This is truly not meant to be a quilt fabric snob post. Please don’t take it that way, ok?
While visiting a blog this morning, I saw a link to the Fabric Shoppers Unite Project. They say that 95% of fabric shoppers make their purchases in chain stores. That surprised me . . a lot! It doesn’t say that’s quilt shoppers . . but fabric shoppers. If you’re adding in people making curtains, home dec, clothing, etc., I wouldn’t be too surprised but for just quilt fabric shoppers, do you think 95% of us buy our fabric at chain stores?
Again, I’m not asking for a debate on which is better and why some buy fabric at quilt shops or chain stores, I’m just wondering what percentage of quilters purchase their fabrics at quilt shops vs. chain stores. I’m going to stick this little poll in here but feel free to also leave a comment.
For the poll, I’m most asking . . when you think of wanting to go fabric shopping, and you really intend to buy, not just look . . where’s the first place you go . . quilt shop or chain store?
I have a friend who doesn’t care where she buys her fabric – she figures it’s not going to last a hundred years anyway. Me, I like the fabric at the quilt shop, it’s heavier, it feels nicer and I just like the way I can sew with it. You can tell a poor quality fabric when you work with it, and I don’t like the cost of the fabric, but I love how it handles – and I will spend the extra money to have fabric that handles well. You get what you pay for and I will always pay for quality.
I agree with Brenda about the feel of higher thread count fabric. I am not a perfect quilter, and I feel a better fabric is actually more forgiving. It doesn’t stretch or get wobbly as easily. Does that even make sense? We have lost several local fabric stores and others are struggling. I like supporting local businesses in general. Due to the loss of local shops, I have had to shop the internet more.
Judy Whitehead says
Aw Judy, I can’t answer this poll. I shop at both, but not evenly as I do quilt shop shopping for quilting and chain store shopping for non-traditional quilt fabrics and everything else the quilt shop doesn’t carry. So some months I do more quilt shop and other months I do more chain store.
I only buy quilting fabric at quilt shops. I will use a JoAnn’s coupon for rotary blades/notions/needles etc. I can’t remember the last time I bought fabric at a chain store. Guess it was when I was making clothes!
I have yet to buy fabric online. Only thing we have purchased online are airline tickets, hotel rooms and computers.
I bet I have been in or know of 80% of the quilt shops in Southern CA, Lake Tahoe/Reno area and Las Vegas.
I go to quilt shops and quilt shows (for the vendors) for fabric since they will have more options for a complete quilt. And the chain stores are further away than the quilt stores!
I take the time to ‘feel’ the fabric at chain stores; if it feels weak and I can really see through it, I don’t buy it. However, I know that for some people, chain store fabric is the best they can afford. At least they are quilting and enjoying the craft they love.
Thanks for sharing this. It was an interesting statistic.
Kathy Wagner says
When I need fabric, I always look at my local quilt stores first and only go to a chain store if I can’t find it. I want the quilt stores to stay in business so I give them as much of my cash as I can afford!
I can understand why clothing sewers or home dec sewers might want to shop at the chain stores. But for quilting fabric, I just enjoy working with the better fabrics.
It seems this is a hot topic around blogland this month. It has been interesting to see the different views on the subject.
I would guess I purchase 95% of my fabric at quilt shops. That other 5% is Kona and solid flannel I get at JoAnn’s with my coupon. The Kona I get for half the price of my Local Shop and the flannel I use for crib sheets and backing quick receiving blankets.
Glenda in Florida says
I only think of quilt stores or on-line quilt shops when I need fabric. I don’t even look at fabric at Jo-Ann’s or Hancocks. I just go there for notions. I am constantly amazed at the number of people who have no idea of the woderful fabrics that are available at quilt shops. People are always asking where I get my novelty fabrics, and they can’t believe that there is a fabric for just about any interest or theme.
For the amount of time I put into a quilt, I would rather use a quality fabric. Plus as said above, it makes a difference in handling. If I “need” fabric, I either go to a quilt shop or order online (there are some lines that I can’t get locally-we are big believers in supporting our local businesses).
