The Truth about the Textile Mills & Fabric-Quality Counts

At last I am finding out the truth about what really happens as far as getting quality fabric. We handcraft all our flags, and have used both WalMart and Joann’s fabric. We have thrown out quite a bit of fabric because we have high standards.  Some of the flaws have been long lines (like runs in pantyhose) where the thread was pulled during the manufacturing of the fabric.

Aside from uneven coloring, my biggest bugaboo is when the bolt is supposedly 44/45” wide, but the two sides are really far apart. When ironed so that the edges are together the fabric is only 42-43 in wide. That may not sound like a lot but when you make a lot of flags, as we do, it really mounts up.

After doing some research I found the following comments on Goggle groups. Here are just a few of the samples:

“Fabric from quilt shops is better quality than the discount stores. Thread counts are lower in discount store fabrics. Manufacturers make different grades for different stores. Discount stores get lowest grade, where most of your LQS get top grade.”  – Elaine

“With HTC, we sold Joann’s their stabilizers. They only carry the basic few in non-economical sizes. They had no interest in learning about, or educating consumers about better products. We sell the unique and better stuff in far more economical sizing to independent machine dealers.”

“I used to work at a quilt shop and yes, there is a definite difference. Quilt shop fabric is first run; has better dyes; and will last much longer than Joann’s or WalMart’s. Joann’s is a cut above WalMart. If you are doing a trendy quilt or something that is just for an item you don’t expect to last or to want forever, buy Joann’s. If you want quality material buy from a quilt store. I do scout the discount shelf at the quilt stores. You can get some nice stuff for cost that way. I just got a great buy in Collinsville, IL.

“DH wanted to go to the train show to get items for DS’ train set. I went to the local quilt store. They had a special on the flannel and homespun. 40% off!!!. Needless to say, I saved over $100.00. Another stash. Know what you’re buying.

“I would like to share something I learned from an article in one of my local quilt shops.  I always wondered why fabric in Joann’s or Minnesota Fabric shops felt and somehow looked different than the identical fabric in the quilt shop. Now I know. Fabric manufacturers make three runs of a pattern or print, or whatever you want to call it. The first run is on poor quality greige (the plain white fabric), and is used to check for color, scale, etc.. This run is sold to fabric stores as “flat fold.”

“I have seen this in Ben Franklin Craft stores.  The second run is on better quality (but not good) greige, and is used to check for flaws in the print, overlaps, and refine the colors. This is what is sold to Joann’s, Minnesota, So Fro, House of Fabrics, Hancock’s etc.

“The third run is on best quality greige (the thread count is higher, better threads), and is sold to quilt shops. So now I know why I pay a higher price quilt shop fabric even though I can find what looks like the same fabric somewhere else for less. My experience has been that it is far better to buy the best fabric. It holds up better, feels better when it comes out of the washer/dryer (I prewash all my fabric), and seems to hold a crease for finger pressing well.” – Sue In Michigan

“Someone explained earlier that the fabric companies do several printings of their fabric of different materials. The first with the worst material is the one they’re still getting the bugs out on.  It goes to the discount places. Then they use a slightly better fabric, and check to see if they’ve got all the bugs out. This material goes to the regular fabric stores. Then they print with the finest material after all the bugs are out of it and send this material to the quilting/specialty shops. I don’t know if this is true or not, but it sure makes sense!” – Ruth

We want our flags to be the highest quality, as we’d like to think our banners will become keepsakes and heirlooms. In fact, quite a few orders have been for a baby nurseries. I can picture it, as the child grows the banner being part of his or her world. We also have received a lot of orders with the person’s last name, and these could be passed down from generation to generation.

We’ll be checking out our local quilt shop, that’s for sure! Although the fabric may be more costly, we feel that our customers deserve the best. After we buy some fabric and do our normal testing, I’ll post an update, to let you know our results. At the present time we are using a 65/35 % polyester/cotton blend. The fabric we will be trying will be 100% cotton.

Here is a link to the follow up post:

Textile Mills Update


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6 thoughts on “The Truth about the Textile Mills & Fabric-Quality Counts

  1. Sue

    I have read the above comments about quality of fabric, but as a former quality assurance inspector I’d like to know how to read the end of the bolts. Because, each bolt of material should have the specs. written on them so they can be matched up against the purchase order. Just saying that one group of stores carry a certain grade of fabric over another dosen’t cut it. I have found good and bad in all of them that I shop at. Also, I have found JO-Ann’s coupons a great way to collect all of my equipment at a great savings over quilt shop prices. So if anyone out there can clue me in on the end of bolts specs. I’d be glad to read your comments here.

  2. Thank you for your comment. Each end of the bolt should have the specs and I have looked for them. I am not saying all but a number of them say “orgin unknown” without a lot of information other than from China. Since we deal with fabric on a daily basis and have tried alot of different fabric stores there is a big difference in the quality.

    As a quality control inspector in the past we also have conducted some tests. We cut out a 11″ x 11″ piece of Symphony yellow and ironed it for shrinkage. It shrunk a 1/2″ which would ultimately affect our flags if we didn’t know about it. The same material from a quilt shop was 1/16th of an inch shrinkage. I too have used Jo-Anns coupons to save on money in the past but between the flaws, sometimes in stock and assorted issues it is worth it to me to start with quality material.

  3. Pingback: Another Rant about JoAnn’s Fabric Flaws « Ibdesignsusa Weblog

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