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Thread: What Are Big Box Fabrics Really Good For?

  1. #1
    Member Iona D.'s Avatar
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    What Are Big Box Fabrics Really Good For?

    I, and can imagine most of you as well, have read or discussed among yourselves about the great Big Box Fabric Stores Vs. Local Quilt Shops debate over the years. I used to feel guilty that my income is rather limited. That means Big Box here I come. The local quilt shops have a nasty (to me) habit of chopping up all those nice end of bolt/remnants into those cute sounding bundles (layer cakes, jelly rolls etc. anyone?) that just don’t work for me. I rather cut them myself into what shape and size I want. Most of the time, the Big Box store don’t bother doing more cutting up than necessary. So I chop these up myself when I am ready for them. Then I began to move away from convenience to customization.

    I now buy both with no guilt. While I do tend to believe the old adage “you get what you pay for” is mostly correct (with some exceptions), I think I am now at a place that can include both store and shop fabrics. In planning a quilt no matter how fancy “Sunday Best” or for plain “Everyday Use.” it will eventually be now begins it’s physical creation with Big Box fabrics. Some "quickie" utility everyday ones are sewn only or mostly with Big Box fabrics. The others are sewn this way:

    I buy and use both not so hot and the best fabrics from both sources. These fabrics are never mixed together in the same exact quilt, but for similar supportive purposes separately. The block below is an example. It was sewn together a few days ago using 100% cotton fabric remnants all from my local Joann’s. The fabrics were not really all that great to work with. Very limp and cheesy. Although the pure cotton (even at this inferior level) did allow me to do some sewing effects that only soft pliable cottony fabrics would do so. Even not so hot fabrics still are close enough to give a good feel about the complexity of the chosen design, working out some weak sewing technique bugs, yardage estimation, and most of all if I whether or not want to proceed with this design to the final quilt.

    I decided that I really do like this design for a future quilt. So with a few more practice "Big Box" blocks in the near future and drafting a final piecing sketch layout (on Google Drive-I don't have Illustrator or other sort of computer drawing programs here-and old fashioned drawing/coloring on paper), I will be ready to put many hours (even months) of work and money (only the best fabrics from LQS type of businesses) into this project.

    That is where both of these supposed non related stores do come together!
    Last edited by Iona D.; 07-10-2019 at 09:36 AM.

  2. #2
    Member Iona D.'s Avatar
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    I am unable to upload my photo here right now. I will return later and upload it after the Internet traffic gets uncongested.

  3. #3
    Power Poster Onebyone's Avatar
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    By big box do you mean Walmart? Joann's? I have used Walmart fabric and have found nice quality there for quilts. Most of it is craft fabric though. You have to read the label and know how good fabric feels. The fleece is pretty good quality for cozy throw quilts. I don't shop at JoAnn's. The fabric is way over priced even at most of the sale prices. I shop at LQS for the latest new fabric lines and for my backing fabric. I do most of my basic fabric shopping for brand name fabrics at Marshall's Dry Goods. Its a fabric distributor and close to me about a 2 1/2 hour drive.

    One thing I do buy at Walmart is fusibles, muslin, stabilizers, fusible fleece, etc because it's all Pellon products at a good price.
    Last edited by Onebyone; 07-10-2019 at 10:42 AM.
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  4. #4
    Member Iona D.'s Avatar
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    I was really trying hard to avoid naming names of both the Big Box and LQS retailers. I was trying to draw focus on fabric quality, cost, and use only-not individual retailers.

    To clarify, my local Walmart(s)-I have several within driving distance from my house-no longer carry fabrics. They still do carry sewing supplies (always buy most of my sewing/quilting supplies there) and I bought my last 2 sewing machines from them less than a year ago. For inexpensive workroom type of fabrics it's either Joann or my discounter fabric sources in my garment/fashion district. The best quality fabrics come from the garment/fashion district or from recommended online sources.

    All of my utility everyday quilts are from Joann fabrics. They do stand up to wear if you rotate them in and out of use.
    Last edited by Iona D.; 07-10-2019 at 12:07 PM.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Iona D. View Post
    These fabrics are never mixed together in the same exact quilt, but for similar supportive purposes separately.
    So, how do you remember where you bought them? I, too buy from everywhere and estate sales as well. I don't necessarily remember if the fabrics are "quilt shop quality". Sometimes, it's hard to tell by look and feel.

    Quote Originally Posted by Iona D. View Post
    The best quality fabrics come from the garment/fashion district
    You're lucky. Our district has almost stopped carrying quilting fabric. One used to have a great supply of last season Robert Kaufman fabric. They mostly have decorator fabric now. There's still one that carries Timeless Treasures.

