Among racks of store brand fabric pizazz there is a small corner in JoAnn of not well advertised fabric solids that are nearly twice the price as the others. When I first started quilting, I zoomed straight past these to the cheapest of the cheap fabrics (less than three dollars a yard, please!). It wasn’t until I started looking for more quality fabrics online, that I learned about Kona cotton solids. Still, it took me an emergency fabric trip to JoAnn to realize that mysteriously expensive, small corner of JoAnn had the Kona label, too. But was JoAnn Kona the same quality as the Kona sold at other retailers? Or was it a cheaper line the company made for distribution in JoAnn?
JoAnn isn’t on the Robert Kaufman Fabric website
My first reservation about JoAnn Kona fabric was that JoAnn wasn’t listed on Robert Kaufman Fabric website under the ‘where to buy‘ section. Robert Kaufman is the fabric supplier for Kona fabrics. So, that the website doesn’t return any search results for JoAnn was a little concerning.
However, the JoAnn website does indicate the fabric is from Robert Kaufman. Perhaps, because JoAnn only carries 57 of the 365 available colors, that they’re not labeled on the website? Still, I was suspicious.
Similar pricing across platforms
A clue to me about the quality of JoAnn Kona is that it’s a similar price to other retailers. In fact, it’s ‘normal’ price at JoAnn as of today, when not on it’s near constant sale or coupon, it’s $9.99/yard. This is higher than other popular online retailers. A frequent sale price at JoAnn is $7.99. This is still higher than other online retailers, but there is also often a extra 20% off coupon, so you can semi-regularily get it priced down to $6.39/yard.
For example, Fat Quarter Shop is selling Kona for $7.48/yard. Though, last year over Black Friday/Cyber Monday, they had a site-wide 20% off sale! That makes it $5.98/yard.
Hancock’s of Paducah starts Kona yardage at $7.25/yard but offers quantity discounts when buying 7 or more yards. This is great to stock up on basic solids such as white and black. The best price is when you buy more than 15 yards in one color. The price drops to $5.80/yard.
Missouri Star Quilt Co. has Kona yardage marked to $7.28/yard. This appears to be a mark down from their normal $7.92/yard. I’m not sure if this is a limited time price or a constant markdown. I also found that they sell ten yard bolts for $66.89, making the fabric $6.69/yard.
There are MANY other retailers that sell Kona fabrics. White other places can be cheaper than JoAnn, many times these online retailers will have an added shipping fee which can bring that price point very close to the in-store JoAnn price. Such a close price leads me to think JoAnn Kona quality is more likely to be normal Kona quality.
They look and feel similar
In my quilting emergency I mentioned at the beginning I bought ‘Brown’ Kona fabric from JoAnn (for the Princess and Pony quilt). While I hadn’t bought the color ‘Brown’ from another retailer, I have bought (a lot of) other colors. Some of these fabrics I prewashed, but many I hadn’t. So, I decided to examine the fabrics to see if I can see or feel any differences. I compared my sample of Kona ‘Brown’, which I got from JoAnn in 2021, to a sample of Kona ‘Cedar’ I got from the Fat Quarter Shop, probably in Late 2021.
Starting with touch, the fabrics feel very similar. To me they are both soft with an edge of roughness, which is how all but the most buttery of pima cottons feels to me. Both the Brown and the Cedar are of a nice thickness and stiffness and have no opacity.
As you can see from the picture below. The Brown (left) and Cedar (right) fabrics look very similar. The weave is smooth and there are no imperfections. You can even look at the selvages (the bound edges of the fabric). They look the same to me. And just for fun, I even took a picture of the raw edges of both Kona fabrics. Again, they are very similar with barely any strings coming off .
I also took a picture of the Brown Kona against some alright Walmart fabric I got back in 2018. I had bought 4 yards of the wrong color, and it’s plagued my stash since. But now you can see the slight difference. The Walmart fabric is perfectly fine fabric. It feels maybe a little thinner than the Kona and perhaps a bit more rough, but the real difference is in the grain. Take a look at the picture below.
If you look close (the picture makes it nearly impossible to see), but some of the weave sticks out a bit, like a scar in the skin. I circled it in red. These little scars were all over the Walmart fabric. You don’t see that in either of the Kona fabrics.
To me the Brown and Cedar Kona fabrics were very similar, and from this, I would vote they are the same.
Let’s think logically
While some brands will create cheaper lines to sell in ‘outlet’ or ‘factory’ stores, there is no indication from Kaufman or JoAnn that the fabric is different. The name ‘Robert Kaufman Kona Fabric’ is the same. The fabric is the same thick quality. I don’t think Robert Kaufman would want to ruin their name by selling subpar fabric under the same brand. But given that the fabric is at the same price point across websites, I don’t think this fabric is a lesser quality. It certainly doesn’t feel or look like it.
After analyzing the look, feel, and price, I believe the JoAnn Kona is quality Kona fabric. I just think they just haven’t done a good job of advertising it. A terrible job actually. They question we should be asking is: why isn’t JoAnn promoting this fabric? There is hardly any indication it’s in the store in the first place. When I first started quilting, JoAnn was the only place I went for fabric. If I had known Kona was trusted, quality brand used by many quilters and not just over priced mid-line fabric, I would have tried it out.
Given all the solids I use, Kona is a staple fabric brand for me. I won’t hesitate to buy Kona from JoAnn again, especially if I need a small amount of yardage online retailers won’t cut. Still, JoAnn won’t be my first place to go given that they often the highest priced and don’t have the color range I need.