SSS days 26 and 27: lessons in cheap fabric

I have always been cheap (thrifty, I like to say.)  It’s really hard for me to convince myself that it’s worth paying more for something, despite ample evidence that buying the cheap version only leads to frequent replacements.  I’m not going to necessarily say that fabric has to be expensive – after all, there are certainly bargains to be had!  And fabric at the chain stores isn’t necessarily cheap – have you seen the prices for the shoddy looking wools and silk they carry?   But quality (not price!) does matter.  And though there are exceptions (I think some of the knits are fine) the fabrics that are made for the chain stores are not nice.   Witness: the last 2 days of my self-stitched challenge.

Day 26

Pants: Vogue 8604, blogged here

Sweater: Vintage (leopard print!)

Belt: Merona

Shoes: Sofft

When I made these pants I wasn’t looking to spend much; they were the first pair of pants I had made, and I was convinced they were going to be a disaster.  Plus, I don’t have anywhere to shop locally besides chains, and I didn’t feel like waiting on an order.  This lightweight denim came from Joann, and I bought it with a coupon.  The results, after 6 months of wear?  They have faded considerably (seriously, look at the photos in the linked post!)  And – worst of all – they have managed to shrink several inches in length, despite 2 prewashing cycles on hot.    I can only wear them with flats now, but I don’t really like them with flats (wide legs need the balancing effect of heels, or they can look a little dumpy.)  I only pulled them out because I was desperate for pants, but I suspect they will be retired soon.

Day 27

Cardigan: Simplicity 2417, blogged here

Dress: Vogue 1137, blogged here

Tights: Forever 21 cable knit tights

Shoes: Sofft

Belt: Calvin Klein

On the other hand, this dress was made from nice quality fabric, and it’s holding up great!  I also lined it in bemberg rayon – a more expensive choice than poly linings, but so worth it.  Lately I’ve been using china silk (the real silk kind) as well, because it’s not really that expensive either.  Sometimes I try to cheap out by not lining something, but that is a mistake.  Yes, it does condemn me to drycleaning, but I could not wear this dress with tights without a lining.  And it wouldn’t be nearly as comfortable.  I can’t say the quality of the cardigan fabric yet, but it does feel very nice – I bought it on discount, and it feels nicer than what it cost.

I really like this outfit – I like the combination of the dotted cardigan and floral dress (mixed prints is a big trend this year.)  I have discovered that I love wearing belts over sweaters like this (though I still am not a huge fans of belts at the waist.)  And – it’s actually cold enough for tights today (ok, it’s in the 60s, which may be stretching it, but I’ll take what I’ve got!)

What got me off on the tangent about fabric quality?  I bought some flannel at Hancock’s, hoping to make myself a bathrobe (I have wished I had a more stylish one lately.)  I prewashed it 3 times (because it is flannel, and flannel shrinks like mad… this is what all the books recommend.)  This is the result:

It actually looks worse than the photo, but you can see the pilling.  Seriously, this stuff looks like the state my flannel pajamas get to when I throw them away!  I am not making a robe out of this… ugh.  Can you imagine how bad the pilling would get?  It was so cheap, I don’t even think it’s worth going back and complaining, but I’ve learned my lesson… only nice flannels.

What have your experiences been like with the fabric chains?  I have had a few nice experiences as well, but the bad ones do tend to stick in your mind… and with nowhere else to shop, I get frustrated really quickly.  Most of my fabric does come from the internet, but sometimes you just want to shop in person, you know?

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11 thoughts on “SSS days 26 and 27: lessons in cheap fabric

  1. I was just about to buy some denim from JoAnns for my first attempt at some trouser jeans! I really have no education or baseline to refer to when considering what makes a high quality fabric. Do you know of a resource that might be helpful when selecting quality fabrics? I heard from someone that if you see that a knit’s cut end starts rolling onto itself off the bolt that you should walk away, but I don’t know if that is true either.

  2. I’m curious as to what sites you generally go to for fabric as well, and how to tell the quality of it when you buy online. I have generally just bought fabric in the chain stores and sometimes I’ve been disappointed by the selection or quality.

  3. UGH – JOANN!! we are all slaves to that place, don’t you agree?? You did a marvelous job on the jeans, regardless :)

    I’ll be sad when SSS is over – your outfits are always fantastic and I love your pics!!

  4. I agree with you that some of these fabric store chains stock the fabric of the lowest common denominator – really no choice at all for anyone doing some serious garment sewing. Thank goodness for independent stores and web shopping.
    Also annoying is the decided lack of basics, particularly in the winter time, wool jersey, cotton velveteen in a variety of colors … good luck finding at Joann’s.

  5. I have a terrible time with fabric from chains. I ALWAYS regret it. Luckily I live in a city with incredible independent fabric stores football fields wide. It’s such a blessing. Keep the chain fabrics for muslins and don’t waste your time otherwise, I say.

  6. Your pants are great, even if they were your first pair and are of questionable qaulity fabric. Don’t tell anyone, I don’t think they’d notice! Really, they look great in pics.

    I shockingly found some lovely %100 soft, lovely cotton at JoAnn’s this summer. I searched the label for some sort of polyester in the fabric’s makeup, but there was none. I couldn’t believe it. It’s the first time I’ve found great fabric at JoAnn’s. If they’d stock more natural, non-poly materials, I would buy my fabric there!

  7. I have just discovered your blog – it is just so lovely!! I love all your outfits and that you share which pattern and tips along the way!! Your choice of fabric is just delightful xx

  8. You know, we don’t have Joann here in Canada and I always want to go whenever I’m across the border.. now I know, from blog-reading, that I’m not missing out! The only chain fabric store we have is Fabricland and I rarely shop there – not only is there not one close by, but the store that’s close is awesome so I go there as much as possible!
    It’s true, better quality fabric equals better projects – easier to work with and more comfortable to wear as well. I never skimp on lining anymore, it feels so much nicer to use rayon or silk. Although, you’re right, it’s something you learn over time…

    Your pants are awesome, too bad the fabric’s not holding up! But hey, you’ve made them once, it will be easier to make again in a more durable fabric!

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