I like chain stores for supplies/notions and the coupons! I like Marden’s for fabric or the internet. My experience with quilt shops is that they usually try to hurry me out of there because I shop with my son. And when he was a toddler – I just couldn’t shop at a quilt shop with all their knick-knacky stuff everywhere and no cart to put him in. Cheers! Evelyn
I wish I could find good fabric at the chain stores as buying it at the quilt shops is slowly bankrupting me!! Almost everyone agrees that if we are going to spend that amount of time on a quilt project, we want it to look good and the only place I have found good fabric anymore is at the quilt shops.
I remember a time when JoAnn’s had nice quality fabric and I could go to another chain called “Minnesota Fabrics”- not in Minn, by the way, that had good fabric.
It gets to me most when buying the yardage for the backing. I want it to look nice but not cheap so again I must shell out big $$$$ for the backing too.
I think I am spending my kids inheritance on the quilts for them. So they get it in a different form—who cares!!
I nearly always go to a wonderful local quilt shop. As others have said the quality of the fabric does tend to be better and therefore handling is also better but the prices rise accordingly. In this area of the UK where I live its the only choice as the only general fabric shop we have in this town mainly just sells curtaining and some dress making fabrics. We just don’t have the huge craft supermarkets that I have seen on trips to the States. On my last trip to the States I did buy some from Walmart, of all places, and to be fair it has sewn and pressed quite nicely, only cost me $1 a yard which at the time was worth about 50p to us. Normally I would be paying between £7.00 – £10.00 ($11 -$16 dollars.) I also stocked up on things like Heat and Bond and freezer paper as I couldn’t believe how low the prices were compared to what we have to pay. I have sometimes bought from quilt stores online but have occasionally been caught out with colours not matching the photos.
When I first started quilting I only bought fabric in chain stores. I didn’t know there was such a thing as a quilt shop. But when I discovered those shops it changed the way I look at fabric alltogether. I never buy fabric without feeling of it – the tactile part of quilting is as much a part of the process as the stitching part. Once in a blue moon I might feel a piece of fabric at a chain store and like it. If I do I buy it. But that’s so rare that I can tell you exactly which pieces in my stash might have come from there. blessings, marlene
Jane Ann says
I suspect the majority who shop at chain stores do so because they have no other choice. I have a remarkable fabric shop + 2 or 3 VERY good quilt shops in my realm, so I shop them 95% of the time. I want them to stay in business.
Denise :) says
For the most part, I prefer to purchase my fabrics from our local quilt shops, and I’m lucky to have several within an hour’s drive. I don’t have a problem with chain store fabrics, necessarily, but I like the atmosphere of the specialty shop. I like that the shop caters specifically to my craft; I like that the owners/staff, if they don’t know me by name, at least recognize me; I like that I see them at guild meetings; and I like that they are interested in what I’m doing and often request to see a finished project. I also like the feeling that I’m supporting my ‘community’ so to speak.
I could probably … no, I could most certainly expound more. Suffice to say my preference definitely leans to the local quilt shop!
Wish I could say that I buy my quilting fabric at the LQS but we don’t have any here where we live. I live in a city over half a million people and not a quilt shop here.There was a quiltshop that lasted three months. . So I shop at JoAnns or wallyworld. When we move from here in about 5 months, I will be able to shop in about 4 quilt shops where we are moving. My DH is retiring from the military and we get to go home. Hooray!!!!!So I think one does the best with what one has. I do order on line but it has to be a quiltshop that accepts checks. Or through catalogs.
Linda Kay says
I live in a small town in west Texas that does not have a fabric store of any kind. But about 60 miles away is a larger town and they do not have a quiltshop ( the owner retired about 5 years ago and the shop closed). So most of the time if I want fabric I have to go to one of the chain stores. I buy my fabrics at quilt shops when I am in a town that has one. I am just not lucky enough to be near a town that has one.
Claudia W says
I know some people don’t have quilt shops in their areas and can only actually see and touch fabric at the big chains. I just don’t care for the fabric at the chain stores though. It is obviously of lesser quality than the quilt shops carry. So I shop only at quilt shops and online quilt shops. The quality of the fabric is only 1 reason, though. I like to support my local quilt shops so that they stay open and not only sell fabric but also run classes, stock quilt books, etc. claudia w
Bessie H says
No quilt shop within 80 miles. I do a lot of online shopping and Hancock’s. Even Hancock’s is 50 miles away. I believe in using the best I can find and afford. Even on-line I look for sales, unless I find the perfect fabric and just have to have it. Wal-Mart will do for a utility quilt I know will drug around or used for pic-nics or ball games. When we travel I try to visit LQS and add to my Civil War repro FQ collection. Sort of like souvenirs and a lot of them I can remember where I bought them.
