Quality Fabric - Deal or No Deal?
Why do quilt shops charge more for their quilting fabrics? Don't they know you can buy it from a discount store for less? Sure they do. But they also know that "bargain" fabrics are not always a deal.
Discount stores and quilt shops buy their fabric from the same manufacturers. But that doesn't mean they're buying the same quality. That's because fabric mills produce different grades of fabric for different end users.
For example, if you're sewing an outfit for a rough-and-tumble toddler, you'll probably use an inexpensive fabric. But, if you want to sew a quilt, you're more likely to choose a higher-quality fabric.
Sometimes discount fabric looks identical to quilt shop fabric. Both fabrics have the same print, and both come from the same manufacturer. But the discount fabric sells for less. What's going on here? To get a better understanding, let's find out how discount stores operate.
They Print Name-Brand Designs on Low-Quality Fabric
Common Practices of Discount Stores:
In the textile world, they call this "downprinting." This also occurs in the fashion industry where companies produce "knockoffs" of the latest designs. By printing a name-brand design on low-quality fabric, the discount stores can offer the quilt fabric for less.
They Order Quality Fabric, but Scrimp on the Print
In this case, the manufacturer applies less-than-desirable dyes or prints to quality fabric. To make matters worse, they don't seal the dyes in the fabric. That means the dyes are going to bleed in the wash. fabrics containing cheap dyes and inferior printing might not meet the manufacturers' standards. But if a discount store orders them this way, the manufacturer complies.
They Buy Quality Quilting Fabric in Bulk
Discount stores often buy hundreds of bolts of fabric at one time. Manufacturers reward them by offering handsome discounts on the "per yard" cost. Because discount stores pay less, they can transfer the savings to their customers. This gives them the advantage over quilt shops, because most quilt shops can't afford to buy in large bulk. That means they pay more for their quilting fabric.
They Buy "First-Run" Fabrics
BOTTOM LINE: If you find a deal at a discount store, take advantage of it. But only if you're buying quality fabric.
Fabric mills always test new designs for imperfections like color distortions or irregular pattern placements. You can bet they're not going to use their best fabric for this "first run."
An Easy Way to Buy Quilting Fabric
No, they're going to print the design on low-quality fabric called "griege goods" (pronounced "gray"). Griege goods refers to fabric taken off the loom in its natural state. "Natural" means the fabric contains no dyes or chemicals. This makes a perfect canvas for testing new prints.
After the design passes inspection, the mill sells the fabric to a "converter" or broker. Then the converter sells it to discount and chain stores. These quilt fabrics typically show up on clearance or discount tables as flat folds or on a bolt. Unsuspecting consumers think they're getting a bargain on name-brand fabrics. But in reality, they're buying cheap fabric full of irregularities.
If you want an easy way to buy quality fabrics, visit a quilt store. These shops cater to quilters, and they specialize in quality quilting fabrics with high thread counts. Sure, you'll pay more. But at least you'll know it's top-of-the-line fabric. I buy most of my fabric this way, because there's no guesswork involved.
Honor your time and talents. Always buy quality quilting fabrics.
If you're a fabric hound like me, you'll also shop at chain stores. There's nothing wrong with this. You just have to know how to recognize quality when you see it. That's another subject, and one I address in my article entitled, "How to Choose Quality Quilting Fabric."
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About the Author
Creator and publisher of http://sewaquilt.com, Gloria shares 16 years of quilting experience with new quilters. On her website, she teaches beginners how to make their first quilt. Gloria hopes to keep this fun and creative tradition alive.
Check out her free quilt patterns and lessons at http://sewaquilt.com