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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
    Power Poster 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.

  11. #11
    Moderator tlrnhi's Avatar
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    I buy what I like and what I can afford.
    I've bought fabric from LQS and it has fallen apart. Have bought from Walmart and the stuff still looks brand new even with a 4 yr old toting the quilt around everyday.
    So, my thought on the whole thing is.....doesn't matter whether you buy from Walmart, Joann's, LQS...you can get bad fabric everywhere.

  12. #12

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    I am so glad I read this. I have wondered the same thing. I can't afford the high dollar stuff at the quilt shops but I love to quilt so most of my fabric is from Joann's, Hobby Lobby and Walmart if I can find one that still sells material. Haven't had any noticeable problems, but I am very new at this and probably wouldn't know I had a problem with the material or not. I always figure I did it wrong. Thanks so much for everyones input.

  13. #13
    Senior Member diannemc's Avatar
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    If I like it I buy it where ever it comes from..sometime quilt shops has a lower end fabric that seems to be about like hobby lobby and even wal-mart...at least the one close to where I live does...and when you live far away and need something quick wal -mart is all I have..and some of there fabric looks good and has washed good! Hey in the old days they quilted with flour sacks and old shirts whatever they could find!!!

  14. #14
    Super Member kwhite's Avatar
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    I agree with most that buying fabric can be a crap shoot unless you know exactly what you are doing. I do not as of yet. But I think it is horrible how manufacturers can sell me a fabric that is first or second run and not tell me!! I don't think where you buy should be the determining factor. I feel they should have to tell you it is not top quality. Clothing manufacturers do. I feel deceived when I hear this. But that is just MHO.

  15. #15
    Power Poster Prism99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kwhite
    I agree with most that buying fabric can be a crap shoot unless you know exactly what you are doing. I do not as of yet. But I think it is horrible how manufacturers can sell me a fabric that is first or second run and not tell me!! I don't think where you buy should be the determining factor. I feel they should have to tell you it is not top quality. Clothing manufacturers do. I feel deceived when I hear this. But that is just MHO.
    You know, I think that's a very good idea. I'd like to know whether a fabric is 1st, 2nd or 3rd run too! Maybe they should be required to print it on the bolt end.

  16. #16
    Moderator littlehud's Avatar
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    I like to buy where I can feel the fabric. Some feel wonderful and others like a stiff scratch pad. If it feels good and I like it, I buy it. This usually works for me.

  17. #17
    Senior Member bob1414's Avatar
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    All shops selling fabric other than quilt shops sell lower quality fabric. Even stores selling last year fabrics, overruns, etc. usually have a lower quality - for example, they could have defects and flaws or the "finishing" on the fabric was left off. Eamine the fabric at these stores closely prior to purchase. Chain stores such as JoAnn, WalMart, Hobby Lobby - all lower quality and for me, I will not spend all my time and effort on something that is not "quality". My time and effort are "quality" to me so that's how I look at it. I don't mean to sound snobby at all - I just value what I do. This is my 2 cents worth!!!

  18. #18
    Super Member Elisabrat's Avatar
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    The fabric has less threads per inch usually at walmart and the feel to the hand is not great at all. Since we use our quilts I prefer them to feel good too. Also if your putting tons of time into something I think its worth a tiny bit more on good fabric. JoAnnes sells some of the same fabrics a lot of quilt shops sell you just have to look at the names. Usually their $4.99 or less fabric is pretty equal to walmarts.

  19. #19
    Super Member Naturalmama's Avatar
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    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!

  20. #20
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    Unfortunately I don't think there is a "right" answer. I have found quality fabric at WalMart, and no so good quality fabric at quilt shops. I have found that I prefer certain manufacturers over others. Also, the same manufacturer can make a high quality fabric for one customer and a lesser quality fabric for another. So, bottom line is take each piece individually and decide if it's the quality you want to use. I do believe most quilt shops try to carry quality fabric, but that's not always the case. Hopefully I haven't confused you even more. :D

  21. #21
    Super Member mcdaniel023's Avatar
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    My advice....if you find a fabric that you like, pet it and hold it up to the light. You will be able to tell if it is of quality that you would like to work with. If it is, it doesn't matter where it came from. :)

  22. #22
    Super Member materialgrl's Avatar
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    I love to buy fabric and sometimes all I can afford is walmart,I also buy online and some from my LQS, but my favorite place is my Ben Franklins.They have flat folds I have even found thimbleberrys for under 4 dollors,I don't know why they are cheaper,but i haven't been unhappy and it satisfys my need for a fabric fix, :roll:

  23. #23
    Senior Member QuiltMania's Avatar
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    In my experience, it doesn't matter where you buy fabric. I've bought some expensive stuff at quilt shops that was absolute garbage and some inexpensive stuff at Walmart that was wonderful and vice versa. I feel the fabric and look at it closely. My suggestion would be to find fabric that you like and take note of the manufacturer, not where you bought it. After all, the manufacturer is the bottom line in terms of quality control. If you buy fabric that turns out to be not so great, don't buy from that manufacturer again regardless what store you happen to be at.

  24. #24
    Super Member Naturalmama's Avatar
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    Are there certain mfg's to stay away from? I hate to admit it, but I've never even paid attn to who mfg any fabric.... it makes sense though.

  25. #25
    Power Poster Mousie's Avatar
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    I third that idea!
    I would probably buy some of all three, depending on my budget, and what it was for, at the time.
    But I would be an informed consumer! :D

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