Is there a difference between the quilting fabric at a chain store and one at a quilt shop?

You bet! Not all fabric is created equal. Fabric is made from various qualities of greigh (gray) goods, which refers to fabric in the unfinished, raw state. Construction, thread count, design, color, and finish all impact the quality of the fabrics. When you see the same print in a chain store for a lower price than in a quilt shop, even though it looks the same, beware- the quality of greigh goods may be different. Lower quality fabric with lower thread count, no matter what it looks like initially, will not hold up or last as long as fabric of higher quality. Lower quality fabric may not be soft, even after multiple washings. Colors may run or fabric may shrink excessively or unevenly, pill up and fade. If you want your projects to last, use high quality, 100% cotton quilting fabrics that have a consistent and balanced weave. 
Your time and talent is worth it!

Ask the Tech: How often should I change my needle?

A needle should be changed every 4-6 hours of sewing. The needle is the most inexpensive part in your sewing machine but is one of the most crucial for getting good results and keeping your machine running well. Don't scrimp on needles - this will keep you from doing what is best for your sewing projects and your machine. Remember to always use the correct needle for your project. The type of fabrics and thread will determine the the appropriate size and type of needle you may need. If you need help, please ask one of our qualified sales staff. If you have a question for our tech, please email us at
Please put "ask the tech" in the subject line. We will e-mail you back as soon as possible!

Sewing Machine Needles

Along with thread, needles are very important to stitch formation. Many “mechanical” problems and damage to fabrics can be traced to a bent, damaged, or incorrect size or type of needle. When selecting the correct needle for any project, consider the point - to assure proper stitch formation and avoid fabric damage; and size - smaller for lightweight fabrics, larger for heavier fabrics. 

Your needle should be changed every 4-6 hours of sewing. The needle is the most inexpensive part in your sewing machine but is one of the most crucial for getting good results. European needles are chrome-plated to glide in and out of fabric easily. Your thread should fit in the groove on the front of the needle. It if isn’t protected by the groove, a needles with a larger groove/eye should be used. Always make sure your needles are fully inserted as high as possible with the flat side to the back.

What Kind of Thread Should I Use?

Can I use the thread that is 3 spools for a dollar? Is there a difference in quality of thread among various brands? 

When you are having problems with your sewing machine, a good technician will first ask you if you've changed your needle recently. The next question is often, are you using a good quality thread? Any reputable sewing machine dealer will tell you to use only high quality thread. Why does it make a difference? 

As thread is guided through the sewing machine, it passes through many eye openings and tension disks. All the places that the thread travels have a purpose in maintaining the tension and stitch quality. If you're not purchasing quality thread, you may be
damaging the disks. Eventually you could have problems with the machine maintaining an even tension as you sew.

Poor quality thread or the wrong type of thread can cause poor stitches on any machine. Thread passes through the eye of the needle approximately 16 times in a "see saw" action before it forms a single stitch. Poor quality thread can result in crooked or looped stitches, puckered seams, frayed or broken thread, and/or needle breakage. Hold up some cotton piecing thread to the light and examine a few yards of it. If the thread is very fuzzy or has "slubs" which are clumps of excess lint spun into the thread, it is not a high quality thread. The amount of fuzz will affect the quality of your seam.

The quality of thread is determined by the staple length, or the length of the fibers that are twisted together. Look for long staple or extra long staple thread. Ply, roll and twist can also affect your stitch quality. If you run your finger along a strand of thread, it should be smooth. You will be much happier using the highest grade cotton. Although it costs more, it is well worth it. An extra long staple cotton will have very low lint and will be a much stronger thread. This means a cleaner sewing machine and less breakage, frustration, and down time. 

Be wary of old spools of thread recovered from grandma's sewing box. The fibers may be so weak and brittle that even if it sews into a seam, it may not hold together. Keep it as a treasure, not a supply!

Color Inspiration: A Guide For Helping You Plan Your Next Quilt

The type of light under which color is viewed will make a tremendous difference in how we perceive a particular hue. Direct sunlight is considered the ideal light source. Natural sunlight maintains a neutral balance between the warm and the cool color casts. Indirect sunlight is not as consistent and will change from sunrise to dusk. Artificial light can cause colors to appear warmer under incandescent and halogen lights and cooler under fluorescent lights. When you select fabric in our fabric room, you can be assured that the lights we have are the most natural lights available for true color. 

When learning about color, it is important to learn the language of color. Some frequently used terms regarding color include: Hue - this is another name for color. It refers to the color family such as red, blue, or yellow. Shade - this refers to a color or hue that is mixed with black or gray. Tint - this is a color or hue that is mixed with white. Value - this refers to the relative lightness or darkness of a color.

Temperature, intensity, and undertones also have an impact on how we see color. Generally, reds, yellow and oranges are warm colors; while blues, greens, and violets are cool colors. Intensity refers to the color's purity or brightness. The purer or less gray a color, the more intensity it has. Bright yellow and fire engine red are high intensity colors while lavender and peach are low intensity colors. Intense colors can add energy to your quilt and low intensity can give a quilt a calming effect. Undertones are the underlying color in a hue. With the exception of primary colors, all other colors are a mix of colors. There are no undertones in a primary red because it is a pure color, but the color berry is the color red with blue undertones. Being able to discern undertones will help in putting colors together when planning a quilt.

Color wheels and color tools are invaluable when planning a quilt. Although there are many different color wheels available, we love the "3 in 1 Color Tool" by Joen Wolfrom. It contains a wonderful color guide, value finder and fabric preview window. 

Please let us know if we can help you plan your next quilt. We have hundreds of years of combined experience behind us and would be happy to assist you in any way.