  6. #6
    Super Member Peckish's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Iona D. View Post
    I am unable to upload my photo here right now. I will return later and upload it after the Internet traffic gets uncongested.
    Your photo is probably too big. Make it smaller and it will post.

  7. #7
    Senior Member tallchick's Avatar
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    I have purchased many fabrics from Joann’s and have had no issues with them, they serve a purpose for me and I have no qualms shopping there. I also have no issues supporting my local Quilt Shop or online favorite virtual store, my credit card statements are proof of that! I’m not a snob, and go by hand rather than price and sometimes one place will have what another doesn’t, so at the end of the day, he who has what I need/want will earn my business. I always try to buy the very best I can afford be it quilting, clothes, furniture etc. .

    If I gave someone a quilt and they said “ oh, I saw that fabric in Joann’s, I don’t want a quilt made from fabrics from there.” They would immediately be deemed unworthy of said quilt, and probably my friendship. When I give a quilt, I have already deemed them “quilt worthy” as quilting is a labor of love for me. I hope that as quilters, we are all able to enjoy one another’s talents without worrying about where the fabrics came from. I for one loveeeeee seeing what everyone makes, they are all beautiful, where they purchased the fabric from has never crossed my mind, and has zero impact on my life. I just want to see what everyone is making! We have amazingly talented members!
    Lisa

  8. #8
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    I try to judge my fabric on a piece by piece basis. I've gotten brand name fabric from my LQS that I was unhappy with after washing. On the other hand, I recently got a bag of scraps from the Goodwill that were nothing special, remnants from Walmart and Joann fat quarters mostly and I was surprised how much I liked some of the Waverly fabrics, in general they were the ones that include the term "screen print" on the selvedge. The trendier/more juvenile the design however and I wasn't as happy with the fabric.

    I have my squabbles with Joann, they are the closest store to me (only a mile away) by far. I don't like their pricing model, but again, some of their fabrics are better than others.

    Mostly anymore I buy my fabric at thrift stores and shopping my stash, only buying new fabrics to fill out what I need or when the sale is too good to resist! It's amazing what I find, but I have to be open and willing to collect because it is very unlikely that I will find exactly what I want the first time I go out, but that happens sometimes at the regular stores too.

    Typically I'm working in a scrappy style and everything goes into the mix, be it homespun or batik or Concord fabric from 1985 or Moda from 2012...

  9. #9
    Member Iona D.'s Avatar
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    Thanks for the reminder Peckish. Here it is in a smaller size.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  10. #10
    Member Iona D.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bkay View Post
    So, how do you remember where you bought them? I, too buy from everywhere and estate sales as well. I don't necessarily remember if the fabrics are "quilt shop quality". Sometimes, it's hard to tell by look and feel. ......You're lucky. Our district has almost stopped carrying quilting fabric. One used to have a great supply of last season Robert Kaufman fabric. They mostly have decorator fabric now. There's still one that carries Timeless Treasures.
    I really did not need to remember where the particular fabric piece or length came from up to now. For the past decade or so, I only made basic utility quilts for everyday use. Joann & a certain store (Michael Levine's) located in the garment/fashion district in my city were amply endowed with their selection and prices on, shall we say, budget fabrics.
    Now that I am only making a few quilts for special events, I am more choosy about the fabrics that will be used in the final product. That means Michael Levine plus online retailers only. And each unfinished project's fabric and supplies will be bundled up and housed in it's own storage box.

    Quote Originally Posted by tallchick View Post
    I have purchased many fabrics from Joann’s and have had no issues with them, they serve a purpose for me and I have no qualms shopping there. I also have no issues supporting my local Quilt Shop or online favorite virtual store, my credit card statements are proof of that! I’m not a snob, and go by hand rather than price and sometimes one place will have what another doesn’t, so at the end of the day, he who has what I need/want will earn my business. I always try to buy the very best I can afford be it quilting, clothes, furniture etc. .

    If I gave someone a quilt and they said “ oh, I saw that fabric in Joann’s, I don’t want a quilt made from fabrics from there.” They would immediately be deemed unworthy of said quilt, and probably my friendship. When I give a quilt, I have already deemed them “quilt worthy” as quilting is a labor of love for me. I hope that as quilters, we are all able to enjoy one another’s talents without worrying about where the fabrics came from. I for one loveeeeee seeing what everyone makes, they are all beautiful, where they purchased the fabric from has never crossed my mind, and has zero impact on my life. I just want to see what everyone is making! We have amazingly talented members!

