New Friend and New Perspectives
Recently I made new friend based on our common interest in quilting/creating. Her name is Ashley and she runs the Etsy shop, Shop 316. One day we were video chatting and she mentioned using Joann fabrics when they go on sale as opposed to quilt store fabrics to help keep her supply costs low and profits within reason. This stunned me at first, so I said nothing. A quilter admitting to NOT using quilt store fabrics? Her words made a huge impact on me and I could not shake them.
Although I have made plenty of scrap quilts in the past, over the past several years I have been spending several hundred dollars each year to make, what I believe to be, quality quilts. I have been doing this because somewhere along the way, (I’m sure through the power of marketing) someone told us that only quilt store fabrics are durable enough to make quilts from.
Ashley’s opinion on fabric choices for resale items made me begin to question my decision to only purchase quilt store fabrics instead of chain stores fabrics. Was there really a huge difference? I decided to find out.
Shopping for Quilt Fabric
Here is what I purchased from three different stores:
As you can see, they all look very nice when they are folded and stacked neatly. The colors and shades are all comparable and at first glance, most people would be unable to tell the difference. If you are one of those people, let me help you along on this journey.
The fabric below was purchased at Walmart. It is made by Waverly Fabrics and it cost me $0.97 for a 1/4 yard ($3.88/yard).
This fabric (below) was purchased at Joann’s. Most of what I purchased was made by Quilters Showcase for $2.99/yard. Although I did pick up two pieces made by Keepsake Calico for $4.79/yard.
And this fabric was purchased at Birdseye Mercantile, a wonderful little quilt store in Avon Montana, for $8.50/ yard. (A great price for quilt store fabrics)
So What’s the Difference?
I knew what to expect from the quilt store fabric, but I had never deliberately held it next to Joann’s fabrics before and I was curious. So after hand washing, line drying and ironing all the fabrics, I laid the Toscana Moon Fabric, by Northcott, next to the Sky Blue Keepsake Calico fabric.
As you can see there is a bit of an issue with the opacity of the KC fabric on the right. You can clearly see the design of my ironing board pad beneath it. The Northcott fabric (on the left) was almost twice the weight of the KC one which added to the opacity of the fabric.
The Walmart fabric was a bit better then the Joann fabric as far as weight goes, but it was still a far cry from the opacity that most quilters desire. This leads me to believe that the thread count on both the Walmart and Joann fabrics are significantly lower than that of the quilt store fabric. Which would actually make it great as a backing fabric for quilts, especially for hand quilters.
The Yin and Yang of Fabric Choice
As I was washing, pressing and observing the fabrics, I kept asking myself if it was really worth the extra money to purchase from a quilt store: My answer depends on who I am making the quilt for, how long I think it will be used, and how I think the quilt will be laundered and cared for.
I have made quilts using Joann’s fabrics back in the 1990’s. These quilts were for myself and my family. They were not museum quality pieces, but rather gifts of love that were intended to be used until they were threadbare. 30 years later and mine are all gone. After many years of use all of them went to swaddled my dear canine companions when they went to their final resting places. (I believe most old quilts were used this way.) These quilts served their purpose for many years and I do not regret that they went with my friends after they passed away. In this aspect, chain store fabrics are an excellent choice. Especially if it will have a lot of quilting done to it: The extra stitching will add additional stability to the fibers of the fabric.
Ashley has a brilliant solution for the commissioned quilts that she makes and sells. She gives the customer the choice. She explains the pro’s and cons of the different types of fabrics and the different price points for each. The decision is then the customers to make and she prices her quilts accordingly. I think this is brilliant! And yes, there are people who do choose the Joann fabrics over the quilt store ones and it works perfectly for all parties involved.
Lets face it, thousands upon thousands of quilts have been made using fabrics purchased from general stores and Five & Dimes. Thousands upon thousands more have been made using nothing more than scraps of old clothing. The Gee’s Bends quilts became famous in part because the women used up scraps to make their unique quilts. These quilts not only stood the test of time, but people around the world cherish them and wonder about who made them.
Our fabric choices are only part of the issue when making a long lasting quilt though. We also need to educate people on how to properly care for a quilt: How to air it out, launder it when needed, fold it for storage or display, etc.
I am very grateful for my conversation with Ashely that day, she really opened my eyes to a new perspective especially when it comes to selling our creations. I have heard countless people complain that they could never sell their quilts because they would have to ask too much money for them. Well, perhaps it is time for artists everywhere to start pricing their wares accordingly, like Ashley does. If we have different price points for different qualities of merchandise, the buyer can then choose what it is that they are willing to pay.
Know the Value of Your Expertise and Work
On one last note I would like to add that in a world where people spend anywhere from $50.00 – $150.00 each month on acrylic nails, $2.00 a day on coffee ($720.00/year), and/or $50,000 for a new car or truck every few years, I find it insulting that they scoff at a twin sized, machine stitched, quilt that costs a respectable $500.00. I believe that when artists start respecting their own work enough to place a reasonable price tag on their handmade creations, then the customers will start paying. Just look at Eva Scrivo, a New York City Hair Stylist who charges $500.00 per cut & style and people flock to her from all over the United States. Eva knows the value of her expertise and her customers are willing pay.
If customers are only willing to pay $100.00 for a baby quilt, then they will get a quilt made with Joann fabrics purchased on sale and with a coupon. If they would like to spend $200.00 and get quilt store fabrics, then they have that option too.
What do you think?