When you’re interested in quilting, the first thing you’ll need to become familiar with is the type of fabric you’ll need, but not to worry because if you’re wondering, what is quilting fabric, it isn’t that complicated. Quilting fabric is easy to find and is generally inexpensive as well, so starting your next quilting project should be a breeze.
Essentially, quilting fabric is 100% cotton material that is used specifically to make the tops and backs of quilts. That being said, keep in mind that the print, staple length of the cotton fibers, weave, and thread count are just a few of the things that make each quilting fabric a bit different.
What Is Quilting Fabric? Is it the Same as Regular Cotton?
Just because quilting fabric is 100% cotton doesn’t mean that you can use any type of cotton you want to make your quilt. While different sewers use different types of cotton for their quilts, the type of cotton you buy for your own quilt does matter.
Naturally, the higher the quality of the cotton, the better the quilt will look and feel when it’s completed. Sewers who go into the fabric store and buy the least expensive 100% cotton fabric will see a difference in the outcome compared to others who use a more-expensive type of cotton.
If you’re just learning to quilt, choosing standard cotton fabric is not a bad idea. In the end, it’s really up to you which type of cotton you choose, but you should learn all about the different types so you can make the best decision before starting your project.
When you choose a true quilting cotton, you’ll notice that it is a little stiffer than standard cotton fabric, and it is usually made to be washed only occasionally. Usually, the main difference is noticed in how the fabric drapes after the quilt is made. But that can be a very important difference to many sewers.
Choosing the best quilting fabric means looking at the way the threads are spun and then woven because there are several types of quilting fabric. If you’ve wondered, what is quilting fabric, just know that a lot of true quilting cotton only comes in 40- to 45-inch widths, while regular cotton fabrics are usually sold by the bolt or by the yard and can actually come in many different widths.
Of course, the overall quality is also different because cotton fabric made just for quilting tends to be a little more durable and therefore, the quilt will last much longer. Less expensive, standard cotton fabric makes quilts that may not last as long as you’d like them to last.
What to Look for When Selecting Your Quilting Fabric
As already mentioned, several factors go into the types of quilting fabric that are now available, and all of these things add to both the price and the durability of the finished product. Quilting fabric has a thread count that varies between 60 and 75 threads per inch and 200 threads per inch in both the length (warp) and the width (weft).
On the other hand, batik fabric usually has a thread count of 200 to 220 threads per inch, in part because it needs a finer thread to be waxed and dyed properly. You should also take a look at the weight of the thread. But since thread count isn’t usually shown on the bolt the fabric comes on, there is one thing you can do: hold the fabric up to the light. The easier it is to see through the fabric, the lower the thread count usually is.
More often than not, quilting fabric is made out of long staple cotton. In practical terms, this means that the cotton fiber is 1-3/8 inches or longer. Pima and Egyptian cotton are long-staple cottons that are very strong, very uniform, and which leave a lot less lint in your sewing machine.
If you’ve ever wondered, what is quilting fabric weave and how does it affect a quilt, know that this type of fabric is usually an even or plain weave, meaning the thread count for the length and the width are the same. This helps the fabric handle better and fray a lot less as you’re working with it.
Quilting fabrics are also being made with different color threads on the warp and weft, which allows the color to move and shimmer depending on the light surrounding it. That, in addition to the different weaving patterns used, makes true quilting fabric the perfect type of fabric regardless of what you want your quilt to look like in the end.
Different Types of Quilting Fabric Are Available
When it comes to quilting fabrics, there are a few other things to keep in mind. If you get a super high-quality type of quilting fabric, you’ll notice that many of them use high numbers of colors to make it look even nicer. Look for color dots or certain symbols in the selvage, which is indicative of the colors the manufacturer used to make the print.
The sturdiness of the colors is important. If you lay a damp white paper towel over the fabric itself, then squeeze the paper towel a little and find color there, it means you should wash your fabric before you start making the quilt. This can help reduce a lot of headaches later on in the process.
The finishing process of the fabric is also important. Higher-quality quilts feel softer and shrink less, not to mention hold their colors a lot longer. What this means for quilters is that you have to think about the type of quilt you want in the end. Is this a beginning or “practice” quilt, or do you intend for it to be a family heirloom? What is your overall budget for the quilt?
The answers to these questions will help you decide on the quilting fabric you end up buying. For example, if the quilt is going to hang on a wall, it can be made out of a different type of fabric than quilts that are going to be used on a daily basis.
It could be that your quilt may fare better if you make it out of silk or linen instead of cotton. The bottom line is that you’ll have to decide what you want to do with your quilt when it’s done and how long you intend to keep it so that the right quilting fabric can be chosen. In the end, the choice is really up to you.
