There are a ton of gorgeous designer fabrics available for the quilter (or crafter in general) these days. I am a fan of pretty much anything that Amy Butler and Joel Dewberry come up with. I like Alexander Henry's prints as well as Michael Miller's, too. It's fair to say that I have a pretty good handle of the slew of modern fabric print designers out there. And as you know, I am a stasher. So I nab bits and pieces of things here and there for consumption later. But I will share a secret with you, I hoard the designer fabrics in they same way a newbie handspinner will hoard and hold onto his or her first independent dyer's handpainted roving. You know, afraid to spin it because it's the "good stuff".
For a while, I was afraid to dig into my fabric stash because it was all "the good stuff" and I have never really been that sure of my quilting abilities. But it recently occurred to be that I have been quilting for ten years, so I actually know more about quilting than I do about anything else I do. And if I have been quilting for ten years and haven't been using "the good stuff" what have I been using? Well, I am glad you asked. Let me tell you...
I have been using fabric from Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft.* Some of you out there, I am sure, are shaking your heads. But hear (read) me out. My mother has never met a piece of fabric she didn't like. She is a sewer. My aunt is a professional seamstress and tailor and my mom insists that she taught her everything she knows, I would like to think that my aunt's schooling did that; but, there you are. In any case, when my mother discovered JoAnn's for the first time, it was a little insane. I was 5 or 6 at the time and a friend told her she should go see it, so she did...she almost passed out because of the selection. My mother is a sewer of clothes. She always has been, she only sews aprons now (why one woman needs 30 aprons, I will never know), but back in the day, my mother was a sewing machine, or rather, an extension of her Singer.
So when I started quilting ten years ago, JoAnn's was pretty much all I knew about fabric. I never really wanted to sew clothes as a kid, my mom sewed them for me all the time and I didn't care for them (my mom has a thing for ruffles, bows, etc.), she leaned towards sewing dresses and I was a tomboy (does that shock anyone?). My mom never made quilts, even today, it would never occur to her to make a quilt. In any case, I started buying fabric from JoAnn's for quilts. And then one day, I got a Hancock's of Paducah catalog from a friend... I wish I could say it changed my whole crafting world; but, my first thought, at the time, was "why is this stuff so expensive?"
I consider myself to be reasonably intelligent, so I figured there was something about the fabric one purchased from Hancock's or from a quilt shop that made it remarkably different from the fabric one bought at a JoAnn's. So I ordered a half yard of a print that I liked just to compare (it was the cute fish fabric, I still like it--too bad I can't find anymore of it).
There, obviously, was a difference...but not a huge one in regard to quality. You know how sometimes you pay for a name or a logo or the brand? I think that is the case with a lot of the fabric on the market today. I have seen fabric at quilt shops that surely was not worth$10 a yard... and I make that statement on the weave structure of the fabric, not the print design (which really, is another kettle of fish(!) entirely).
At a quilt show I went to recently, there were these two women, let's call them Linda and Holly (because that's what they called each other, I am going to go out on limb here and guess that they are probably not novamade blog readers). This was their conversation:
Linda: Holly, did you see that quilt with the browns and reds in the corner?
Holly: I did, Linda, but it's too bad she used JoAnn's fabrics. You can tell that the fabrics just aren't up to snuff.
Linda: Yes, it's too bad.
Really? Really, Holly? Because I saw that red and brown quilt too, and I thought it was lovely (sorry, the quilter didn't want photos taken, I like to follow rules). Folks, there was nothing wrong with that quilt. The quilter picked good solid cotton fabrics, and quite frankly, she was probably able to afford the long arm machine she used to quilt it because of the money she saved/s on fabric; but, what do I know?
I know, for a fact, that if you use common sense when selecting fabric from JoAnn's or other discount fabric stores, you are going to be able to put together a nice quilt (for less money). And that quilt will last for a long time. I made Special K's wedding quilt with fabric from JoAnn's, almost ten years ago.
It has been washed repeatedly (in the washing machine...and dried in the dryer). This quilt gets a lot of use, more so now because of Little Sir and his penchant for using it as a cape. Any irregularity in the quilt now probably has more to do with my quilting ability back then...it was only my second quilt, cut me some slack.
I went though my fabric stash recently and pulled out all of the leftover JoAnn's fabrics from projects I have done over the last 10 years. I ended up giving a ton of it away to some other crafty people I know. I ended up keeping the stuff most recently purchased for particular projects. I may not purchase as much fabric for quilting from JoAnn's in the future, mostly because it's not the greatest idea to mix JoAnn's fabric with the designer stuff, as they probably would degrade at different rates, but you have to be careful about that with fabrics from different design houses anyways, in my opinion.
I think, and again, this is just me, in this economy, or any economy really, you have to be able to balance your crafty pursuits and your other responsibilities, be they fiscal or otherwise. I recently bought "designer" quality fabric to make a a queen-sized quilt. While entering the receipts in our money management gizmo thingy I realized that the amount spent on that fabric and supplies could have fed my family for a month. I didn't feel guilty about this, as the money was used from money specifically budgeted for my crafting endeavors; but, it certainly puts things in perspective.
Before I start working on that pricey quilt (probably with the help of some friends), I still have to figure out how to finish my queen-sized JoAnn's fabric nightmare. It's a nightmare not because of the quality of the fabric, which is fine, I think some of the prints are cute too; but, seriously? Thirty-six log cabin blocks? Gah.
I went to JoAnn's yesterday because the Simplicity patterns were on sale over the weekend (Little Sir wants to be a pirate for Halloween, that's what he settled on after realizing his gnome costume doesn't fit him anymore). As I paid $1 for the pattern at the register, I concluded that sometimes, it's nice to pay for something on the cheap...because really, who doesn't like a good deal?
* Some of you may have also figured out that you can find a lot (and I mean A LOT) of Alexander Henry and Robert Kaufman prints mixed in with the calicoes at JoAnn's. Just saying. If you were not aware of this nugget of info before, Happy Christmas.