    That's why I tried to steer away from a specific retailer and concentrated on the quilt itself. They are not "snobby quilts" or limited to specific times or usage, they are simply meant to be used whenever they are needed. Most are utility quilts here and are used to protect against the winter's draft. I live in an older not very well caulked house and that makes them just as vital as centuries ago. Plus they add some color and cheer to a very depressing environment I'm located in right now. This new project will use the best available fabrics and thread I can source.


    Quote Originally Posted by Iceblossom View Post
    I try to judge my fabric on a piece by piece basis. I've gotten brand name fabric from my LQS that I was unhappy with after washing. On the other hand, I recently got a bag of scraps from the Goodwill that were nothing special, remnants from Walmart and Joann fat quarters mostly and I was surprised how much I liked some of the Waverly fabrics, in general they were the ones that include the term "screen print" on the selvedge. The trendier/more juvenile the design however and I wasn't as happy with the fabric.

    I have my squabbles with Joann, they are the closest store to me (only a mile away) by far. I don't like their pricing model, but again, some of their fabrics are better than others.

    Mostly anymore I buy my fabric at thrift stores and shopping my stash, only buying new fabrics to fill out what I need or when the sale is too good to resist! It's amazing what I find, but I have to be open and willing to collect because it is very unlikely that I will find exactly what I want the first time I go out, but that happens sometimes at the regular stores too.

    Typically I'm working in a scrappy style and everything goes into the mix, be it homespun or batik or Concord fabric from 1985 or Moda from 2012...
    Just remember of of you to be happy and pleased with the finished product no matter where the fabric/thread/batting whatever came from!
    Last edited by Iona D.; 07-10-2019 at 01:51 PM.

  11. #11
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    Hancocks and Ben Franklins were my "go to" stores for fabric (both a 10 min. drive for me). They closed a couple years ago in my area. I could always find something that inspired me in both of these stores and the fabrics I purchased where good quality. (When I shop for fabric, I like to buy everything I need to make the quilt including the backing.) I shopped Mary Jo's (1 hr away) when I needed 20 different fabrics for a Bargello ... but from reviews I've read recently, I don't think they carry much quilting fabric any more.

    So I'm left with Hobby Lobby & Walmart (less than 10 min. drive), 1 LQS (15-20 min. drive) and JoAnns (40-45 min drive). To be honest, I'm not thrilled with any of them. I stroll through the fabrics and, if I see a fabric that really inspires me, I can't find coordinating fabrics I like. I may try ordering some fabric online but I really prefer to feel the fabric ... and trying to coordinate colors can be a little tricky as I don't think colors on the computer always show true.

    I try to always buy a good quality fabric even for my donation quilts but I do have to watch prices. Since I try to cooridnate all the fabric I need for a quilt in the store, they are usually of comparable quality.

  12. #12
    Senior Member juliasb's Avatar
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    As you say there is a time and a place... Each type of store has a valuable place in quilt making. I admit I purchase most of my fabrics online as good quilt store quality goods. However it did not stop me from buying 140 yards at a penny a yard from JAF on Monday. I will use much of this quilt as sample blocks that will eventually find it's way into something in a quilt over years to come.

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    Iona, I understand where you are coming from. Luckily for me the local quilt shops have 50% off fabric bins, and I freely admit to shopping the sales.

    I also use Connecting Threads fabrics and thread. I know some complain about the lint from the thread, but I frequently clean around my bobbin case so it is not an issue.

    I am in Canada, so my Big Box fabric store is FabricLand. I used to use some of their novelty prints, but as a person who mostly washes when it comes into the house, I find the fabric is lacking after washing. I have to wash the fabric as I get skin irritation from the chemicals in the fabric.

    So now I set an annual budget and when it is gone, I no longer shop, unless it is something needed to complete a project.

    I look forward to seeing your project.
    Attending University. I will graduate a year after my son and year before my daughter.

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    I don't see what difference it make where fabric is bought or how it is used. I buy from anyplace that sells fabric at the price I want to pay and use it how I want to use it.

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    Me, too, fruitloop! I'm not an online shopper for several reasons plus I'm one who buys because I like it or it has potential, not necessarily for an individual project. Therefore, I'm estimating and cost is a factor in what I put on the shelf. Will it be a charity project or an heirloom for your dearest friend/relative/self? If you are shopping at the "big box" stores, keep in mind that they are selling to a wide margin, not just quilters. There is craft fabric as well as what we consider to be top end. Hey, you can even buy fabric for headliners in your car at JoAnn's but we aren't looking at that for quilts, are we? Maybe you want something of lesser quality for decorating for a party, it's there, too! It's up to the consumer to purchase what they are hoping to find among the offerings at these stores.

