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 Mumm. 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
What makes a quality fabric, and what should you expect to pay for different
types of fabric?
You can expect to pay a full retail price of
around $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 a yard.
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
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
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 lot lighter. The better fabrics have
had more care taken with the fibers and are not as heavily impacted by washing.