I can’t answer this fairly either — since, when I learned to quilt, we lived overseas in a place which didn’t HAVE quilt shops, and now we are in an area where the few quilt shops are small and pretty far away, I tend to shop online. I suppose those are quilt shops too, but I don’t get the touchy-feely benefits…
i probably buy 70% online, 25% from vendors at the quilt festivals, and 5% at the 2 brick and morter quilt stores.
I can’t go into the local Hancock fabric store because it’s covered in dust, and both that and jo-ann’s are about 35 miles one way from me. the last two times i went to both, i came out with nothing–a wasted trip.
Pat Taylor says
Adding my 2 1/4 cents…years ago when I owned my quilt shop, I kept 2 fabric samples posted by the cutting table. The first one was from the shop – a piece from Benartex, if I recall. The 2nd I discovered at a local Ben Franklin…absolutely identical print and colorway. But, the Ben Franklin piece had been printed on poor quality greige goods (greige meaning the unfinished cotton prior to finishing). Am not kidding when I say – you could literally read print through the B.F. piece – it was so thin and the threads were very distorted. If a customer commented on how expensive fabric was ($6.00 a yard – those were the days!) I would show her the 2 pieces. Case closed. Guess I am very biased – but can’t think of a more comfortable place to shop then your LCQ…it’s more than just the fabric…
Alison in UK says
This is an interesting debate, I live in the UK, so quilt shops have another major competitor – online shops in the US. I buy all my fabric from quilt shops – but 80% of it I buy from US online quilt shops. We do have a chain store here that sells craft/quilt fabric, but they tend to stock neutrals and blenders, so the choice isn’t great.
I voted for Quilt Shops because I never buy quilt fabric at a chain store, but I needed a third chioce. I buy most of my fabric at Marden’s which is an odd lot store that has an amazing fabric department. They usually have last season’s quilt shop quality fabric, but occasionally they buy out a quilt shop with minor fire or flood damage and you wouldn’t believe the deals you can get. Marden’s is the reason for my fabric stash being so large. It’s very hard to pass up gorgeous moda or marcus brothers fabrics for $2.69.
Most of my quilting fabric comes from quilt shops. My closest LQS is about 3 miles from the house. And I have two others I visit regularly.
I’ll also buy fabric at Walmart for things like bags and totes (and if I REALLY need something on a Sunday, LOL).
Every once in a while, I’ll order on-line, but that isn’t nearly as satisfying – I don’t like buying something I can’t look at and feel in person.
Andi Stanfield says
I’ve been thinking about this because I stumbled upon a blog who continually links to fabric sales on eBay and Etsy…and I remember recently reading about how those sales are really hurting the independent retailers! So, I support my LQS as much as possible.
I sold fabric for years and if you handle fabric you can find some good buys at chain stores, but you do have to know your fabrics. The internet I haven’t used for purchases because I like to feel it. I do prefer Quilt shops for my fabrics for the tops and find the buys for the backing. I always say buy the best you can afford.
HI Judy…I love my local quilt store for really nice fabric. But, I also shop Joann’s…Walmart does not carry fabric, and I always was pretty disappointed in their fabric anyway. But for feel, and especially for applique, I love quilt store fabric. We too have lost several local fabric stores, so have less choice than previously.
I am a quilter, but I also sew garments and home dec. I purchase the majority of my fabric from quilt shops because of the quality and personal customer service. The alternative in our area is sorely lacking in both of these areas. To be fair, I do have some favorite companies I purchase speciality fabrics from via the internet.
Deputy's Wife says
I RARELY buy my fabric at a chain. I prefer a small quilt shops. My dad and grandma were small business owners. I like to try and buy items through the small business person!
Mary-Kay C. says
Obviously the poll isn’t talking about quilt fabric buyers. I think that chain store fabric is very poor quality. I taught a few beginner quilting classes and always stressed that quality fabric gets better results. I even tried a few chain store fabrics. One time I cut some blocks 10″ and I know that I’m a fairly accurate cutter and later when I was sewing up the blocks they were anything but 10″. Since then I never buy chain store fabric. I want good results. And also I like to support my local quilt shops.
