Understanding Quality and
Collecting fabric can become a passion.
After a few years, you KNOW fabric!You know the names of the designers
and the manufacturers. You can easily distinguish between a
Thimbleberries fabric and one designed by Debbie Mum. You know when you see a fabric on sale for
50% off if it is truly a bargain.
Unless you have an unlimited budget, the quality of fabric that
you want to buy depends on what you are planning on doing with it.
There are "Utility Quilts", meant to be used until discarded, and "Heirloom
Quilts", which can last for years and be passed down several generations.
makes a quality fabric, and what should you expect to pay for different types of
expect to pay a full retail price of $8-10 a yard for quality fabric at a quilt store.
100% cotton fabrics and calicos and other discount fabric is usually priced upwards of $2.99
If you are on a budget, like most
of us, quilt shop fabric is only purchased on sale in a quilt store store or
online. So for many the challenge becomes finding less expensive fabric that is
still good quality fabric.
Here are some
things to look for:
While occasionally a quilter buys a fabric with
some polyester in it, 100% cotton is the fabric of choice. Cotton wears
well, is easily pressed, quilted, and sewn. You can often mark it by just
finger pressing in a crease. The is useful when you want to fold the
fabric in half to find the center and mark it to match with another piece. The grain is usually straight, and you can
nip the edge of the selvage and evenly tear the fabric. This comes in very
handy if you want a very long 2-inch strip.
Quality fabric is tightly woven. As a
general rule, the higher the thread
count (number of vertical and horizontal threads in a one-inch square) the
better the fabric.
Discount fabric comes in a wide range of thread counts.
If you can see through a fabric, it is poor quality. You will soon
learn to recognize a sufficient thread count by the feel of the fabric. If
the fabric is very stiff, it probably has a low thread count. Look for
density in the fibers, and a soft, supple feel. It is also a plus if the
design goes through the fabric to the back.
Calico fabrics are popular with quilters,
although they often have a low thread count, and can be very stiff.
When you pre-wash fabric an inferior fabric with a
very low thread count, the threads will ravel and the fabrics will become
twisted and knotted in the washing machine. It will also come out VERY
wrinkled in the dryer.
Ideally, you should dry your fabric until is is
barely damp, and then finish by pressing it dry.
Pattern and Color
A quality fabric will have the pattern evenly
placed on the fabric grain lines. The pattern will also show on the back.
All fabric has been treated with chemicals and
given finishes. This is why you often can't tell the
quality of a fabric by touch. After you wash your fabric, the sizing and
other chemicals will come out. The more economical fabrics will seems a
The better fabrics have had more care taken with the fibers and are not
as heavily impacted by washing.