How the Fabric Quality Affects Seam Accuracy
Updated: Sep 4
When I’m working on a quilt, how does the fabric affect the seam accuracy?
The key is the greige goods.
Greige goods refer to the base fabric that the cute design is printed on. Have you ever been to the quilt store and seen a cute print for $10-$12/yd, then gone to Joann’s and seen the SAME print for $5-$6/yd? What’s going on here? Is the quilt store “cheating” you? 99% of the time, the answer will be no. The quilt store is NOT cheating you. The answer is that the Joann’s fabric is using a different quality of greige goods.
If we could take a sample of the quilt store fabric and the Joann’s fabric here’s what you are likely to find:
The quality of the Joann’s fabric at the lower price points is going to be printed on a lower quality base fabric (greige goods). Starch and finish will be heavy to conceal the lower quality and make it “feel” as thick as the quilt store fabric. When you wash the finish out, you’ll find a fabric that is more coarse than the quilt store fabric.
So, how does fabric quality affect the seam allowance?
Imagine that the sewn seam is hooking the thread into the weave of the fabric. If there’s more “space” between the threads of the weave of the fabric, then the seam could be sewn “accurately” but there’s more play in the threads thus providing either a larger or smaller seam than you had intended to sew. Most quality fabrics from a quilt store has a tight weave from quality greige goods. Therefore, there’s less “play” in the weave so your sewn seam line will not move and become larger or smaller than when you sew it.
As we explained in our other article about accurate 1/4″ seaming, you can get away with alot of inaccuracy with simple patterns involving squares and few seams. The more complexity of the pattern, the more angles involved or the more seams involved, the more difficult it is to make the seams “match” with inaccurate seams.
Post Script – We don’t hate Joann’s!
We’re not trying to be negative to Joann’s. We are saying that when you’re shopping in the area where the prices are 1/2 of the quality quilt store prices, the price isn’t purely profit, it’s also in the quality of the fabric. Joann’s also carries higher grades of fabric and prices slightly less than a quilt store and that may be due to reduced profit, volume purchasing etc. This is a definite case of buyer beware and purchase carefully. There are times when you want a lower priced project and that’s totally ok. However, if you’re going for a precision result, use of lower quality fabric will be much harder to obtain a precision result. On the other hand, if you’re talking about a quick, non-precise project that you might use once or twice why not save a few $$$? Cheap isn’t bad…just know when you want to be cheap and when you want quality!