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Thread: Fabric Quality - How to Tell

  1. #1
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    How does one decide if a piece of fabric is of "good quality" ?

    What should someone look for?

    How can one decide if it will be SUITABLE for the project before buying it and bringing it home?

    I have a lot of brands considered to be "better" - RJR, Michael Miller, Kaufman, Debbie Mumm/SSI - in my stash.

    I have a lot of brands that are considered to be "lesser" - VIP, Marcus Brothers, Cranston Village

    I have some others - Oakhurst, Springs Industries, and "no name on the selvage"

    Within each of these lines - there seem to be different thread counts, different hefts to the fabric - some seem very coarse to me - "thicker", but fewer threads to the inch - some are thinner, but with more threads to the inch - some are crispy, some are soft, some seem to wrinkle if I look at them funny.

    Some of the novelty/I Spy/nature prints are printed on fabric that seems very coarse to me - and I've passed on them, even though I really liked the print. (VIP and some "better" brands)

    I have some - gasp, horrors - fabrics purchased from "the dreaded chain stores" in the $2 to $4 range that I like as well or better than the "better" brands.

    I only have a couple scraps of Kaffe Fasset and no Liberty of London fabric, so I don't have anything to say about them.

    I have paid as little as $0.50 a yard to $16.00 a yard for fabric in a store.

    I do have "some" experience buying fabric, but seriously - for a beginner, what are some helpful clues/tips for them to look for?

    Especially if one has limited access to "in-person" shopping.

    Because, in my opinion, paying a higher price is NO guarantee of getting a better fabric.

  2. #2
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    Great question - I'm often asked that and it helps me to focus on what I really go for...

    I go for feel of the fabic - If I make a quilt that doesn't feel good, it's not going to be used or enjoyed. Is the fabric soft or stiff? does it feel substantial or wimpy? if it's a print, how do the edges of the parts of the design look? (If design looks like it should be precise but colors are not where they are supposed to be it's an immediate reject) If I fold or drape it does it have smooth drapes in the fabric? (If not, there may be a lot of sizing in it to make it look nice but which will wash out and change the texture later.)

    I also look at how transparent the fabric is - can I see shadows thru the fabric? if so, it may be too thin for my taste in quilt fabric...might be fine for other use.

    Is there a difference in the feel between the front and the back? in good quilt fabric there is usually no difference and that means I can use either side I want to!!!

  3. #3
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    I check to see if the design is printed "on-grain" - especially if it's something such as a stripe or a block.

    If it's printed "wrong" - it is there for the duration.

  4. #4
    mrsdralshhadeh's Avatar
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    THANKS!! never knew what I was supposed ot be looking for!! :thumbup:

  5. #5
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    This is a good question. Most of the time I buy the fabric called for by the pattern or book I am using. I think they would know. Then I buy if I like it. I don't like rough fabric no matter how expensive. Names don't mean that much I guess but I love McKenna Ryan , Mark Lipinski, Kaffe, Moda, any batiks (my love), etc. SO , this is how I buy. It would be nice to know to tell the difference. Kind of like sheets, I buy the ones that would look nice on my bed. If there is more thread great, if not oh well, softener can handle that.LOL I also find I do not have to pre-wash the fabric I chose. I have never had colors blend or more shrinkage than I like. I like to get that soft wrinkle look that ages a quilt. Happy quilting

  6. #6
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    I think most batiks are beautiful fabrics.

    I also think they are harder to work with than most of the other "quilting fabrics" because usually the weave is tighter/denser/closer.

    Therefore, it is much harder to "ease" or "stretch" the pieces if one wants/needs to fudge a bit. I think they are "stiffer" than most of the other "usual" fabrics, so less "forgiving" than the others.

    Others may disagree with my opinion on batiks.

