Fabric Quality Matters!
By Alison Dea Bolt
Love those good goods!
I’ve heard that "love is blind;" so’s the love of fabric. In both cases, finding what’s right for you can be frustrating and labor intensive. When I was looking for love, I knew exactly what I wanted: someone gentle, strong, and attractive—someone whose integrity I could count on. Oddly, those are exactly the qualities I now demand in quilting fabric. Unfortunately, like my dates, I’ve had to "kiss a few frogs" on my way to a cotton compatibility.
As a new quilter, I had serious "stash envy." I raced to amass an arsenal of fabric, buying at chain stores with low prices. I’d used their material to make holiday decorations for years. Cotton was cotton, right? Wrong! I had no clue about low thread counts, excess dye, or substandard runs of the ever-unpronounceable greige goods, so I loaded up on yardage. Just like my dates, I knew I’d made a horrible mistake as soon as I took them home. When washed, my treasures became limp, terminally wrinkled, and frayed. Many had weak spots and bled more profusely than my college fencing partner. I tried ignoring the odor of finishing chemicals and sewed some unwashed fabric. I needed a hammer to flatten the seams. When I finally pieced some blocks, they were stiff and rough. I never put my baby in sandpaper diapers, and I sure wasn’t willing to cover her with a perpetually exfoliating quilt. I quickly discovered "cheap" wasn’t a "bargain" if it meant wasting time and fabric. Although chains now tout better lines, I’m no gambler. With each bolt I pick up, I still ask myself: Are there slubs? Is the weave so loose I can read through it? Does it stretch more than my gym shorts? No thanks….
Visiting a premier quilt shop like Keepsake Quilting can be a real eye-opener. When you fondle their fabric, you immediately feel the difference. Because it’s manufactured on top quality cotton with a high thread count, the fabric is soft, durable, and colorfast. Better still, it comes in a dizzying array of colors, and designs created by famous names in the quilting world. What I value most, though, is its dependability. Any of Keepsake’s thousands of bolts will give me the desired outcome. All I ever worry about is choosing what will work best in my project and remembering where in the store I left my tote. Everything I need to succeed is at my fingertips, including salespeople who know their stuff and eagerly weigh in on color or technique questions. I’ll take that to standing alone, juggling questionable bolts in a warehouse any day.
In this economy, saving matters, and quilt shops are doing their part. Keepsake always has lots of bargain bolts, not to mention Medley™ packs, die-cut shape collections, and stash builders—all designed to save fabric and cash. Scrap lovers can buy scrap bags or wrestle their friends for the best bits in the scrap barrel to pull a quilt together for 1/3 of the cost. There’s something perfect for everyone’s fabric taste and budget, and you never have to sacrifice quality to get it. The good news is that when you take it home, it doesn’t grab the remote or ask you to cook for it…
Alison Bolt lives in Littleton, New Hampshire, and is a regular columnist for Quilters Newsletter magazine.