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Why (and how) I Made the Switch to Premium Quilt Fabrics

Happy Monday! I’ve been posting quite a lot about ‘quality fabric buying,’ and up until now (without necessarily meaning to) – I think I’ve been a little cryptic. What I want to share today is what I mean by quality fabric. What I’m really talking about is Premium quilt fabric, but what does that mean and why does it make a difference?

For starters, I’ve been making quilts for a long time. As I’ve said before, I’ve used fabrics that run the gamut, including those that I look at now (from beneath a quilt I spent hours and hours making), and I cringe. The truth is that mostly, I bought what I could afford at the time, and as a young mom of six growing children, it wasn’t a lot. Rarely did I have time to even go to an actual fabric store, so oftentimes it meant strolling through the craft aisle with a cart full of kids, in whatever store I was in for another purpose, being pulled in by a fabric that caught my eye based on pattern, and buying 2 or 3 yards. That fabric was then added to my ‘stash’ for later use and coordination with some fabric (or two or five) I intended to find later (but often never did), once I fell in love with some pattern I’d find in a book. All well and good, right? Not really because half the time I didn’t have that fabric with me the next time I was at the store, which then only meant another one-hit-wonder would catch my attention in the same fashion. So what I wound up with was a bunch of fabric whose patterns I loved, but really didn’t coordinate together.

That said, I certainly had plenty of success over the years at coordinating fabrics together to make quilts. However, the process became about matching colors, which then opened me up to the dilemma of ignoring my discerning eye for quality fabric in exchange for a color or pattern that matched perfectly. Are you beginning to follow me, here? In a word:

Hodgepodge.

Moving on. Let me now share an image of one such fabric that caught my eye in the store a year or two ago:

Cute FabricCute, right? It’s good quality too; 100% cotton, nice dense thread count, very soft, like any good quality fabric should be. And it has lots of colors I like for the purpose of creating a whole quilt, beaming with lively colors! Now let me show you the selvedge edge:

SelvedgeAre you getting where I’m going with this? No pattern name, design collection, nothin.’ What if I need more of this fabric? What if I’m trying to match it perfectly with the same quality, same exact color match, same everything? I could call around and explain what it looks like or search online, but odds are – I wouldn’t find it.

About the time all this started occurring to me, I began learning more about Premium fabric brands and the thoughtful collections they assemble. I fell in love with Moda’s Little Apples, April Showers and Color Me Happy. Then I discovered Riley Blake. Have you SEEN Country Girls? To Norway with Love? EVERYTHING designed by Lori Holt? These are fabrics that a) have a recognizable name I can seek out, b) are great quality so there is no guesswork to be done in terms of even feeling the fabric, because I already know it’s great, and c) are part of collections of several different fabrics intended to coordinate together. There are several premium manufacturers out there; these are just the two I love most.

Aren’t premium fabric brands really expensive?

The answer is yes and no. In general, premium quilt fabrics are of better quality and yes – tend to be more expensive than your average ‘Printed Exclusively for Hobby Lobby Stores’ fabric. There are, however, ways to conquer the price difference from what you or I may have bought previously (see how I plopped you right into my happy little sand pile of Premium quality goodness? That’s because if you are not already basking in my sand pile by your own choice already, I want you to join me!). Here’s how I did it:

  • Once I figured out which collections I was in love with, I started shopping around. I can tell you that some brick-and-mortar quilt stores will carry part of a collection, but not all. I have found that to be true with my local Field’s Fabrics. If you can catch a good sale, you’re in with at least some. That said, I have all of ONE real quilt store in my area (that isn’t a ‘big box’ store like Field’s). I stopped in about six months ago, for the first time, delighted to meet the owner and share my new status as a lover of premium quilt fabric. She then cheerfully walked me around the store, showed me where to find all the different brands and lines (as the energy of this fabric heaven welled up inside me), then told me on the slide that they customarily DO NOT HAVE SALES. What? For a few moments I thought, well, it’s premium fabric; I guess that’s the trade off. Then reality spoke and I left the store, never to return. I suspect that this ‘No Sales’ policy is not universal, so do visit your local merchants and ask questions. If we can support local, I think it’s right to do so, as long as they meet us halfway.
  • I started shopping online. After leaving the aforementioned ‘No Sales’ store, I began to really delve into the online world of fabric shopping. Because I now had names of fabric lines I loved, I could search and compare prices. Craftsy.com is a great source, and they have amazing sales! FatQuarterShop.com is also on the up and up. Lastly, since I have an Etsy shop myself (where I used to sell my recycled animal friends, but am on hiatus for now), I seek to support my comrades. There are some great little sellers out there whose prices are more than fair.
  • Consider last season’s fabric lines. Like fashion, manufacturers are always introducing new lines. If you have to have the new lines right when they come out, you’ll simply have to be comfortable with the MSRP – manufacturer’s suggested retail price (but there are sales to be had – so find them). Otherwise, I find that I’m still discovering some of the retired lines are fabulous enough that I want to grab them before they’re really gone. As a warning, you WILL encounter sellers (on etsy, in particular) that treat retired fabric lines like out of print books, by pricing them sky high because they are out of print. I guess it’s just a matter of how badly you want the fabric as it relates to how much you’ll pay.
  • As previously (perhaps relentlessly) mentioned, I discovered PRECUTS.
    • 2.5″ or 5″ Charm Packs, of the entire line
    • Jelly Rolls or Rolie Polies (depending upon the brand) in either 2.5″ strips or 3.5″ strips, of the entire line
    • 10″ Layer Cakes, of the entire line
    • Fat Eighth, Fat Quarter, or Half Yard Bundles, of the entire line
Charlotte's favorite activity:  Playing with my fabrics. She's quite a little coordinator!

