually cut more accurately.
    true: the fabrics most likely to shrink and/or bleed have consistently been those from "high-end" quilt shops. i never worried and prewashed until i started buying the pricier stuff. go figure. :roll:

    i paid $9 per yard for a metallic once. by the second washing, half the metallic has sloughed off. :?

    true: once they're washed, from the back, it's often hard to tell the difference between the pricey fabs and the less expensive ones.

    true: i don't expect to be around 1 or 2 hundred years from now, so couldn't care less whether or not my work ends up in a museum.

    buy what you like and what you can afford.

  8. #8
    Super Member katier825's Avatar
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    You may notice a difference in the piecing stage if you mix the lesser quality with the good stuff. I had one print that I got at Walmart that was a perfect match for a quilt I was making. It didn't feel as nice but the color was perfect so I used it. Everytime I got to a section with that fabric, it stretched and distorted a bit more than the other fabrics. I had to ease a lot of fullness in on that one print. It wasn't as noticeable by the time I got through, but I hated handling it. It would have been even worse if I had a different pattern with more triangles. Luckily most of mine was squares and I didn't have to handle it too much. I haven't bought any fabric at Walmart since that experience.

    Once you get to know the quality of a particular manufacturer, you can shop online and get a decent price. I have bought the same names/quality online for $4-7/yd that I can get in the quilt shop for $8-10. I still buy at the shops too. I try to spread my business around a bit. I like them all and would hate to see any of them go out of business. :D

  9. #9
    Super Member Darlene's Avatar
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    This is what I like about the Board there are no fabric snobs here. No insisting we buy at an expensive store when we can get what we like at less expensive stores.
    I don't have an LQS near me so I usually buy at Joann's or online.

  10. #10
    Power Poster BellaBoo's Avatar
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    I make a lot of utility quilts and projects from WalMart, Hobby Lobby, and Joann's fabrics. I wouldn't make a potholder from quilt shop quality fabric unless it was for show.

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