Quilting cotton fabric is a popular choice for quilts, but not all quilting cotton fabrics are created equal. When it comes to choosing between name brand quilting cotton fabric and the cotton fabric found in box stores, there are some key differences to consider.
Name brand quilting cotton fabric is typically of higher quality than the cotton fabric found in box stores. One of the main reasons for this is that name brand quilting cotton fabric is often made from 100% cotton, whereas the cotton fabric found in box stores may be a blend of cotton and synthetic fibers. While blends can be more affordable, they tend to have a lower thread count and may not be as durable or comfortable as 100% cotton. Even if a bolt in a box store says “100% cotton,” it may be lower thread count. Thread counts vary greatly and are not always printed on the bolt information. Thread count should be at least 60 threads (crosswise) by 60 threads (lengthwise). The higher the thread count, the better quality fabric.
How do you tell?
How do you identify the quality of quilting cotton? There are basically two ways to tell the quality of the fabric. One: read the bolt information. It may say thread count. And two: feel it. This is the best way, but how do you know what you’re feeling? Low quality fabric will go through less finishing processes. Less finishing equals fabric that feels stiff as a board. It will also feel rougher to the touch. Because it has went through fewer finishing processes, it is more likely to bleed and fade. Less finishing means it was cheaper to produce, thus cheaper to you to buy. High-quality fabric will feel softer to the touch. The softer the fabric, the more likely it went through more finishing processes. This fabric would be less likely to bleed or fade.
In addition to being made from higher quality materials, name brand quilting cotton fabric is often printed using higher quality techniques. This means that the colors are more vibrant and the designs are more intricate and detailed. The printing process for name brand quilting cotton fabric often involves multiple screens and layers, which can result in a more sophisticated final product.
Tighter Weave Means Less Stretching
Another advantage of name brand quilting cotton fabric is that it often has a tighter weave than the cotton fabric found in box stores. A tighter weave means that the fabric is less likely to fray or stretch out of shape, which can be important for quilting projects where accuracy is key. The tighter weave also means that the fabric is less likely to pill or wear down over time, which can help your quilt stay looking beautiful for years to come.
Of course, the quality of the cotton fabric found in box stores can vary depending on the brand and the specific product. Some box stores may carry high-quality cotton fabrics, while others may offer cheaper blends that are not as durable or comfortable. It’s important to do your research before purchasing cotton fabric from a box store, especially if you are planning on using it for a quilting project. Not all box store fabric is bad quality and not all quilt shop fabric is great quality. If you’ve been quilting for a while, you’re probably already pretty good at figuring out what is what. If you’re new, the best way to learn is to just research cotton fabric and touch a lot of fabric when you go shopping.
Should You Always Buy High Quality Fabric?
Depending on the project, you may not need to always buy high quality fabric. There are times when it is not necessary and the lower quality, “cheap” fabric works just as well. If you’re making something that will not be washed often, if ever, you can probably get by with something low-quality. If you’re working with something that won’t matter if the fabric stretches, you may be able to get by with low-quality. There are instances where quality may not matter. However, for the majority of quilting projects, you do need to make sure that you have high-quality quilting fabric. Your projects will be more likely to hold up for years to come, less likely to stretch, and less likely to bleed.
So, Is Name Brand Better?
The answer is that yes, name brand fabric is better quality than box store fabric! If you’re making a project that you want to last, invest in good fabric! You won’t be sorry. After all the work you put into a quilt, you definitely want it to last a long, long time!
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Love this site
Great explanation, I always buy quilters fabric because of the work I put into a quilt. I want it to last. I may begin to use it for other crafts .
Your articles are always interesting and informative; love getting the emails. I agree that the big box cottons are generally lacking in quality, but have a few questions about their sale of Kona cotton.How is the big box store Kona cotton different from the quilt store Kona cotton? Also, is there a difference in the quality of the 44″ vs. 108″ Kona cotton? Everyone seems to have opinions about this, but no one seems to actually know. Thanks for any insight into this particular issue. Regardless, I do believe there are many more advantages to buying quilting fabric and supplies in a quilt shop and prefer the more unique fabrics and expertise they offer.
I’ve never had a problem with Joann’s Kona. 44 or 108 width. I buy bolts of the 108 width when it’s on sale and dye it as needed. Plus, Joann’s is much more helpful than local quilt shops since I don’t fit their ideal buyer look.
Thanks Frannie! I am currently looking into that!
Always interesting to see what is going on
A little more generic question than the specific question about difference in Kona cotton. Is there a difference in the name brand fabrics sold in the box stores and the same name brand sold in the quilt shops?
Hi Cindy. That is an excellent question! I am looking into that for a future article!
Who wrote this?!! “Has gone through fewer!” Never “has went!” And “fewer” for things that can be counted. Geesh! Not professional! I stopped reading there
Hi Linda. Thanks for the correction. I will go back and edit that. I write all of the articles on the site and edit them myself. Sometimes things get past me. It happens.
I’ve found the big box Kona to be better than several Quilters lines. One is a “higher” thread count but is nearly sheer and warps if you look at it. One is high end, but bleeds just from dry contact and it’s rougher than sandpaper.
Add in – online doesn’t match the color in real life entirely too often. And because I’m young appearing, I get flat out ignored in local shops. Big boxes are helpful.
So I’m staying with my big box fabric.
Quilt shop fabric is very expensive, especially for a beginner, or projects that are seasonal, or for things that will only be used for a short time, such as baby things. Here is a question Is it better to use what you can afford, or not make it?
Didn’t mean to sound like a fabric snob. Over the years I’ve used plenty of JoAnn’s fabrics for clothes, costumes, home decor, crafts, and yes, quilts. But at times I’ve been disappointed with fabric that was too thin or printed too off grain and so sought refuge in quilt shops looking for fabric more friendly to my effort of making some oversized king quilts. Now I’m playing with some ideas for solids and just wondered if there was a difference in sourcing the Kona. Thanks for all your comments and research!