Fabric Quality for Quilting

My meter is in the middle this morning!

This morning I have been (once again) reading online about the difference between LQS and chain store fabrics.  My quilting has advanced to the point that I am more comfortable spending more money on the fabrics, but curious if fabric standards have changed over the years and considering just how I should look at my fabric purchases.

Having just finished a major quilting endeavor, I cringe to think that it won’t hold up over the years, no matter what fabric is in it. Love, sweat, and much joy does, indeed, go into a big quilt project and it would be nice to know it will be around after a few washings!

I have learned to feel the fabric, the “hand” of it, the differences in thread count, does it bounce back when you crush it in your hand, and all those kinds of tests. I have learned that it probably is a good idea to wash and press before using (depending on the final use of the item being made). These are all things that I knew from being a seamstress for years before taking up quilting. I still find myself drawn to pretties in chain stores, sales, and simply the other part of quilting…collecting fabrics.

Using good fabric from a chain store sometimes fits the bill for me for backing, for fun prints, or for fillers. Also, when testing a pattern or trying something new, I might use a lesser quality. Yes, I do have some fabric quarters that came from the chain store when I first started quilting – and that don’t compare. They will have to be used for who knows what…bookmarks? bibs? or nothing!

Here are a couple of pictures grabbed from my stash this morning:

20180612_0955301154601776.jpg 20180612_0954451909094044.jpgI know you would have to do the “touchy feely” thing, but these are all a mix of fabrics from LQS, chain store, and even sheets!

I plan to use them all!

 

 

 

 

When I was reading online this morning, I ran across this comment that I found compelling…

MaryAnn had this to say:

“Don’t be fearful. Buy what you like but pay attention to it. If it is a cheaper fabric, but you MUST have that color or that pattern, just be aware of it’s possible weaknesses. Example: If it’s not a good tight weave, then don’t use 1/4″ seams; use wider ones. Not all fabric is created equal, but all fabric is wonderful and can be useful… if you pay attention and get to know what you are working with. (Quilting since 1975) And I think it helps to remember our grandmothers who made their quilts from shirts and dresses and flour sacks… and hoarded every scrap that came their way.”

Your thoughts? I would love to hear what you think. Sometimes, I fear we become too snobby about everything in life! (Forgive me…no judgement intended!) Let’s just have fun and love what we do!

And remember…Life is short - buy fabric

Be IN-joy and Happy Quilting!

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Experience IS a good teacher!

“Practice makes perfect” is a pretty common concept…and it is true. That said, I am thinking about what we learn from experience. Experience IS  a good teacher! Since this blog is focused on quilting, I want to talk about some of my experience over the 3 years, or so, that I have been at this craft. More specifically, I want to talk about prepping your fabric….

I hope some experienced quilters will join in on this topic with comments about what they do. Sharing can only help each other, and especially help those starting out. That is, unless they tend to be like me and have to learn for themselves! It is not my most proud revelation, but true. Today’s topic is an example.

I am following along with Meghan and the Sienna Burst QAL. “This week is all about getting ourselves set up for success to start tackling the blocks. Starch, iron, cut; mix and match fabrics and learn all about HRT.” What I want to drill down on even more in this post is about the STARCH.

Side note: I previously posted on “Quilter’s Moonshine”. Meghan offers up her own version, that I have heard works very well too! You need starch…lots of it!!!!

Preparation…Meghan says to Starch, Iron, Cut. I decided I was going to do every step this time, as directed. In my EXPERIENCE, I have seen how fabric can shrink up when being pressed with either water or starch. You might think this only happens with lower-end fabrics. I hope the pictures I am including below will help you see that it happens…and not only with cheaper fabrics!

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This is my first piece of fabric. It is Kona cotton, an acceptable quilting fabric from Robert Kaufman. You will note that I have folded it flat and removed the selvedge. (Another post for selvedges, one day…I love them!) On the cutting mat, you can see where the edges fall. Right side at the 1″ mark, left side at 22″.

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Zoomed in a little to show the 22″ marking. The other side is at the 1″ marking.

Now I will press with starch. (Yes, the following pictures are the same fabric…just different lighting.)

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Now I have pressed one time with starch. Do you notice those bumps? Those are created from the fabric shrinking in some places and not others. Probably not enough saturation with the starch!

Second…and third…pressing with starch has been done…

20180316_1124561699311820.jpg Now that looks good! 

I attempted to get videos of the process…

You can see the bumps almost disappear when the starch is sprayed on them! This process took THREE times starching and pressing. Prepping about 1.25 yards of fabric used about 12 ounces of starch. Yep! that is why “Frugal Frieda” here likes the homemade version!

Now, I hope the pictures below will tell you, in plain sight, why this preparation is important! Remember above, the fabric was laid out on the mat starting at the 1″ mark and it measured to the 22″ mark. The following pictures are after the starching process.

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We have lost 1/2″ in width.
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Notice the difference in the bottom that WAS straight.
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Notice the variation in width and length across the piece of fabric that WAS straight before starching and pressing.
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These are the trimmings left after cutting the fabric to be straight, squared up, and ready to cut.

So why is this important? What EXPERIENCE has proven to me is that if this process is not done first, your blocks will likely be really out of shape and proportion when you starch and press them AFTER you have made them! This results in seams and blocks that don’t match up and much frustration. Also, if your fabric is preshrunk and crisp before you sew, you will have a much better chance at perfect points!

If you want to learn by doing, go for it! That will work too, but once you have progressed to the point of buying quality fabrics, working more challenging patterns, and expecting a well-finished piece, you will understand..JUST DO IT! Prep your fabics!

From one who learned by doing, had some good outcomes, and some very frustrating finishes!

Happy Quilting!

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