Best Types of Fabric for Quilting
Now that you know what quilting fabric is, it’s time to learn more about specific fabrics that can be used to make quilts. The truth is, you have many options when it comes to this type of fabric, as long as you pay attention to the basics of what constitutes a good fabric for quilts. Not all fabrics will do, of course, but now that you’ve asked, what is quilting fabric, it’s time to ask yourself, what are the best types of fabric to make quilts?
Below are some suggestions that might help you choose the right fabric for your next quilt.
1. 100% Quilting Cotton Fabric
When you’re buying fabric to make a quilt, you’ll come across names that sound the same but are in fact quite different. For instance, there is 100% quilting cotton, quilter’s weight cotton, and 100% cotton. In most cases, you’ll want to make sure the word “quilting” or “quilter” is in the title. Otherwise, it may not work well for your quilt.
Keep in mind that regular cotton will stretch too easily when you’re making a quilt. Quilting cotton is not premium fabric but it still works when you’re making quilts. A lot of fat quarter packets you see in crafts stores are made out of this type of fabric. It is inexpensive but still good for making quilts. Just make sure it is thicker and stiffer than other cotton fabrics, such as what is used to make bed sheets or blouses.
2. Quilter’s Weight Cotton Fabric
Quilter’s weight cotton is perfect for all types of quilts because of how thick and durable it is. For the best results, look for quilter’s weight cotton that has a thread count of 68 to 78 threads per square inch. Quilter’s weight cotton washes well, doesn’t stretch out and therefore keeps its shape well, and won’t fray around the edges as quickly as other fabrics do.
This type of fabric will wrinkle easily but ironing the wrinkles out is simple and fast. This is high-quality cotton that needs to be pre-washed before you start quilting. All cotton shrinks to some extent, even top-notch cotton, so this pre-washing is important. You should also not try to make clothing out of this type of fabric because it is a bit stiff and usually doesn’t feel comfortable on your skin.
3. Voile Fabric
People often choose voile when they’re making a quilt to hang for decorative purposes. Though working with voile has its challenges, this lightweight, satin-like fabric is perfect for decorative or summertime quilts. Voile has a veil-like transparency and can be difficult to work with if you’re a beginner, so it is usually recommended that only quilters with a little experience use voile for their quilts.
When working with voile, it’s best to use silk pins and a fine needle on your sewing machine. Voile usually costs a bit more than other quilting fabrics, but it gives the quilt a very elegant look. It also shrinks less than quilting cotton, and if you find it too difficult to work with because it’s too slippery, just use a little spray starch to take care of the problem.
4. Quilter’s Weight Linen Fabric
Linen is an all-natural fabric that is made from flax fibers. It is soft and has a nice homespun look. Since it has hollow pores in it, the insulation effect is excellent. Linen can be purchased in numerous weights, one of which is called quilter’s weight linen. The only problem with linen is that it shrinks easily and can cause pieces of the fabric to shift back and forth while you’re sewing, since it has such a loose weave.
A few tips for working with this type of linen when making quilts include never mixing linen and cotton in the same quilt, using spray starch to help it unravel more slowly, and using small stitches, finished edges, and a seam allowance that is a bit larger than usual. Quilter’s weight linen can be a bit difficult to work with at first, but it does produce a gorgeous quilt in the end.
5. Cotton Flannel Fabric
When you use 100% cotton flannel to make a quilt, you’ve made a great choice. Cotton flannel is made by scraping metal bristles over the woven fabric as it’s being produced, which removes thousands of tiny cotton fibers. This results in a gorgeous look and a soft feel. Cotton flannel is perfect for babies’ quilts, and it comes in numerous colors and patterns.
Working with 100% cotton flannel has a few challenges – including fraying and problems when cutting it out – but they can be eliminated by using pinking shears for the fraying and using spray starch when you’re cutting out the squares. Just make sure it is 100% cotton flannel and not a type of flannel blend. Quilts made out of cotton flannel have a unique and “friendly” look, and they feel great when they’re being used.
Wondering, what is quilting fabric, is the first step to making a great-looking quilt because without the right fabric, you’ll be disappointed in the end. Higher-quality fabrics mean your quilt will look better, feel better, and last longer. Even the shrinkage you experience when you wash the quilt has to be taken into consideration because some fabrics will shrink more than others.
The bottom line is this: quilts are elegant items and as such, good-quality quilting fabric is a must. Lower-quality fabrics will still make the quilt look and feel good, but they are almost certain not to last too long as a result. The better the quality of the fabric, the more superior your quilt will be once you’re done, regardless of anything else you’ve purchased for the project.