Quilting fabrics - what to ask before you buy
If you're about to start quilting, here are a few handy questions to ask before you buy the fabric.
Click on a question below or scroll down for more information
- Fabric: What's the best quilting fabric?
- Cutting: Should quilting fabric be cut or torn from the roll?
- Washing: Should I wash the quilting fabric before use?
- Backing: What kind of backing fabric should I use for my quilt?
- Batting: What kind of batting should I use for my quilt?.
Most quilters insist on 100% cotton, although of course other fabrics can be used. However, if you use anything else, you should make sure you know exactly what it is so that you can care for the finished quilt correctly.
Make sure, when you're buying your quilting fabric, that the length is cut from the roll, not torn from edge to edge. Tearing can cause the fabric to stretch and go out of square, causing problems later when you come to put the fabrics together.
There are numerous reasons you should wash your quilting fabric before using:
- The dye may run in vivid coloured cotton fabric. If there is any risk of colour run, it's advisable to wash the fabric first. If the fabric is not completely colourfast, you can buy special products which will fix the colour when you soak the fabric in the solution for half an hour or so, then wash the product out.
- Cottons tend to shrink. They shrink due to the agitation in the washing machine, but they shrink even more when they are dried in a dryer. You can get a rough idea of the amount of shrinkage by putting a measured square of fabric in the dryer and measuring it again once it's been dried. Cheaper fabrics tend to shrink more than the quality fabrics, but generally the recommendation is to wash your fabric before quilting.
- New fabrics can contain a variety of chemicals including those that protect the fabric and those that give it 'weight'. Washing will remove most of these, reducing your exposure to unknown amounts of unknown chemicals.
It's better to wash the fabric first, than to be really disappointed when you wash your new quilt for the first time.
- Choose something that is either a similar colour or at least a similar depth of colour to the main quilt, otherwise the stitching may be too visible.
- Using a patterned fabric will make a 'different' colour thread less obvious.
- The backing should be at least 15cm bigger all around than the main quilt.
- If it requires seams, make sure they don't line up with the edge of the main quilt - it will be difficult to sew and won't be smooth.
- If you have to increase the size of the backing, add extra fabric in the centre rather than on one or two sides to avoid the seams on the backing coinciding with the edge of the quilt.
- It's possible to buy super wide backing which won't require any joining seams to fit your quilt.
- If you're hand quilting, use a low loft batting.
- If you have to join the batting, this can be done by hand using a ladder stitch, or machine using a zig zag stitch.
- Batting can be made of wool, polyester or cotton, or a mix of these. Choose the batting most suited to the fabric of your quilt and it's intended use.
- Cotton tends to be cooler than the polyester or polyester blends.