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A Tale Of Two Quilts And Fabric Choices

Summary

There has been much discussion lately over where to purchase fabric for quilting. Quilting Contessa covers the differences you should be aware of. Read now!

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A Tale Of Two Quilts And Fabric Choices

There has been much discussion lately over where to purchase fabric for quilting. Some say that they just can't afford to shop at their local quilt shop and need to visit big box retailers instead so that they can enjoy their quilting passion while others say that fabric from anywhere other than their local quilt shop is inferior and they refuse to use it for anything. Well, sometimes a little history and a true story can help to sway your opinions, so I would like to share mine.

A Tale of Two Quilts And Fabric Choices

 

When I first started quilting, I purchased my fabric for the first "real" quilt for my husband from the local quilt shop. It was a huge expense for a young wife and frankly my sweet hubby thought I was crazy to buy fabric, cut it up, and sew it back together again into something that would be smaller than it had originally started out, so I was intent on making it something nice for him so that we could enjoy my new hobby together. It was a good choice! He has supported my quilting hobby happily now for over 28 years and is still using his original quilt despite having more quilts made "just for him". That first quilt has been used and folded almost daily during these many years and has been through the washer and dryer more times than anything in our home. Yet, thankfully has held up beautifully despite some fairly rough use over the years.

 

Now every quilter knows that eventually we get around to making a quilt for ourselves, but it generally takes us a few years to get around to this task. In my case, it took about 10 years to get started and I decided to use bits and pieces of leftovers from other quilts, sewing projects, and scraps that were gifted to me. Unfortunately, many of those scraps were not "quilt shop quality" fabrics, but fabrics that had been purchased from big box stores and local retailers not known for their fabrics. But they were the "right colors" and all cotton, and I had a budget, so I proceeded to start "my quilt". Life got really busy about that time and "my quilt" got put aside and would not be picked back up for about a year. By that time, I decided that I really didn't want to make any more blocks of that design, so I started a new quilt using the leftover fabrics from my first quilt beginning – remember they were scraps. Well I worked on blocks for a while and got bored with them also, but I needed a quilt and I had blocks for two different quilts that were made from the same fabrics, so why not combine them and make one quilt that I could use? So, I arranged the blocks I had stitched for the two quilt tops and made one quilt top out of the two. I finished the quilt using flannel for my batting layer and a bit more of the leftover fabrics for the backing, stitched it on the machine all the way around, flipped it right sides out and hand stitched the opening closed. I finished it off using hand quilting and Voila I had my first quilt made just for me! I thought this quilt would serve me well for many years just as my husbands had for him and his still looked great at this point. But you see, I was wrong. I noticed when I was sewing the blocks together that some of the fabrics had frayed quite a bit, but foolishly thought that the "loose ends" that were part of the seam allowance really wouldn't hurt anything because they would be inside the quilt and therefore protected from further fraying. Plus, I was using a good quality prewashed flannel instead of batting and surely that would also help keep the layers sticking together and in good shape. Imagine my surprise when after only a few washings the seams that had previously had "loose ends" had opened up and were exposing the white flannel that had been used for batting. Well, I certainly couldn't let my "new" quilt look so bad, so I appliqued the "good" square edge over the frayed edge of the piece next to it by just a bit to hide the defect and thought it looked pretty good – not that I would have put it in a show, but certainly not so obnoxious that anyone would realize the problem the quilt had experienced. So, I continued to use my repaired quilt thinking that all of its' problems had been solved, but with each washing, more seams decided to "let loose" and more repair work was done. The lesser quality fabrics within the quilt that were used for the outer border began to fray so badly that a binding had to be placed over them just so that the quilt could continue to be used without embarrassment. All the while my hubbies first quilt was being used and it looked great. But for the final lesson in using better quality fabric, you need only look to the corners of my quilt. Just above the "new" binding you can see a hole in each corner of the top of the quilt that allows the flannel "batting" to peak through. As the quilt has been folded many many times, the corners have been held onto and have now worn into holes. Now you would expect that since my hubbies quilt is about 11 or 12 years older than mine and has consequently been washed and folded way more than mine that his would be showing worse or at least similar signs of wear, but you would be wrong. That nice quality fabric from the local quilt shop has held up beautifully as have the other supplies used in his quilt. His quilt has aged like a fine wine – gently and softly. Mine on the other hand has aged like milk – it just gets worse with time.

 

So, the lesson learned with these two quilts is not only to purchase the best supplies you can afford because your time and talent are worth it, but also because you are worth having a nice quilt to use that will hold up over time. So save your pennies and treat yourself to some good quality fabric in the start so you don't have to keep remaking your quilt as I did when it "disassembled" itself.

Cheap Fabric Like Old Milk

 

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Glossary

Backing
The fabric on the back of a Quilt Sandwich (Top, Batting and Backing).

Same As: Lining
Batting
The layer in the middle of a quilt sandwich between the Top and Backing layers consisting of wool, polyester, blends, silk, or cotton.

Same As: Stuffing, Filling, Wadding, Filler
Binding
Binding is used as both a noun and a verb. As a noun it is the fabric that's used to cover the raw edges of the quilt sandwich after it's quilted. This edging fabric is referred to as the Binding (noun). As a verb it is the process of putting on this fabric, and it referred to as Binding a Quilt.
Border
A strip of fabric or pieced strip of fabric joined to the edges of the inner quilt and used to frame it.
Flannel
A soft fabric which can be made from cotton, wool or synthetic fibers. It is usually loosely woven and slightly furry and is very warm. It's tendency to ravel makes it a very good fabric to use for rag quilt.
Hand Quilting
A running stitch that is made through all three layers of a quilt to hold them together.
Quilt Top
The top layer of a quilt Sandwich.
Seam Allowance
The width of fabric left to the right of a sewn seam. In quilting this is traditionally 1/4 inch. For sewing garments it is usually 5/8 inch.
Author
Quilting Contessa
Quilting Contessa is a collection of various authors around the world that have submitted articles for the QuiltingHub 'How To' quilt wiki.  These are authors that do not write enough to have their own authorship, yet provide valuable content for the site.  If you wish to submit an article, contact us on QuiltingHub.
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