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Thread: Does fabric quality differ?

  1. #26
    Power Poster Mousie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Naturalmama
    I really love all the insight I'm getting here! :) I hope you don't mind - I know I will be asking a lot more questions like this!
    naturalmama, every time you ask a quilty question, we all learn or are reminded. That's a good thing :D

  2. #27
    Super Member Favorite Fabrics's Avatar
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    I'm not so sure about the first-second-third run idea. Charismah may know something that I don't... there is, in the fabric business, something called a "strike-off". That's a test-printing of a fabric design. Well, let me back up. First the designer makes the artwork (and this is usually digital these days). Then (for prints) there are up to 16 screens that are engraved for printing the design. A screen is a fine-mesh metal cylinder, often with a 24" circumference (that's the vertical pattern repeat). The cylinder is initially coated with a substance that isn't penetrable by dye. A computer-driven laser is used to open pinpoint holes in the screen, which let the dye through; each different color in the finished print needs its own screen. All of the screens are mounted (very precisely!) on the rotary presses that print the design. (I'm attaching in a picture of one of the machines that used to operate at Cranston/VIP. I was pleased to have been able to tour their facility, before they stopped printing at their Massachusetts plant this past June.)

    The first initial printing, the strike-off, gives an opportunity to see if the design translates well from artwork/paper to fabric. Usually it is a very small run, and the cloth is used to create samples for the fabric company's salespersons to show to shopowners and garment manufacturers. Sometimes multiple strike-offs are done, to get the quality of the print up to the standards of the fabric manufacturer. But it's not my impression that the strike-off fabrics generally make it into the retail sales world.

    I'm not sure that the fabric manufacturers generally print a different quality of fabric for the chains, versus the LQS market. I think that, unless the chain specifically commissions an entire printing to be done to a (lesser) quality, whether the fabric is sold to a chain, or to a LQS, it's all being pulled from the same stock in the same warehouse. There are fabrics that I buy for my shop, that are EXACTLY the same prints as what I've seen in JoAnns. The only thing is... the LQS's generally get to carry a line for a half-year before it is offered to the chains (this is for Robert Kaufman and Timeless Treasures fabrics). I have seen Marcus fabrics that were printed in specific colorways for JoAnns and were printed on lesser quality greige goods, than the quilt-shop versions.

    I think that what we all perceive as better (more attractive) fabrics is probably due to the quality of the printing: more screens equals a greater depth of color. It's also (obviously) more expensive to print a fabric with sixteen colors, rather than one with just two or three. Screens can be finer or coarser mesh, for a more or less detailed design. Some greige goods are heavier than others. I'm not convinced that thread count is everything... Michael Miller, Timeless Treasures, Robert Kaufman and Alexander Henry print on a little heavier fabric than most of the other manufacturers. Springs Industries fabrics are frankly very lightweight. And then the various finishes do result in a different "hand". (I really don't know much about finishes at all.)

    Today a sales rep stopped by; he sells fabric from at least a half-dozen manufacturers and what he said was that there are fewer mills printing fabric these days, but that their quality has improved greatly over the last decade and they're all pretty much capable of producing the same high-quality prints. (The mills are typically in China, South Korea, and Japan. Only Santee still prints here in the US.)

    When I choose fabrics, I really base my decision on the look of the design. I know that some manufacturers tend to have better animal prints, and some do a great job with flowers, others tend to draw upon a certain color palette that I find pleasing; yet others have their strength in the coordinating collections that they put together. It all depends on what you personally find appealing. I really haven't seen much of anything on the market lately that I would call "bad" in terms of quality.

    Choose the fabrics that delight your eye. Touch them to make sure that they feel nice too. Beyond that... don't worry about it. But if buying in person, do watch as the fabrics are unrolled and measured; regardless of the manufacturer, it's the nature of fabrics that there is the occasional irregularity in the weave of the cloth. In busy patterns you'd never notice it, but in solid colors or pale prints it can really show. If buying online, buy from a store that you trust to be looking over the fabric carefully before sending it, the same way you'd be looking it over if you were there.




    Cranston print facility
    Name:  Attachment-4728.jpe
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Size:  26.8 KB

  3. #28
    Super Member Naturalmama's Avatar
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    That was very informative! Thank you!

