As you dig around in your stash of quilting fabric, do you ever stop and think: Hmm, could I make a dress out of this? Or do you ever eye a quilting cotton at the store and wonder: Wouldn't that look cute as a shirt? Makes total sense — but wait, can you even make clothes out of quilting fabrics?
When we spotted quilting and sewing expert Callie Works-Leary in a top made from Boundless Chelsea Rose cotton poplin (the one you see below), it was definitely an eye-opener. Most people who sew garments won't go near cotton poplin. They leave that to the quilters and stick with fashion fabrics. But Callie made us think twice.
So we sat down with her and picked up some surprising tips about sewing clothes with quilting cotton.
Don't Hesitate If You're a Beginner
Experienced garment-makers may swear off quilting cotton, but the fabric is actually perfect for beginners . For one thing, it's much less expensive than most fashion fabrics, which gives you more room for trial and error.
Plus, cotton poplin is incredibly user-friendly: You're not dealing with slippery or sticky fabrics, so you can cut and sew pieces easy.
Quilting cottons can also offer really vivid and playful designs. "Fashion fabrics are more subdued, and with quilting fabric, you get more fun and funky prints," says Callie. "If you want to sew a dress with puppies, you'll probably need quilting cotton."
Make the Right Kinds of Clothes
Experienced garment makers tend to stay away from quilting cotton for a reason: It can be tough to work with for clothes, since it has no drape and no real stretch. If you want to sew a garment with this material, you want one that's structured or super simple.
Structured Skirts and Dresses
The more structure a garment has, the less it depends on a certain fabric for its style. Think pleated or gathered skirts and dresses. That said, you want to avoid garments with too many layers (like ruffles or tiers). Cotton poplin is a relatively heavy fabric, and it'll weigh down the layers too much.
Forget flowy, drapey designs. Instead, use quilting cotton for more straightforward styles of button-down shirts and tank tops.
Quilting fabric is perfect for making certain structured jacket styles. You can borrow even more inspiration from quilt-making and use batting and quilting for a warm, classic-looking jacket.
Keep an Eye on the Pattern
Pay attention to the fabric required for the pattern. Callie points out that while some fashion fabrics are 55 to 60 inches wide, quilting cotton is always 44 to 45 inches wide. That can affect the way you cut the pattern pieces. Make sure you pick a pattern that works well with the fabric size.
Here's another heads-up: Patterns rarely recommend quilting cotton. The pattern envelope will most likely say just "cotton" or "cotton poplin." Those are usually interchangeable with your favorite quilting cottons, so don't let that stop you.
Take Special Care of Your Garments
Most quilting cottons are treated with sizing products so they don't stretch or shrink. That's one major perk. Quilting cotton also has a special finish that gives it a bit of a sheen and helps the colors pop.
To make sure your garments last, wash them in cold water and hang them to dry. If you plan to do this, there's no need to pre-wash your fabric before sewing. But if you plan to tumble dry, definitely pre-wash and pre-dry the fabric.
If you're not careful, quilting cotton can get a bit "nubby" after washing. The more you wash the fabric, the more antiqued and faded it looks. That's not necessarily bad. But if that's not the look you're going for, limit your washes. That way you can keep enjoying those awesome quilting-cotton garments you made for plenty more seasons to come.