A new quilter mentioned today how nice and silky the fabrics in my quilt felt and she also mentioned how bright and clear the colors were and asked about the fabrics.
Like most projects quite a bit of my fabric had come from my stash so I hazarded a guess at the couple of places I could have gotten the fabrics naming a couple of my favorite online places such a Hawthorn Threads and Pink Chalk as well as my beloved local quilt shop Sew Bee It.
In the process I mentioned the common phrase that "good fabric costs good money" and that with so much of it costing $10-12 or more dollars per yard some of my fabric was more than a couple of years old but keeping those large scraps of Kona sure paid off. ( I buy very wide solids thus they do cost more per running yard but this works out in ease of not having to piece things and the whole quilt work I am doing)
The quilt fondler looked shocked and said that she never paid more than $2 a yard for "kona" on sale and that the prices I was paying were highway robbery!
That is when it hit me... She had been dragged into the abyss of the great "kona" fraud and my mind spun about trying to find a delicate way to tell her this since honestly it never goes very well. In fact I thought about faking a kidney stone to get out of it. ( yeh, not nice)
In the end I went with the truth. There are various companies that use the word kona for their solid cotton fabrics ( I have even seen some that are poly!) but not all kona is created equal. To my mind there are a couple that have nice similar qualities and are most often found at quilt shops. These brands I feel comfortable buying and the biggest tip off is that they cost quite a bit more than the other pesudo-konas.
Side by side there is no comparison. Good fabrics have a smooth hand and a depth of color that you will not find in the other cheaper cottons. They shrink less and are a much better product for quilting that will last.
To my mind you cannot go wrong with Robert Kaufman Kona® Cottons or any solids that you purchase from an independent quilt shop.
Where things start to get really murky is when you talk about your big chain fabric stores who are slinging their solid fabric for as little as $4 a yard and calling them kona ( notice little ~k~ and no registration mark) I won't name names but the worst offended rhymes with Bo-Anns
Some of these large stores do carry good cottons but you have to know what you are looking for. First look at the end of the bolt. Do you recognize the name of the maker? If it is not a big name your chance of a quality cotton is drying up. Look at the price.. really good solids will be $6-7 or more pr yard for normal width (44/45in)
Last -feel it. Is it silky smooth, the the depth of color like falling into a vat of dye? Or does it feel oddly over starched and the color is less vibrant and maybe is a bit dullish. If so you probably have a lower quality fabric that while just fine for costumes might not be what you want to use in a quilt that you hope to be a family heirloom.
So I told the fondler the truth, she huffed, and puffed and said I was crazy that all kona is the same and that independent quilting stores were just trying to over charge and that she was loyal to her big-chain store for it's great prices..
As the say.. you can't win them all! But with a little detective work you can have great fabric if you know what you are looking for!