You know, let me offer a different perspective. I actually LOVE the fabric in the quilt stores. However, I can’t afford it. The cost is way too high for my very limited fabric budget. If I need to purchase fabric for a quilt, then more than likely, it will be from a chain store.
The flip side of that is that I’m not sewing nearly as much as I used to. I actually haven’t bought fabric in … years … *gasp*
quiltmom ( anna) says
When I started collecting fabrics for my stash, I bought fabrics from the local chain fabric store, sometimes at Walmart and such. Now I mostly buy from the LQS in their clearance sections. The quality is better( I have gotten spoiled by using higher quality materials) and the price is less expensive that the chain store.
Walmart does not carry fabric in their stores here anymore( or at least most of them_ plus the store is so enormous I find it an overwhelming to shop there unless I have no other choice.
I have bought some fabrics on line as well- some are some speciality things that can only be found on line and others are from their clearance areas.
For me,it is about finding the most reasonable prices for the fabrics that you enjoy working with- for the most part I collect batiks, florals, thirties fabrics and tone on tone fabrics with a smattering of other kinds of fabrics. I rarely collect the newest lines of fabrics .
We are fortunate here in Canada and The USA – prices of fabric in other places is very expensive compared to what is available here in North America.
Interesting question Judy,
When I was first quilting and not knowing if I would enjoy the hobby, I didn’t want to spend for quilt-shop fabrics. I find I do buy more often now at quilt shops. But if I’m making a simple wall-hanging for me or a small quilt the grandkids will drag around, I do oftentimes buy the fabric at a chain store like Joann’s. I have actually found some very nice, good-to-feel fabrics there. I have also found some fabric in quilt shops that will not stop “bleeding” no matter how much I pre-wash it and some that has oodles of strings along the edges. I think it’s possible (if you are very careful at looking things over) to find decent fabrics both places, but I will say that quilt shops tend to have more of the nicer fabrics than chain stores, in my experience.
I always feel better about the money I’m spending on fabric when at least I know that its going to a small quilt shop versus a chain store. The chain stores have SO many places for people to shop its no wonder they make a boat-load of money. I’d much rather prefer to support my local shop and make sure they can stay open!
Barb in MI says
Since I do a huge amount of quilting for charity and don’t feel I can spend $8 – $10 a yard for these fabrics, I do buy a lot of fabric at chain stores. When it comes to quilts for personal use or gifts, most of the fabrics for those comes from quilt shops. I love it when I can buy backings from the sale tables at quilt shops, particularly for charity quilts!
Barb in MI
I hear from some of the gals I know that they can’t afford to pay the quilt shop prices and they still want to quilt so they do go to the chain stores but they check the fabric out very carefully to make sure it’s not the really thin stuff but a better quality and yes there are some pieces of fabric that you can find at a chain store that is really good quality for a cheaper price.
i’ve only begun to quilt so i usually go to joanns for fabric because its cheap. i have searched at the quilt shops the few that are here are pretty fabric and i wouldnt dare put my fingers on the fabirc unless i was really good at quilting. i want to try out the hobby first before i start in on the good stuff.
I love the two quilt stores by my house and will buy from them the most. I truly believe in supporting our local quilt stores. I can go in there and ask questions about tools to use…fabric colors….thread…and more importantly I love to be around other quilters walking around with heads full of projects! I don’t want anyone to think I’m being a fabric snob either!!! Use what you like ladies. 🙂 I just really like to give my support to the hard working lovely ladies at our local quilt stores.
I just read some of your comments and wanted to address something else……when I was first building my stash I didn’t have a lot of money to spend. I would get a little here and there. It adds up!! I bought fabric from JoAnns and also from….don’t hate me!….Walmart. But every payday I would go to the quilt store and splurge on something pretty. Maybe 5 fat quarters. Or a couple of yards of something that whispered to me as I walked by to take it home and make it mine. Part of the fun of building a great stash is the searching, or should I say shopping??!
hugs again Judy!!
I shop mainly from my JoAnn’s. They carry the real nice quilter-quality designer fabric now as well as the more affordable cottons. But the reason comes down purely to comfortableness…my JoAnn’s workers are like my family while my husband travels and my local quilt store is not so nice. And there is only one choice here locally. The other contributing factor would be sale prices and 40% off coupons that make it more affordable to buy designer fabric.