  16. #16
    Super Member SusieQOH's Avatar
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    This subject seems to come up a lot.
    I buy almost all my fabrics online. It works for me because I like certain brands and know the quality so I don't feel the need to handle it before I buy.
    However, if I couldn't afford it I would buy whatever I could so I could make quilts as it brings me so much joy to create.
    So I really think there is a purpose for all of them.
    I remember the days when I had a young family and quilt shop fabric was mostly out of my reach. That is no longer the case but I still buy online more. The prices are a lot better and the people at my local quilt shop aren't inspiring at all.
    A lot of people say that precuts are a waste of money but I love the convenience and variation of fabric in them. That is worth the extra money to me.
    I agree with Onebyone- Joann's lost me a long time ago. Way overpriced for the quality and all those coupons.
    And I buy nothing at Walmart. I don't care what their prices are for anything. I just don't like that store.

  17. #17
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    I was i JoAnn buying yarn the other day and some of their fabric was marked 12.00 per yard. My LQS is charging 10.50 to 11.00. Why would I go to Jo Ann. After coupons its 8.00 but the quality is fair at best. Ill never buy it.

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    I tend to order online too; it's more convenient; most all the local stores have closed near me; the closest is an hour away and it's not on my away to anywhere. Joanns's is the same; I have Wm near me and Hobby Lobby is about a half hour away but then it's not on my way to anywhere either. Sad to see all the good places closing up. Now I try to "shop" in my stash if and when I can.

  19. #19
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    [>>>You have to read the label and know how good fabric feels.<<<

    This is what I think about fabric, period, no matter where you buy it. I buy fabric at JoAnn's, at Walmart, at Hobby Lobby, wherever fabric is sold, and online. And online makes me the most anxious because I can't see and feel the goods before buying.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maureen View Post
    I was i JoAnn buying yarn the other day and some of their fabric was marked 12.00 per yard. My LQS is charging 10.50 to 11.00. Why would I go to Jo Ann. After coupons its 8.00 but the quality is fair at best. Ill never buy it.
    JoAnn always has plenty of 50 and 60 percent off coupons you can use on that $12 a year fabric that the LQS will never have. I never pay full price for any fabric at JoAnn.

  21. #21
    Super Member Irishrose2's Avatar
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    The keys to JoAnn's and Hobby Lobby shopping are 1) knowing what decent fabric feels like and 2) never pay full price. I use a lot of their fabrics for backings. I won't set foot in a WalMart, but I'd use the same rules if I did. I have no trouble mixing fabrics from different locations. The table runner I just posted had newly purchased LQS fabric (the sunflowers), Northcutt from my stash (the yellows) and Hobby Lobby fabric (the grays). It all worked out after the fabrics were washed and pressed.

  22. #22
    Super Member crafty pat's Avatar
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    If you shop carefully at Walmart you can find good fabrics. I have found very good and beautiful fabric there. I buy a lot from Hobby Lobby and have always been very happy with what I have found there.

  23. #23
    Power Poster sewbizgirl's Avatar
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    I buy fabric from lots of different sources, and always judge it by look and feel, as well as content and manufacturer. If I deem it good enough to bring home, I store it all together and use it all together. Separating it at home is just too OCD for me.
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  24. #24
    Member gillyo's Avatar
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    I think it's important to know what a high quality cotton fabric is. My rule is that anything thin or shiny is out, way too much sizing that will wash out or flake off. Also, a good quilting fabric should be smooth without any slubs, and definitely not brushed, (Hobby Lobby sells a lot of those). Anything too loosely woven is also not a good choice. If you have a hard time deciding if a fabric is high quality or not you might want to bring a swatch of a fabric you were happy with and compare it to fabrics you're thinking of buying.

  25. #25
    Super Member WMUTeach's Avatar
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    I was formerly a regular Joann's shopper. But now I have such a large and useful stash that I seldom need to shop for any fabric except for backing. There is one Joann fabric, nae two, that I buy by the bolt and I like it and the price with the a coupon. I use one particular white on white often. I also will purchase Joann's best line white muslin by the bolt. It has not failed me yet. Like many have said, over time you learn the brands you like and "feel" of good vs OK fabric. I have had the opportunity in the past year to deepen my stash because two LQS were closing and I could shop good quality for 40 or 50% off. Sad to lose the stores, but now I have a stash of beautiful looking and beautiful to feeling cotton quilting fabrics. I don't need to shop Joann's except for non- fabric items. Never go in Walmart.

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