  7. #7
    Power Poster sueisallaboutquilts's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrsdralshhadeh
    THANKS!! never knew what I was supposed ot be looking for!! :thumbup:
    Wow! You look different :D:D:D
    Love both your pics :)

  8. #8
    Power Poster sueisallaboutquilts's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by debbieumphress
    This is a good question. Most of the time I buy the fabric called for by the pattern or book I am using. I think they would know. Then I buy if I like it. I don't like rough fabric no matter how expensive. Names don't mean that much I guess but I love McKenna Ryan , Mark Lipinski, Kaffe, Moda, any batiks (my love), etc. SO , this is how I buy. It would be nice to know to tell the difference. Kind of like sheets, I buy the ones that would look nice on my bed. If there is more thread great, if not oh well, softener can handle that.LOL I also find I do not have to pre-wash the fabric I chose. I have never had colors blend or more shrinkage than I like. I like to get that soft wrinkle look that ages a quilt. Happy quilting
    I agree- it's so much like buying sheets! Unless I already know the line I prefer to shop myself so I can feel the fabrics. Same goes for sheets except I never buy sheets online.
    I also love the "wrinkly look" in quilts :)

  9. #9
    Pam
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    Quote Originally Posted by bearisgray
    I think most batiks are beautiful fabrics.

    I also think they are harder to work with than most of the other "quilting fabrics" because usually the weave is tighter/denser/closer.

    Therefore, it is much harder to "ease" or "stretch" the pieces if one wants/needs to fudge a bit. I think they are "stiffer" than most of the other "usual" fabrics, so less "forgiving" than the others.

    Others may disagree with my opinion on batiks.
    Bearis, that is funny! That is why I LIKE batiks! LOL I like the firmer feel and stability and the fact that they stay where I put them and do not shift under the presser foot, ect. I often starch regular fabrics when I put them together with batiks so that they are more firm. Oh, and the yummy colors....

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pam
    Quote Originally Posted by bearisgray
    I think most batiks are beautiful fabrics.

    I also think they are harder to work with than most of the other "quilting fabrics" because usually the weave is tighter/denser/closer.

    Therefore, it is much harder to "ease" or "stretch" the pieces if one wants/needs to fudge a bit. I think they are "stiffer" than most of the other "usual" fabrics, so less "forgiving" than the others.

    Others may disagree with my opinion on batiks.
    Bearis, that is funny! That is why I LIKE batiks! LOL I like the firmer feel and stability and the fact that they stay where I put them and do not shift under the presser foot, ect. I often starch regular fabrics when I put them together with batiks so that they are more firm. Oh, and the yummy colors....
    It is funny!

    Different strokes for different folks - - -

    Your comment/observation/experience does reinforce the idea of different characteristics of the various fabrics available.

  11. #11
    Senior Member vjengels's Avatar
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    I go by how the fabric feels to me, is it thin? how's the weave? I don't want anything too thin, I want my quilts to be USED.. Also, how's the pattern applied? if it's just printed on top, alot of times I'll pass.. my experience is those fade faster than others; even in a scrap quilt, I want some consistancy; and I use the back sides of fabrics quite a bit in my quilts... oh yeah, it has to be 100 % cotton.

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    I'm having problems with fabrics that ravel (is that the right word?) and leave strings all over the edges. It's in the latest QuiltForKids kit I just got and the long strips are terrible to work with. I don't want to use fray-check cause it will make it stiff. Any suggestions?

    I hope this is still on-topic---is there any way to tell in advance (before cutting) if this will happen? The fabric looks and feels fine until you handle it. I've never had this happen with fabric I've bought (even the Walmart fabric) so I guess I've been lucky but hope to avoid it happening in the future.

    Thanks!

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by janRN
    I'm having problems with fabrics that ravel (is that the right word?) and leave strings all over the edges. It's in the latest QuiltForKids kit I just got and the long strips are terrible to work with. I don't want to use fray-check cause it will make it stiff. Any suggestions?

    I hope this is still on-topic---is there any way to tell in advance (before cutting) if this will happen? The fabric looks and feels fine until you handle it. I've never had this happen with fabric I've bought (even the Walmart fabric) so I guess I've been lucky but hope to avoid it happening in the future.

