Monday, February 18, 2008

Quilt Snobs

On a Yahoo group I belong to, a member recently posted about her experience with a fellow quilter explaining that she should only buy the best of fabrics. In other words, this means the quilt shop prices. Now, I have nothing against local quilt shops making a living, am in fact often times quite envious of the ladies who have the budget to afford shopping at these stores. But, considering the price of their fabrics I will never be one of those people. Here is a little info to consider. Depending on the pattern or design of the quilt, and the size, on the average a full size quilt will take about 12 - 15 yard for the top, back and binding. In a quilt store, the fabrics will run 8.99 to 15.99 a yard for 100% cotton fabrics. We won't even get in to the specialty fabrics like Minkee for this purpose. So, using the 12 yards for figuring, that is $108 - $192 just in fabric. You will need to fork out another $30 in batting and $5-$7 in thread. All in all, you are looking at about $150 per quilt. Now, most of those same brands of fabric are offered online at lower rates, JoAnn's carries a lot of it at a lower rate, usually about $2-$5 dollars a yard less. When I first started quilting, I could go there and get calicos and cottons for about $3.99 a yard, then they were $5.99 and lately, I found them averaging about $7.99 a yard. No one seems to make mention of that increase in the news, not like milk and gas anyway, just as essential in my mind you know. Walmart also carries the same brand names, not as much variety, but they also have other brands of cotton as well. Most of them for $3.96 to $5.96 a yard. Just off the top of my head, that is about a $50 savings.

I only bring this up because of the thought that is predominant among quilters that if you buy your fabric anywhere but a quilt shop you are getting poor quality goods. I have heard this so many times myself from the "quilty snobs" and just don't buy it. First of all, when you mention the same exact brand is offered at a lower price they come back with this story of how the quilt shops get the middle of the middle runs which is a better quality than the end pieces. Okay, I am so sure that quality control in some factory is letting thousands of yards be made this is inconsitent with the hundres of yard in the middle. But this they swear by, even adding on to this that the fabric is even thinner than what you buy at the quilt store. Go ahead, buy a fourth of yard at the local quilt store of a piece of Cranston brand for instance, and the same exact piece at JoAnn's or Walmart. It feels the same. The texture of a piece of fabric is determined by thread count. Am I to believe that the factory some how adds threads to a machine run of fabric in the middle of the run? I think not. Besides which, if a major company is going to make an inferior product for the purpose of selling to discount retailers I serious doubt they will use the same name. Come on, even Walmart changes the name of their store brand.

I have searched online, even through Scopes, and found nothing to substantiate this view point. However, with that being said, I will freely admit that there are poorly made fabrics that are sold cheaply at the discount retailers. They are thin, woven badly, fall apart in cleaning. I also admit that you can feel the difference between a poor quality and good quality fabric. The worst piece of fabric I ever used actually came from a quilt shop.

Bottom line is this, there are quilter's out there that will spread this opinion to make their self feel better, make them feel that their end result is a quality piece. They don't want to hear that it could have been made, or was made, for less. I quit swapping quilt blocks because of this same mentality. Requirements being made on brands and colors of fabric. You know, half the fun in swapping is the swap itself. I can't afford to buy high priced fabric to make blocks that I will hopefully get the same amount back from. I admit, that when it comes to purchasing fabric for a quilt, where the quilt goes makes a difference in the price I spend on materials. A few dozen quilts for charity will be made witht the cheaper supplies. I don't mean the cheapest, as I still look for the quality in the pieces, but $4.00 a yard virsus $10 a yard is a pretty big difference when you are talking about several yards. It is a difference between one quilt for sick child and six quilts for six sick children.

Okay, I have gone on long enough. But, I can't help but think that when younger women are wanting to learn to quilt, make quilts for their family to use, for special gifts, but hold back because they perceive quilters as being older women, maybe it is because that older women don't have to think as much about a budget that includes children at home.

Here is the bottom line as I see it. A quilt is a special something that gives a person a special feeling of warmth, security, when it is wrapped around them. That child that has cancer and is cold because of his treatment, that mother greeting her newborn child alone because her husband is serving his country overseas, that soldier that is warming up with a piece of home that someone cared enough to send, the elderly resident that has bright spot of color on their bed in a home, that homeless man that is a little warmer because he has something to wrap around him, that child that has little flu bug and carries around the quilt made for them, a mother 1200 miles away feels like she still has a part of her daughter with her, they don't care that you used Cranston brand from Walmart instead of the local quilt store. To them it feels the same.


Gina said...

I agree with you. In the UK the prices are twice what you pay in the USA. very often I will go for the cheaper option and on the back of my quilts I will put cotton sheeting. My answer to the quilt snobs is that patchwork and quilting started as a system of recycling scraps and worn out clothes and making blankets out of them. It was never meant to be a way of making people bankrupt. At the end of the day it is what you do with the fabrics not what they are that make the quilt.

love and hugs xxx

Gerry said...

My feeling is that the entire purpose for making someone a quilt is to show them that you care for them. That you've given your thought, effort, time, and some expense in order to please them.

This might be a very different situation from making a quilt for 'show' or retail markets.

It's unfortunate though, that there are always people with nothing better to do than put someone else down.

What is that saying???? "He would b**ch if he was hung with a NEW rope!"

Consider the source and move on!

ciara belle said...

While i havent quilted in a while i totally agree -- i see the same mentality in the knitting and crocheting magazine - rather than an inexpensive yarn like red heart etc they want you to buy some fancy schmancy yarn at 4x the cost...

Louisiana Momma said...

Oh I am in 100% agreement with you.. all that snottyness really gets my undies in a knot.. My mom has told me the same thing about the ends of the run - but I have to agree with you.. it doesnt add up.. I don't know names of fabric designers.. when I go to walmart to *gasp* buy my fabric - I feel it .. that's what matters to me.. and if I can pay half by going to walmart to buy the very same fabric - by golly I am going to do it.. that's like going to a store to buy shoes, finding out they are on sale, but then telling the cashier - "no I would rather pay the full price" LOL isn't that crazy!! Great post :-)

JK said...

My MIL worked in the Garment District in Los Angeles most of her life, and her brother owned the factory she worked in. If anyone knows fabric it is them. I asked her about this and she said there is absolutely NO difference in the material, and this is just a wives tale used to promote the high-end quilt shops. There is no middle nor end quality, it is the same thing all the way through. This is why I shake my head at people that will purchase a "name brand" Jean vs one from your discount stores. Came from the same factory, same material, but as mom said, they would slap on a different tag...