Sunday, December 8, 2019

Why Quality Matters?

“Why don’t you use cheaper material to make my quilt?”
I get asked a lot of variations of this question when I take custom orders and my customers hear the price I am quoting.
I have already done a post about pricing, if you haven’t read it, I urge you to go back to it and read.
When I started quilting, I knew nothing about sewing machines, thread or fabrics!!! It took me a long time and a lot of hard work to figure out what works best for me. One by one, today I will explain why I wont use something that is cheaper to make something for you. It matters to me that you all understand it. Because, I believe, it is important.
First up : Sewing Machines!!!
I had my grandma’s treadle – Durby –  and I was absolutely happy with it. I thought I had the best machine in the whole world. Then I bought the Bernette e56 – Betty- and I was on top of the world! Of course it had to be the best sewing machine in the world! I paid a lot of money for it! But then I got the Bernina 330 – my awesome Emily – and I realized how much better my stitching got with the better machine. Yes, I had a lot of experience by then, but also yes, the machine made a difference, Once again I thought I would never need a better machine than that! So when I ultimately found my soulmate Ross (My Bernina 710) I do not expect him to be the best machine in the world! I know that before I know it, I will be thinking about an upgrade. I have used a lot of different brands, but the hassle-free operation and maintenance of the Bernina plus its user-friendly interface has made me stick to it long before I became the Brand Ambassador for them.
Second : Threads
It was the same with the threads. When I started out, I just bought ‘thread’. I didn’t even know there were any other factors apart from colour to consider! But 5 years in the quilting world has made me a lot wiser. I have tried A LOT OF threads. Right from unkown local manufactured spools to my latest obsession, Aurifil. I used to have a lot of tension issues and blamed my sewing machine before I laid my hands on this awesome made-in-Italy-Egyptian-cotton spool of goodness. Its not that I do not use any other brands, I do. But I only do so if I do not have a spool of Aurfil in the colour and weight I need. After I used Aurifil for the first time in September 2012, I realized what I should look for when I buy a spool of thread. Its not just the colour. It is the way it has been woven that determines if I am going to break it often or have tension issues. I started looking at all the threads I use differently. I prefer cotton, mainly after I had to iron a totally crumpled linen pouch on a ‘cotton’ setting on my iron and doing so just burnt all the poly thread that I had used to do the quilting! I also need to be sure that the colour of the thread does not run! I learnt that one from experience too! A beautiful pink-grey quilt for a little girl has shocking pink ‘highlights’ throughout the quilt! When I use Aurifil I do not have to think about all the issues. I know that they have been thought of, by the company!
Moving on to : Fabrics
Fabric is, of course, my favorite of all the supplies i need to make a quilt! And yes, it is the most important one and also plays the major role in making a quilt what it is.
When I started out, like I have said a million times before I didn’t know anything about fabrics. In fact I started out as an ‘up’-cycler! I took old clothes and made them into something useful. I got to play with a lot of different fabrics. With every item I made (it was not just quilts then) I learnt a little bit about what I should do and what I should not. It was a long road filled with many failed attempts. But in the course of 5 years, I have come a long way and today I can tell the quality of fabric by feeling it.   I had seen a lot of people do that in a fabric shop before I started quilting, I did it too, but never really knew what they (or I) were doing. But now i can.
I prefer buying solids here in the local fabric shops. One – they come in a lot more colours than the branded ones. And two – its easier and better to match colours to actual fabrics than to screen images. I usually take along a few wet wipes. I rub them onto the fabric in a discreet corner to test for colour fastness. Indian fabrics are notorious for bleeding colours! I have observed that the Umaid mills Poplin usually runs less. But any brand I buy, its the pinks and the turquoise ones that bleed the most. So I usually soak them in colour fasterners. My FIL used a mixture of Salt and Jaggery. I have tried that and it works as good as the store bought colour fastners.
I buy a lot of prints here in India, but I love the designer prints that I order online. For prints that I buy in India, I always check for mis-prints. That seems to be an issue with a lot of cheaper print fabrics available. Also a lot of it is garment weight – that is a lot lighter than I need for quilting. So I have to take all these things into consideration when I buy fabric. And price is the last thing on my mind when I do that.
I want my customers to love my quilt as much I do. I spend a lot of time thinking about the quilt and dreaming about how i will make it and what it will look like. It feels like nurturing a baby! And like any other parent I only want what is the best for my baby! I cannot compromise on the quality of the supplies that I use. If you are a dear friend or a returning customer, I sometimes will compromise on the ‘making charges’ of my quilt to make it more affordable to you, but NEVER on the quality of the material.
Even if you are okay with it, I am not!
And I will NOT use cheaper material just so that a lot more people can buy it.

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