Tuesday, January 13, 2015
A Thumb on the Scale
Some one, probably my grandmother told me to always watch the butcher. A dishonest one will put his thumb on the scale when he weighs out the best cuts.
Likewise I was told to pay attention when getting fabric cut. A crooked cut can mean that you get less than you paid for and don't have enough fabric for your project.
As some one who tries to be a savvy shopper, I pay attention. I greatly appreciate the old school shops that measure past the mark. They understand the fabric isn't square and the cutting isn't always straight. Having the leeway is always a good thing.
I have noticed, however, that a large chain with a certain name has started cutting on the mark. If I order 18 inches, they cut on the 18 inch line. If they can tell the previous cut is crooked, they trim it up, throw the scrap away (hello!?!) and then cut precisely 18 inches. HOWEVER... they don't cut precisely. They can vary by as much as an inch. Yes, the lovely ladies at my local version of this very large ubiquitous shop known first an foremost for its fabrics are better than they used to be. But they 'ain't' laser cutters!
When I order 18 inches of fabric, I want to get home and have 18 full inches of useable fabric. I'm not even worrying about after squaring the grain or heaven forbid after shrinkage. I am talking about having a full 18 inches of fabric from selvage to selvage. Not 17 and 7/8. Not 17. Not 16.9. 18! Eighteen inches of fabric.
More and more often, I get home and find that after I trim up the crooked cuts, I have less than the amount I ordered and paid for. The smaller the cut, the worse it gets. I don't appreciate that. I don't want to have to order 5/8 of a yard to get a full half yard. I'm not building a stash anymore. I don't need the scraps.
I don't want to even try to ask for 19 inches of fabric so that I get my half yard. I don't want to have to do the math to make sure the price is right on 19 inches of fabric. I want to walk out of the store with 18 inches of useable fabric.
Yes, I can and do go to the Local Quilt Shops. I am fortunate enough to have several within easy distance and am also fortunate enough to be able to afford a bit of fabric that I love from them. One lovely lady precision rips the fabric. I know that I am getting a straight of grain accurate cut. Most of them cut an extra half inch or so. Again, I know I am getting a fully useful piece. Unfortunately, they aren't always open when I need a wee bit. And sometimes I don't have the resources to pay their prices. So I go to the local large franchise store with the lady's name and buy a bit or two.
But I am seriously re-thinking that strategy. I have too many pieces that were cut too poorly for me to use them in the intended project. I am getting very tired of trimming 1/8 of an inch off one side only to realize that there is a divot in the other side that means I've got to cut off another eigth on that side. And now I have a bit that 17 and 3/4 of an inch. I need, I paid for 18 inches.
Yes I am a bit crabby about it. I only have so much I can reasonably spend on fabric. Like everyone else, I need to get the most out of my fabric dollars. I don't like being the customer who remeasures every cut before I accept it. I don't like being the customer who refuses a cut piece because it is an inch short. I don't like holding up the line because I simply want what I am paying for. No more and no less. I don't blame the lovely ladies at the cut counter. I've known some of them for years. I blame the corporate policy that ignores the realities of human beings interacting with flexible, slippy, slidey, fabric.
The bean counters or managers who instituted this policy of "precision" cutting might want to rethink it. Is it better to sell me 18 and 1/4 inches of fabric for the price of 18? Or is it better to sell me no fabric at any price? Because if this keeps up, that is what they are going to sell me. Precisely nothing.