I’m kind of on a roll here with some quilting basics so I thought I’d focus on fabric this week. Your fabric makes a difference! I learned this early in my quilting days:
This is a portion of a well-loved quilt that I made for my now 30 year old son. See how all the other fabrics around the pink print are intact? All over the quilt, the pink print gave way long before the other fabrics. I do remember where I bought that fabric, I do—at a big box store. You have to be vigilant when buying fabric at a big box stores and search for quality fabric. I bought the rest of the fabric at a quilt shop.
Yes, it is possible to get bad fabric at a quilt shop, but unlikely. The quality of most of the fabric at big box stores is lower than what you’ll find at your local quilt shop. I have another quilt that I made for my younger son’s bed that did the same thing-one of the 3 main fabrics disintegrated long before the others.
And fabric quality also makes a difference in your free motion quilting:
Example 1: I made this “doodle” quilt several years back, in response to an online challenge to doodle a whole cloth quilt. I was happy with the result except in the area of the parallel lines. This was long before anyone was using rulers on a domestic machine, so the lines are wobbly. But…
See all those zig-zaggy lines? That is not me nor my stitching. I knew all of the following were good: tension (mostly), thread, needle, batting. So what was it? I knew where to go for that answer-Superior Threads.
I was using Superior thread and needles so I called their 800 number. I know from experience that they actually answer the phone and will help you diagnose your problem. We quickly deduced that it had to be the fabric. So let’s pull in for a closer look:
I know it’s a little blurry, but you can see that the fabric is very coarsely woven, with fat threads and lots of space between them. The reason I got those zig-zaggy stitches was because my needle would come down on one of those coarse threads and it would deflect right or left, resulting in the wobbly line. Soooo…
I didn’t change anything except the fabric and this is what I got. Fabric does make a difference.
Example #2: Way back when there was an international quilt festival in Long Beach, Ca, I had a conversation with a very experienced and well-known quilter who had taken a free motion quilting class (she did not fmq). She said “I can’t free motion quilt”. Well, I could not let that one stand! I said I knew that she could, but she said no, and shoved her project from the class into my hands. “See!”.
Okay, her project was pretty rickety. But it was made all the worse by the instructor’s choice of thread and fabric! She chose burlap fabric and quilted it with a skinny poly thread. Ewe! I don’t have her project but came as close as I could with the fabric I have on hand. I do not have icky coarse fabric in my stash now (snort!), so I found the most coarse fabric I had and did the following:
I don’t know how well my photo coveys my point. The fabric is somewhat coarse, but high quality. On the left I used a skinny 60 wt poly thread. It looks like spider web. The tension is good but it looks…puny. On the right I used a 50 wt 3-ply thread which looks better. On both though, the curves appear a little pixelated because of the coarse weave. The point is that coarse fabric does not make free motion quilting look its most beautiful. Think twice before free motion quilting on coarsely woven fabric and if you do, use a beefy thread.
Fabric does make a difference! I’m linking up with Nina-Marie’s Off the Wall Friday where all the good links hang out.