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Good Quilting Fabric - What to Look For

Summary

Knowing what makes good quality quilting fabric is important to quilting and quilt shop owners alike. Read what to look for in quality quilting fabric.

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Good Quilting Fabric - What to Look For

Have you ever wondered what you should look for when purchasing fabric for quilt making? Have you been "gifted" fabric and wondered if it was "good enough" to use for a particular project?

Good Quilting Fabric - What to Look For

 

You really do need to pay attention to using the best quality fabric to fit the project you are planning. There is no need to use the best quilt shop quality fabric to make a decoration that will only be used one or two times and never washed, but if you are making an heirloom quilt that you will spend hundreds of hours on, you certainly want it to stand the test of time which requires quality products.

 

Quilt Fabric Fiber Content

Fiber content is extremely important. All cotton fabrics for pieced quilts will be the easiest to stitch, will hold up well to use, and will also be the most breathable fabric for comfort when using your quilt in any climate. It is always best to avoid fabric that has polyester content for quilts as it rarely (if ever) meets flammability standards for bedding. If you try a burn test on the fabric to determine fabric content, polyester will generally cause black smoke and leave a plastic feeling edge where it was burnt. Polyester also tends to ravel more, which can be a devastating problem when your perfect 1/4" seam allowance ravels away and leaves you with holes in your quilt top. All cotton fabrics when burnt will make white smoke and will turn to ash rather than melting like polyester.

 

Quilt Fabric Weave

The weave of your quilt fabric is also very important. A loose weave will ravel more, will not wear as well, and is generally a characteristic of a lower quality product. If you can easily count the fibers, it is best not to use the fabric! Good quality fabric will be woven out of fine soft cotton that will not require lots of finishing products like stiff starch to keep it looking fresh and nice on the bolt. Lesser quality fabrics will generally be a bit "crunchy" feeling on the bolt, but when washed, the crunchy feeling may or may not leave which does not make for a very cuddly quilt. If the crunchy feeling does wash out, it generally leaves behind a very wrinkly fabric that is difficult to iron and work with.

Loosely Woven Fabric Ravels

 

Quilt Fabric Feel

The feel of your quilt fabric will make all of the difference in how enjoyable it is to make and use. Do you want to spend lots of time working with stiff fabric, or sleeping under a scratchy quilt? No one does! When purchasing fabrics you want to see if it feels good, and if you will be hand stitching (either piecing, appliqué, or quilting) take your needle to the store and see if it glides through the fabric nicely. There is nothing worse than spending your hard-earned money on fabrics and then struggling to make your quilt. Also avoid trying to use fabrics that were not meant to be part of a quilt - they will take the fun out of your project. I know that we all have to consider finances when choosing our supplies, but using something like a percale sheet as a backing can make quilt creation so difficult that you may never want to quilt again.

Tightly Woven Batik

 

How Deep is the Color?

Check the backs of your fabrics the same way that you look at the front. The best quality fabrics will have backs that look very similar to the front, while lesser quality fabrics will generally have a white or grayish look on the back. Many good quality fabrics can be used with either side as the "right" side. Batiks for example often are so similar on the back and front that it is almost impossible to tell the "right" and "wrong" sides. This is especially helpful when you are making yo yos where the inside of the fabric will be seen. It is also very helpful for beginners to use fabric that looks great on both sides when piecing a quilt because it gives them one less thing to have to think about as they piece their first quilt.

Good Color Depth

 

How Straight is the Pattern Printed?

If you are looking at a panel or printed fabric that has a design like strips, squares, etc. Pay attention to how well the design lines up with the fibers of the fabric. If you notice that the grain lines and the printed lines do not match up, it can make for a real headache when cutting squares or strips because the crooked printing will make the square or strip look like it was cut incorrectly. The same goes for a panel. If it is printed at an angle on the fabric and you go to square it up, you may never be able to get a finished project that looks like you were not drunk while you were sewing.

Loosly Woven Poorly Printed

 

Final Thoughts

Remember, quilting is not a “cheap” hobby, but it is one of the few hobbies that can keep you warm, make you smile, and provide others with that warm fuzzy feeling that we get when we see a soft loved quilt. Treat yourself to the best quality fabrics you can so that your love will be ready to be passed down to others.

Share this article with your quilting friends and quilt shops. Quilt shops are encouraged to share this article with thier customers.

Cuddly Quacker

 

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Glossary

Appliqué
Attaching individual pieces of fabric to a background to form a design.

Same As: Applique
Backing
The fabric on the back of a Quilt Sandwich (Top, Batting and Backing).

Same As: Lining
Grain
The lengthwise and crosswise threads (warp and weft directions) of a woven fabric.
Piecing
The process of assembling quilt blocks from pieces of fabric sewn along their edges to form a whole.

See Also: English Paper Piecing, Assembly Piecing, Machine Piecing, Chain Piecing, Paper Piecing, Hand Piecing
Quilt Top
The top layer of a quilt Sandwich.
Seam Allowance
The width of fabric left to the right of a sewn seam. In quilting this is traditionally 1/4 inch. For sewing garments it is usually 5/8 inch.
Strip
A construction technique in which long, narrow pieces of cloth are joined lengthwise, sometimes with long rows of quilt blocks, to form a quilt top. The term "strip" can be used to describe the long pieces of fabric between blocks (see Sashing) or to describe the small, narrow remnants used in string patchwork.

See Also: Sashing
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Quilting Contessa
Quilting Contessa is a collection of various authors around the world that have submitted articles for the QuiltingHub 'How To' quilt wiki.  These are authors that do not write enough to have their own authorship, yet provide valuable content for the site.  If you wish to submit an article, contact us on QuiltingHub.
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