Charlotte’s favorite activity: Playing with my fabrics. She’s quite a little coordinator!

The thing about precuts is that although if you really add it up, they are a bit more costly by volume than yardage, I believe it’s worth the trade-off. They allow me to incorporate a variety of fabrics into my quilt projects, especially when combined with solids like white or ecru, to really accentuate the patterned fabrics. I recommend either Moda Bella Solids or Robert Kaufman Kona Solids. They tend to be more reasonable in price than the printed fabrics created by these same premium manufacturers, yet still the same great quality. The best part is that most big box stores sell the entire collection of solid colors, so I can find them locally.

Next Up:

Storing your Precuts: My Eureka Technique

Post 4: Rainy Days, Cheer-Up Bundles, and Precut Storage

For the second day in a row, I awakened to dreary, rainy weather. I like rain, I do – especially when I imagine how fat the little baby robins atop my porch post must be getting as their parents busily harvest the plentiful worms from our yard.  Spring is my favorite for all the reasons that make me loathe winter.  It’s fresh, it’s comfortable, and there is just something magical about witnessing the coming alive of things, year after year. So I get it…rain is necessary and rain is good; but it makes me have to seek out things to brighten my mood rather than just looking out a window or smelling the fresh breeze.  Fortunately, my growing stash of precuts was just the place to look!

Of course I forgot to snap a before-I-cut-it photo of the first precut bundle I bought after finally ditching my 'No-Fabric-Buying-for-a-Year Resolution'; but isn't it just heavenly?!

Of course I forgot to snap a before-I-cut-it photo of the first precut bundle I bought after finally ditching my ‘No-Fabric-Buying-for-a-Year Resolution’; but isn’t it just heavenly?!

I have to say, of all the persistent nudges – the Moda April Showers Collection by Bonnie and Camille was probably the one that made me rethink my resolution the most. I love everything about it, especially the way it makes rainy weather feel joyful instead of gloomy.  So I started cutting…and sewing, and cutting some more…

April Showers & Daysail Aurifil

Of note (surprisingly), the Aurifil thread collection that coordinates with Daysail (also for Moda by Bonnie and Camille) matches April Showers quite nicely!

While I was moving about my studio, I noticed Charlotte busying herself too, collecting scraps.

Charlotte's Favorite Scraps

Oddly enough, Charlie’s favorite scraps are mine too.

Well, leave it to a little studio bunny to give me a great idea about what to do with those too-tiny-to-really-make-anything-with scraps…

'Need More of These' list

Our list of fabrics we love and warrant the purchase of yardage, beyond just the precuts we own (and *gasp* might run out of!)

Which now brings me to what surrounds our little list, which is posted on the side of our ‘New Fabrics’ shelving unit.

Organizing PrecutsWe’re using these handy (and also quite cheerful) little binder clips, which come in varying sizes, colors, and patterns, if you know were to look.

Binder Clips for Precut Bundle Storage

We found ours at Office Depot, but Target has some lovely ones too.

Outside of keeping all the fabrics for each bundle together, I find the binder clips handy for the purpose of keeping the manufacturer and collection name tag right with the fabrics so I can easily keep track in case I want to seek out more.

April Showers Bundle with Handy Binder Clip

The binder clips allow me to keep all my scraps and the accompanying informational tag right with the bundle so they don’t get mixed up. I can even hang it up on a 3m hook (which are also one of my favorite studio supplies).

Oh. and YES – I made something with my April Showers layer cake: A 5″ quilt.

It's the umbrellas in this collection that sucked me in, but also the fabric I used for the binding. LOVE.

It’s the umbrellas in this collection that sucked me in, but also the fabric I used for the binding. LOVE.

April Showers 5‘It’s awfully small for a mini quilt, and kind of too big for a coaster, isn’t it?’  Yep. That’s because it’s neither.

It's meant to live here, beneath my presser foot when I'm not using my machine, so that every time I sit down to my machine, it makes me feel cheery :)

It’s meant to live here, beneath my presser foot when I’m not using my machine, so that every time I sit down to sew, it makes me feel cheery.

I wish you a happy (now sunny here) quilting day!

Pam

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