  4. #29
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    I found out by using cheap stuff from Joanns, (I ignored their good stuff)it isn't holding up very well....and for all of the work you put into a quilt, not worth it to me
    Lois

  5. #30
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    What I have found is that the lower quality fabric fades. I made my grandchildren quilts using lower quality fabrics and they have all faded with repeated washings. I'd say, if you can't afford the good fabric, just wait until you can. The hours of labor and other expenses just aren't worth it. Same for batting. I found the WalMart/JoAnn's batting didn't hold up after repeated washings. My favorite is Quilter's Dream.

  6. #31
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    I buy what I like. I've made lots of quilts from WalMart fabric and lots
    a few from LQS or JoAnns and usually I' m the only one that knows
    which is which.

  7. #32
    Super Member mar32428's Avatar
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    I agree about Walmart's hand. However, if you are material experienced, you can "feel" the fabric and often find a gem in between the glass. I stop everytime I shop Walmart just to check out the fabric. Sometiimes I luck out and sometimes not. I have bought beautiful fabric for &1.00 a yard. Once in awhile I have gotten a clunker.

  8. #33
    Super Member feline fanatic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anna O
    What I have found is that the lower quality fabric fades. I made my grandchildren quilts using lower quality fabrics and they have all faded with repeated washings. I'd say, if you can't afford the good fabric, just wait until you can. The hours of labor and other expenses just aren't worth it. Same for batting. I found the WalMart/JoAnn's batting didn't hold up after repeated washings. My favorite is Quilter's Dream.
    I agree. My first two bedsize quilts were made with fabrics bought at JoAnns and they faded terribly and in some places have fallen apart. I was heartsick over it because these quilts were hand quilted and a lot of time and effort went into making them. I swore off JoAnn fabric after that. Ditto for the batting as well. I prefer Hobbs Heirloom batting and warm and natural but my current WIP is Quilter's Dream. It does needle very nicely so far.
    I did make a quilt out of nothing but homespuns and for that I did get some Walmart homespun fabric and some homespuns from my LQS. This is a heavily used quilt and it is holding up quite well. So some Walmart fabric is fine. But that is not a choice for me anymore as my local wallyworld has discontinued their fabric dept. Any printed fabric and batiks I prefer to get at LQS and I have taken a chance with on line purchases and have been very satisfied so far. By far, my preference is being able to touch the fabric before buying it but on line purchasing has worked so far, although I have yet to use any online fabrics in a quilt.

  9. #34
    Super Member Naturalmama's Avatar
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    Hmmmm. I hadn't even thought about there being a diffenrence in batting. I recently bought some thinner cotton batting (it was off a huge roll) at JoAnn's to make a comforter with. It will just be a sheet on one side, Michael Miller fabric on the other (just huge pieces - not quilted) - and I was going to hand tie it. Am I going to have problems??

  10. #35
    Power Poster Prism99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Naturalmama
    Hmmmm. I hadn't even thought about there being a diffenrence in batting. I recently bought some thinner cotton batting (it was off a huge roll) at JoAnn's to make a comforter with. It will just be a sheet on one side, Michael Miller fabric on the other (just huge pieces - not quilted) - and I was going to hand tie it. Am I going to have problems??
    I think that thin cotton batting that is not needle-punched and without scrim probably doesn't hold up well to tying. My favorite batting is Mountain Mist Blue Ribbon 100% cotton, which is fairly thin and not needlepunched, and it is recommended to be quilted about 2" apart. If this type of batting is tied far apart, I would think it would separate and ball up into lumps every time it was agitated in the wash.

    If I were going to tie a quilt, I would probably use Warm n Natural (needlepunched through a scrim) or perhaps Quilters Dream (haven't used it, but I think it is more blanket-like). I think WnN can be tied 6 inches apart with no problem, maybe more.

  11. #36
    Super Member Naturalmama's Avatar
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    Wow, I'm glad I asked.... can I get what you mentioned at JoAnn's or where would I find them?

  12. #37
    Power Poster Prism99's Avatar
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    JoAnn's carries Warm n Natural. Quilters Dream is widely available online. Before using these, you should probably research their characteristics. WnN is a very stable batting but the needle-punching through scrim gives it a stiffer drape than other battings. QD comes in varying thicknesses and has a finer drape. I'm not positive that QD is suitable for tying, though, having never used it myself; that is something you would want to research. Maybe start a new thread asking which batts are the best ones for tied quilts?