    Thanks!
    Starch is your friend for those fabrics!
    At least I think it helps.

  14. #14
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    I think the lesser quality fabric all seem to have the most sizing on them! I have picked up fabric that I like but they feel like they are full of sizing and I wonder how they will feel after they are washed. I was tempted to carry a bolt into the ladies room once just to wash a small corner of the fabric and see how it would be. :-D I didn't but
    if I was buying a large quantity of that kind of fabric I think I might buy a quarter yard and wash it first before I committed to a bigger piece. :-D

  15. #15
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    i haven't come up with any system yet that's better than trial and error. there are some brands that i'm consistently pleased with; others i've learned to hate; and some that are great most of the time, with the occassional unpleasant surprise.

    and it seems no matter how little or how much i've paid for something, the truth is only revealed or confirmed once it's been washed. (you have noooooooooooo idea how much that ticks me off. that's precious time "wasted" that i'd rather spend actually using the stuff. mumble ... grumble ... frizzlefrazzle :hunf: )

    if i can see through them when i hold them up to the light, i pass. if they are already frayed and frazzled while still on the bolt, i sneer snottily and move on. if they feel slippery, as opposed to silky, i know they'll be a pain to work with. they had better be inexpensive (no more than $3.50 per yard) or they go back on the rack.

    my favorites are fabrics that have a medium weight, a nice "classy" drape, and a bit of "grab". by that, i mean that it will naturally "stick" to another layer of itself, or to other fabrics. if it does that before it's washed and with the added bonus of a silky feel and a certain indescribable lustre, i'm in love. those will get the highest rating on The Internationally Famous PatriceJ Snooty Scale.

    i also like the "workhorse" fabs. they might not be fancy or shopworthy, but i can buy lots of them when i need to; they come out of the dryer looking and feeling like they did before the first wash. they're great for kids quilts because they'll hold up in the wash, but nobody will need to feel badly if they get abused or damaged to too much love.

    you guys know me. i could go on and on and on until your eyes roll back into your heads with boredom. it's that complex.

    i'm slowly building a list of brands that perform consistently well for me and of those that don't.

  16. #16
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    Ahh Haa, nobody has yet to mention the little dots in the selvage as an indicator of print quality.

    Those dots represent the colors that have been used in the fabric and are handy in determining matching fabric. They also indicate how many colors are used. In printing a fabric, occasionally a test print is done with less than the full color spectrum.

    feel free to chime in here....

  17. #17
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    Quote has been edited.

    Quote Originally Posted by PatriceJ
    ...
    and it seems no matter how little or how much i've paid for something, the truth is only revealed or confirmed once it's been washed. (you have noooooooooooo idea how much that ticks me off. that's precious time "wasted" that i'd rather spend actually using the stuff. mumble ... grumble ... frizzlefrazzle :hunf: )\...
    I still think that pre-washing is in the same category as washing/priming/spackling the walls before repainting them.

    A pain to do and so tempting to skip, but worth it in the long run.

  18. #18
    Power Poster Prism99's Avatar
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    I made a quilt years ago with stock JoAnn fabrics -- not the greatest thread counts or patterns -- that turned out great and has held up well.

    These days I don't buy "muddy" prints. I find that many of the fabrics at Walmart have the muddiness I am talking about -- slightly blurred pattern lines, as if all of the colors did not match up exactly where they should. When I see this, I also usually see that the texture of the fabric is fairly coarse (lower thread count).

    I don't pay as much attention to price (except to price me out of the market if it's too high!) now as I do to print quality.

  19. #19
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    wow, thanks for starting this thread, we all learn from others!

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by janRN
    I'm having problems with fabrics that ravel (is that the right word?) and leave strings all over the edges. It's in the latest QuiltForKids kit I just got and the long strips are terrible to work with. I don't want to use fray-check cause it will make it stiff. Any suggestions?
    Thanks!
    Oh Jan, I am so glad you mentioned that. I noticed that same thing with the material in my QFK's kit. It had an nice feel to it, but raveled like crazy....driving me crazy! Even cut oddly when I rotary cut it...thought my blade was dull, changed the blade and it still did it. Hmmmm...

