When you're first starting to quilt , it's tempting to want to buy ALL the fabric. Makes sense: The zillions of colors, patterns, textures and weights out there are mesmerizing. Who can resist?
But truth is, not every fabric is ideal for quilting. Instead of endless trial and error, focus on the kinds of quilting fabrics that will go the distance.
Once upon a time, you had to go to a quilt shop to find the best quality quilting fabrics, but now the big national fabric chains carry them — so you should have no problem tracking them down.
Quilter's weight cotton
This is the defending world champion. The high-quality, 100-percent-cotton fabric is perfect for quilts. It shrinks less than cheaper cotton fabrics (although you should expect a little bit of shrinkage). It's also less likely to bleed — but make sure by testing your fabric for color fastness before you use it on your quilt.
Quilter’s weight cotton also works for clothes, but you'll need to prewash and dry the fabric before you start in on the cutting or sewing. That way you won't run into shrinkage and fit issues down the line.
Home decor weight cotton
This is a heavier cotton and often has a sateen finish. It's ideal for making quilted bags , quilted pillows, throw cushions and other home accessories that need a little extra “body."
You can use it for straight-up quilting too, but you'll need an exceptionally light batting since this cotton is heavy. Home decor weight cotton often comes in widths of 54 inches, which also makes it affordable for projects that call for wider yardages. Keep in mind, though, that this hefty fabric doesn’t drape well, so you're better off not using it to make clothes.
You've seen voile — a silky, lightweight, slightly transparent cotton — in blouses, dresses, skirts and scarves. But lately quilters have discovered it too.
You can make a quilt using only voile, or combine it with quilting weight cottons. Major fabric designers are making that easier now, with collections that mix and match both.
If you're working on a quilt, a voile backing for a quilt top made with quilting weight cotton gives the finished piece a softer, silkier finish.
You can't go wrong with Essex Linen by Robert Kaufman, whether you're making quilts or sewing other home decor projects. The natural fiber fabric blend of 55 percent linen and 45 percent cotton is a top choice for quilters who love the texture it adds. Many also like to mix this natural fiber blend of linen and cotton with quilting weight cottons.
Another Robert Kaufman creation, Quilter’s Linen is an all-cotton fabric that has the look and texture of linen. It plays well with quilting weight cottons, and sidesteps the issues that can come with combining different types of fabrics.
Use this linen lookalike for quilts or for home decor accessories, and see if any of your non-quilting friends guess that it's actually just plain old cotton!