  13. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by katier825
    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
    katier185 has a good point about piecing different quality fabrics. Experience has taught me that if you starch the "less" fabric before cutting, and then if necessary before piecing you can control the stretching somewhat.

    As for telling the quality of fabrics, after a while you will be able to tell by the feel. As for JoAnn fabric, I have found that the bolts that sell for 8.99 are indeed far superior to the 3.99-6.99 bolts. When using the less expensive product I pre-wash and check for color fastness and shrinkage.

    I'll admit that not so long ago I was a Quilt Fabric Snob. But after contracting to teach Quilting at JoAnn's I have had the opportunity to be around their fabric. I realized that some of their fabrics are actually really nice. The chain is trying out, bringing in lines of fabric. instead of just having a wall of color segregated fabrics. I have used their New Legacy line and it's pretty nice. I also like (actually love) their Stone Hill fabrics. But that is just me.

    There are 4 LQS in my area and their prices are getting outrageous. They are charging from 9.99 - to 14.99. I hope this is not an indication as to how prices across the board will be. 2 years ago these same shops were priced from 6.99-11.99

    Just my 2 cents worth, hope someone finds it helpful.





  14. #39
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    My usual blah-blah

    Wash and dry the fabric before cutting. (In my case, I soak it in hot water first, then wash and dry)

    After that, then one really knows what one has.

  15. #40
    Super Member katier825's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prism99
    JoAnn's carries Warm n Natural. Quilters Dream is widely available online. Before using these, you should probably research their characteristics. WnN is a very stable batting but the needle-punching through scrim gives it a stiffer drape than other battings. QD comes in varying thicknesses and has a finer drape. I'm not positive that QD is suitable for tying, though, having never used it myself; that is something you would want to research. Maybe start a new thread asking which batts are the best ones for tied quilts?
    Next week, Joann's will have the pre packaged Warm n Natural on sale for $9.99. It's 90x108, or the equivalent of 3 yds off the bolt. I usually buy off the bolt for $6 on sale. This is a much better deal.

  16. #41
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    That is a great deal for warm n natural.

    Thanks for the heads up!

  17. #42
    Super Member Naturalmama's Avatar
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    Thanks for letting us know!

  18. #43
    Moderator tlrnhi's Avatar
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    If you can save, then spare the extra money....order it by the bolt. Last time I ordered by the bolt, it came out to a little less than $3/yd and had free shipping.

  19. #44
    Super Member katier825's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tlrnhi
    If you can save, then spare the extra money....order it by the bolt. Last time I ordered by the bolt, it came out to a little less than $3/yd and had free shipping.
    That is a great price! I sure wish I had space to do that. I live in a mobile home and barely have room to sew. I have to buy as I need it.

  20. #45
    Super Member Naturalmama's Avatar
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    I'm curious - how many yards would be on a bolt?

  21. #46
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    That depends on the manufacturer and fabric. Could be as little as 8 or 9 and as much as 14 or 15. Kinda seems crazy; would be nice if the industry was consistent. Just like the width of fabric. Sometimes you get only 42" of usable fabric and sometimes 44" or somewhere inbetween! Good thing quilters are flexible and can learn to deal with it. :)

  22. #47
    community benefactor Knot Sew's Avatar
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    :cry:

  23. #48
    Power Poster Ninnie's Avatar
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    I bluyl material from all over. When I first started quilting, the only place I had to buy was wall-mart. That was 13 years ago, and the quilts have been used, and are still holding up. Yes, I have had to make some repairs, but just because of all the washing and using. I am careful, at wall-mart, but you can get good material, you just have to check it out. You don't have as big a choice there though. I have ordered on line, and liked what i got, and I have bought lots from LQS and liked it also, so there is no right or wrong answer.

  24. #49
    community benefactor Knot Sew's Avatar
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    yay Ninnie..
    'my dog is bigger than your dog' :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

  25. #50
    Power Poster Ninnie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Knot Sew
    yay Ninnie..
    'my dog is bigger than your dog' :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

    ROFL Wanna bet!!! :lol: :lol:

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