It’s no secret that I love fabric and as I’ve gained experience over the (many, many, many) years of sewing, I have come to know, appreciate and love quality fabrics. I love sewing on a beautiful imported Swiss batiste, cotton lawn, etc. But, life is not all about frilly, frothy garments made for special occasions. Sometimes you just need some regular play clothes for kids. By regular, well, I’ll admit – my regular may not be everyone’s regular. I still like cute play clothes. I know that there are others in the same camp with me!
Lately there has been so much buzz in the sewing community, particularly in the PDF pattern community of seamstresses, about the wonderful new prints carried at some of the Walmart stores. I’ve seen these and they are very colorful and fun prints. It is so tempting to grab up an armful at these bargain prices. However, Walmart has not been known for carrying particularly high quality goods, and their fabric is no exception. Before becoming completely dreamy-eyed over the cute prints, I wanted to offer a perspective on Walmart (and other bargain) fabrics and to show the difference between the way quality fabric behaves vs. bargain fabric – over the test of washing and wearing necessary for kids clothing.
A few years ago when I was designing for a publication, I was sent a cute piece of fabric – I recognized it right away as being fabric from Fabric Finders – they sell some wonderful fabrics that are much used in the smocking and heirloom realm. I have always been pleased with their fabrics – they wash and wear beautifully!
I was asked to design something using this fabric. Because of the fun nature of the print, I chose play clothes – smocked, of course! Throughout the design and sewing process, the editor gave approval for the design, smocking, etc. I loved the Matryoshka dolls, however, in retrospect, I would have preferred them on a solid fabric.
As it neared completion, as was often the case, they requested that I send the garment, instructions, pattern, smocking design, etc. ASAP. I always did my best to meet deadlines, and this was no exception. However, I needed a contrast fabric and with no heirloom shops in the area and not enough time to wait for an online order to arrive (not to mention the difficulty in matching colors), I made the decision to try to find a complimentary fabric locally. My first stop was the local Walmart. Score! Found a perfect match. I was thrilled that I didn’t have to drive an hour away to get something that looked perfect for my garment.
With the perfect match in hand, I finished the garment. I thought it was adorable! Sadly, it never made it into the publication. It was not a loss, the smocking design was featured on a different fabric in the Sew Beautiful magazine and the pattern was used with a sweet white/ecru linen combination and my granddaughters got to wear the cute, original outfit.
(sorry for the less than stellar pictures – they were taken, not intended for a blog post, but they are all I have of “before washing” pictures)
I especially loved the back of this outfit!
This outfit has been worn for 2 summers by 2 granddaughters. However, it will not be worn again. While the green print – quality fabric – has held up beautifully, the red fabric looks like a rag.
My lack of photography skills actually makes the red in the top (in the picture above) look better than it is. I found a piece of the print fabric as well as of the red fabric still in my stash. You can see that the print shows very little change in color. Pictured below is how the fabric really looks. The red fabric is washed out and shows horrible wear on the edges – they are nearly white!
This is the fabric facing (inside lining) of the garment – the white stripe, which was non-existent when I constructed the garment, was cut on the fold. This is what it looks like after numerous washings! Shocking, right?!?! So glad that wasn’t on the right side of the top.
So, the cute outfit is now my sample for explaining the difference between quality fabric and bargain fabrics. though it is pressed nicely, it does not look good. The cheap red fabric that was a perfect match has not held up to wash and wear as the quality fabric has. It is such a shame. If the red fabric had been quality fabric, this garment could have been worn by a couple more kids.
I know that there are those that will still flock to the Walmart fabric department to swoop up those cute fabric bargains. That is fine. There’s a place for all types and price points of fabrics. I understand that. But, be aware that these lovely prints, though they have the same manufacturer name as is sold in other stores and at a higher price tag, are not the same quality as the fabrics by that manufacturer sold elsewhere. Consumers need to know this so that they can make informed decisions.
Just as another example of quality fabrics holding up well, I made the same top with a twirl skirt and used quality quilting fabrics (Kona cotton and Michael Miller fabrics) – this outfit was also washed and worn numerous times. It also used bright red, but with better results and no fading as happened in the Walmart fabric. This has already been worn for one summer and is coming out again this summer to be worn again by her little sister – it still looks just as good.
You can make your own decision about what fabrics you will purchase. I know what my choice will be. I am not willing to spend my time and effort working with fabrics and/or trims that will not stand up to wash and wear required for children’s clothing.
Whatever you choose, enjoy your sewing and keep on stitching!