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by nursie76
    Quote Originally Posted by janRN
    I'm having problems with fabrics that ravel (is that the right word?) and leave strings all over the edges. It's in the latest QuiltForKids kit I just got and the long strips are terrible to work with. I don't want to use fray-check cause it will make it stiff. Any suggestions?
    Thanks!
    Oh Jan, I am so glad you mentioned that. I noticed that same thing with the material in my QFK's kit. It had an nice feel to it, but raveled like crazy....driving me crazy! Even cut oddly when I rotary cut it...thought my blade was dull, changed the blade and it still did it. Hmmmm...
    Do think some fabric with polyester in it may have gotten included?

  22. #22
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    Hi there....

    I usually go by the feel of the fabric..the texture..you can get an good handfeel at the store.......I've been working in the fabric business sine 1985 so I have a bit of fabric experience :-).... - which is a plus......25 years in fabric had better have taught me something...:-)

    I also enjoy finding great buys when I can but that's not an easy thing here in Canada......but at lot of people on the forum talk about getting fabrics for $2.00 and very low prices...I'm not sure that you can buy a $2.00/Yd fabric and have a $8-12 yard quality.....but here a good fabric can be $15-18..but in the U.S., that would perhaps be half of that or even less...because the prices here are just higher - I guess with customs and shipping, etc.

    That being said, I am sure that there are a lot of good lower price fabric out there because we can see that a lot of companies put on good sales in the U.S...and some of my friends on here have sent me sites that sell on line...unfortunately they don't all ship to Canada - and when they do the cost of shipping can put the fabric up to local prices....so it is then a non-win situation :-)

    I also do know though that you can have the "same" fabric at different prices at different stores..but they are not all the same run on the same fabric..some are seconds and may have certain errors or faults - and these seconds will be sold off to clearance centers..but not advertised as such......but the First Quality goods will be at the LQS...so be careful if you see the same fabric somewhere else for a lot less..it may come from the same company and have the same name - but it may not be the same fabric by a long shot :-)

    Just be careful as you shop - and if you are not sure about a particular fabric - before you buy yardage - buy a FQ and test it out and see how it works for you.....

    Happy Quilting everyone!!!!!

    Bill

  23. #23
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    I go by thread count to determine the quality. You can buy a fabric thread counter online.

    Most quilt shop quality fabric is made with a thread count of 75 and a thread weight of 30 or 34.

    Good quilting fabric has a thread count of at least 60 threads per inch. Kona cotton has a thread count of 60.

    Batik has a thread count of 200.

  24. #24
    Power Poster BellaBoo's Avatar
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    I have this one, also the one sold at Hobby Lobby in the embroidery section.
    http://www.colonialneedle.com/html/r...rose_info.html

  25. #25
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    You'll find, as others have said, that as time goes on you come to prefer a particular brand (or several).

    For "beefier" (thicker) fabrics that are forgiving to work with, I like Alexander Henry, Michael Miller, Timeless Treasures, and Kaufman.

    For quality of printing (fine details) right now Elizabeth's Studio does the best. They do mostly novelties. If you remember Shamash from several years back, their best designer moved on to Elizabeth's Studio so you'll see some similarities in the style of some of their designs.

    Wilmington and South Sea Imports are both divisions of MMFab, and I would say that in terms of quality they are indistinguishable from each other.

    Cranston Village has two brands, Quilting Treasures and VIP. The QT brand was always sold exclusively to quilt shops. Now they are going to be doing several lines under the VIP brand, that will be printed on the same goods and with the same quality as the QT line. I'm not sure why they're doing this, except that the VIP name has been better known than the QT name, probably because of all the VIP fabrics that Wal-Mart and the other chains have carried over the years. Of the VIP fabrics that the chain stores carry, you should be aware that there are three different greige goods (base fabrics) that they print on, and two finish styles that I'm aware of. So there is considerable variation in their fabrics.

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