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What Are Big Box Fabrics Really Good For?

What Are Big Box Fabrics Really Good For?

Old 07-10-2019, 09:18 AM
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Default 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.
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Old 07-10-2019, 09:24 AM
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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.
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Old 07-10-2019, 10:39 AM
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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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Old 07-10-2019, 12:04 PM
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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.
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Old 07-10-2019, 12:19 PM
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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.

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.
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Old 07-10-2019, 12:21 PM
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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.
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Old 07-10-2019, 12:34 PM
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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!
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Old 07-10-2019, 12:34 PM
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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...
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Old 07-10-2019, 01:14 PM
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Thanks for the reminder Peckish. Here it is in a smaller size.
Attached Thumbnails catherdral-window-resized.jpg  
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Old 07-10-2019, 01:39 PM
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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.

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.


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.
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