Cork: An Amazing Fiber


Quilts shops today carry cork in amazing colors. What is the story of cork and what do quilters do with it?

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Cork: An Amazing Fiber


Cork: An Amazing Fiber



The story of cork begins with the cork oak tree which grows in Spain, France, Northern Africa, and, especially, Portugal. The bark can be harvested about every nine years and improves with age. Most of all, harvesting the bark doesn’t kill the tree, so this is a sustainable fiber.




n in the ancient world in Egypt, Greece, and Rome where it was used for bottle stoppers. Most of us know cork today as being used to seal a wine bottle. Cork used as a stopper does chip as you can see in the photo. So, what makes cork such as desirable fiber for fabric?



Cork is durable and lightweight, with a little stretch. It doesn’t retain water, so therefore doesn’t mold or mildew. It is impermeable to liquids and gasses. The cork used for fabric is harvested, cured, processed, and backed with poly/cotton to make it into fabric.



Cork is easy to sew on, but here are a few hints. Cork will dull your cutter so use a special one or plan on changing your blade. Use a thinner, not thicker needle to sew on cork. Instinct might tell you to use a denim needle, but a 90/14 or 80/12 will leave smaller holes in the fabric. The holes don’t disappear, so consider using clips instead of pins for sewing. You might also consider a larger seam such as 3/8 or 1/2.



Although you can press cork and it does make it more pliable, but seams will not lay flat. When you mix cork with cotton, you may want to interface the cotton to make it the same depth as the cork. You can embroider on cork or use it for applique.



Quilters I have spoken with love cork. One went out and purchased more right away. What do they make? You can start with a mug rug or a cord minder or a key chain. Advancing to larger items, try a wallet, book cover, eyeglass case, zippy bag, or passport cover. When you advance to purses and totes, you have pretty much gained the skills that you need.



My piece of cork was purchased many years ago at the flea market in Shipshewana. It is distinguished by the fact that it looks like cork. Today, cork is printed with colors as beautiful as cotton. I put a "magic inch" of the lining in my outer cork layer to give it some color. The magic inch does have interface. The pattern was just a standard pattern for a small purse, but I used all the tips such as clips instead of pins and 3/8-inch seams



Cork is widely used in medical equipment and has a role in wound healing. What a fantastic natural fiber! Hope you try some cork fabric soon!


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

Same As: Appliqué

See Also: Freezer Paper Applique, Needleturn Applique, Machine Applique, Reverse Applique, Shadow Applique
A quilt that is so badly damaged or worn that it's only purpose now is to be cut up for other craft projects.
The fabric on the back of a Quilt Sandwich (Top, Batting and Backing).

Same As: Backing
Method of using an iron to press seams and blocks. This means simply pressing downwards on the seam with the iron from above and not moving the iron back and forth which can distort the block or seam.
Debi Warner
Author and humorist, Debi Warner, retired after many years as a clinical librarian and information specialist. She has her Master’s in Library and Information Science and achieved a Distinguished level in the Medical Library Association’s Association of Health Information Professionals. She has worked on teaching physicians to use computers and electronic resources. She also worked on several grants teaching the public how to use the National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus public database and is co-author of several articles on health literacy. She took up quilting after retirement in 2012 and chaired the Rio Grande Valley Quilt Show in 2019. She currently teaches several quilting classes over Zoom and writes for QuiltingHub.
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