I probably do half and half– however since the JoAnn’s in my town closed early this year I have been shopping at the only other fabric store in town, which is an independent, locally owned store that carries lots of different types of fabric but plenty of designer lines of quilting fabric. Their prices are sort of in between the chain store and the quilt shop and they are open in the evenings which is often when I need to shop as I work a lot. I am happy to spend my money there and also at my LQS but do also find the chain stores to have some good quality lines–you just have to look for them!
I vote quilt shop hands downs. BUT … I have taught many a quilter how to quilt and I always tell them to feel free and buy where they want to buy. I know how expensive this hobby is and if what they can afford is Joanns … or if they want to practice with cheaper fabric, go for it. But if it’s something you want to keep, then you need the better fabric. I used to work in a quilt shop … I learned about the greige goods as mentioned earlier … and it’s so true.
I think I have put the LQS owners son’s through college 🙂
Linda H says
For me, the choice is buy fabric from Joann’s or NOT buy fabric. It’s that simple. In my big town/small city there are THREE wonderful quilt shops plus Joann’s. The fabrics in the LQS are beautiful. Their prices are not. Our Joann’s has expanded their selection to include good quality fabrics, which can be bought with 40% off coupons and/or my AQS discount card. There also are medium quality fabrics which are good choices. Our local Joann’s hires local people, our neighbors/family, etc. The ambience in our local Joann’s is warmer and friendlier and more helpful than ANY of the 3 LQS. Sale tables in the LQS??? Extremely limited in my town. My fabric fund is nearly non-existent these days, but when and if… I’m quite happy with my Joann’s.
Before the economy slumped and the bottom dropped out, I bought quite a bit of fabric at quilt shops, either locally or online. However, now that money is in short supply, I find that I’m mostly shopping in my stash or at Joann’s…
I have often thought, I should go see what they have at Joanns – but my car “never” goes there…
Since I also sew clothing – I do visit Joann’s – and at times I’ve bought fabric there – especially WOW, or TOT – because this is the exact same fabric I can get at the LQS – but, since the nearest LQS is over an hour away – I usually buy my “good” quilting fabric online – sticking to shops I’ve used before, and lines of fabric I already know. I miss “feeling” the fabrics – but I’m usually pleased when I purchase online if I stick to what I know.
Too many replies to read ’em all. Most talking pretty much about quilting; not everyone who sews, quilts. People who don’t quilt don’t know about quilt shops & the quality fabric they sell. I believe quilt shop owners do themselves a disservice not advertising to non-quilters on some level at least. Can’t tell you how often people look at the bags and things I make and ask where I got the fabric. They have no idea these shops exist.
Those who don’t quilt often don’t realize there is a place to get better quality fabric, at least if they need cotton. If they want something other than cotton or home dec… good luck! There are quality stores sprinkled around the country, but fewer and fewer each year.
I do my best to patronize my LQS’s, and my “other fabric” store. Luckily, I live in a large metro area and have some choice.
I’m sure someone mentioned it – but I most of my fabric online. Yes, I have to pay shipping, but most of the time it’s still cheaper. There’s gas and, of course, our sales tax is almost 10%. If I buy online out of state – no sales tax. Plus, the selection is generally better than local shops.
Eileen Keane says
I find it depends on my budget and what the quilt is going to be used for. I have to do an “I Spy” quilt for my grandson soon. I know it’s going to be on the floor, dragged around and probably undergo some bodily functions. Am I going to spend top dollar? Not in this lifetime!!!
I also tend to buy fabric at quilt shows. I like going from booth to booth; it’s like a farmers’ market for quilters. A little of this, a little of that……..
I started out buying quilting fabrics from chain stores, but then discovered that much of what I bought never got soft and cozy. So it was only good for wall hangings or I just got rid of it. I’ve noticed that the chain stores now also have more expensive quilting fabrics, but usually not the same stuff as the quilt stores. Sometimes I’ve noticed an overlap, however, but sometimes the name brand stuff at the chain store are seconds with printing flaws. And sometimes that is good enough! But in general, I prefer the quality of the fabric at the quilt shops. Plus I get better help there.
This topic has been all over blogland lately. I shop at quilt shops and box stores. When I first started quilting I didn’t know about LQS but I soon found them. I buy fabric based on how it looks. I can go into JoAnns and buy $100 worth of fabric before I realize it. I mix my LQS and JoAnn fabric in the same quilts also.