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How to Choose Quilting Cotton

How to Choose Quilting Cotton | Little Fabric Shop Blog

Cotton fabric is the most used and most popular fabric in quilting. There are many different quilting cotton types. We have compiled a “fact sheet” to help understand your options so that you are able to pick the fabric that will work best with your sewing project.


What is Quilting Cotton?


Quilting cotton fabric is 100% cotton. This fabric is generally a medium weight fabric, however, the weight of this fabric will depend on the fabric manufacturer. The reason why this fabric is so popular in quilting is because it has a high thread count and tends to hold its shape even after being washed. This allows for easier patchwork piecing than when working with lighter weight fabric.


Quilting cotton can also be produced 100% organic. These fabrics will use certified organic cotton directly from the farm to milling and then onto finishing – including the dying process. Organic fabric will have a limited impact on both the environment and the people working with these products and as a result offers a nice alternative to traditionally manufactured textiles.


Different Types of Cotton Weaves & Weights


Little Fabric Shop carries many different types of cotton fabrics. Here are the five most common fabrics used for quilting and a bit more information about them to help you make your fabric selection decisions a little easier.


Quilting Cotton Fabric: As we have shared above, quilting cotton is hands-down the most common and popular fabric to quilt with. This fabric is a plain weave and as a result will hold its shape nicely throughout the quilting and washing process. Additionally, this type of fabric will be of solid color or printed. The fabric prints are stamped directly onto one side of the fabric and as a result there is a “Right Side of Fabric” and a “Wrong Side of Fabric.” Also, this fabric works great in bag-making, home décor and even clothing.


Yarn-Dyed Woven Fabric: Yarn-dyed woven fabric is a stunning fabric. Each thread is individually dyed and then woven together to create the fabric color, rather than having the color or the pattern printed directly onto one side of the fabric. These fabrics can use one thread color or many to create patterns and visual movement within the fabric.

There are two import factors to consider when selecting this type of fabric. First, because each thread is dyed individually, you will have color variation throughout the fabric, and it will be important to purchase fabric from the same bolt if you are looking for a more consistent color. Secondly, the weave of these fabrics is slightly looser than quilting cotton fabrics. These fabrics will shift more during the sewing and washing process and you will experience more fabric fraying.


Shot Cotton Fabric: Shot cotton is another yarn-dyed woven fabric. This fabric is traditionally a lighter weight fabric. We carry Peppered Cottons shot cotton in the shop. This fabric will have different colors woven to create a brilliant fabric color. These fabric’s colors will appear different depending on what direction you look at them. The color movement is beautiful to see, but you will have to pay extra attention to fabric side and direction placement if you would like your project to have consistent color appearance. As above, these fabrics are of a looser weave and will fray more than quilting cotton fabric.


Batik Fabric: Batik fabrics are hand-dyed. Rather than dying the individual threads as is done with yarn-dyed fabrics, the entire fabric is dipped in color. Wax or pastes made of starch or glue will cover parts of the fabric to keep the dye from penetrating sections of the fabric to create shapes and patterns. Batik fabrics that have more than one color will be dyed in multiple steps. Additionally, these vibrant fabrics are a lighter-weight fabric and work great for quilting, apparel, and home décor sewing projects.


Cotton Flannel Fabric: Cotton flannel fabric is so soft and cozy. It is a medium-weight fabric that has a fuzzy – or napped finish – on both sides. To achieve the napped finish, the fabric is brushed after a loosely spun weave. We have noticed that cotton flannel fabric color bleeds during its first wash. We recommend pre-washing this fabric prior to sewing with like colors or using a color catcher during washing to help minimize this issue. This fabric is just perfect for winter sewing. Quilts and pajamas are among some of our favorite sewing projects created with this soft fabric.


General Information about Quilting Cotton


Should you pre-wash quilting cotton? Pre-washing quilting cotton is always a good option prior to sewing to prevent color bleed and allow for fabric shrinkage. We feel that pre-washing is a personal choice. Quilting cotton has very little shrinkage and bleeding issues as the colors are printed on-top of the fabric rather than dyed onto the thread. Whether your pre-wash quilting cotton prior to sewing or not, we recommend washing in cold water the first time.


What is the thread count of quilting cotton? Thread count is determined by the number of threads used to weave the fabric per square inch. Quilting cotton typically is 68 inches by 68 inches. This number reflects both a high thread count and a uniformity in weaving which makes patchwork piecing so much easier with this type of fabric.


How do you recognize quilting cotton? If your fabric is not on the bolt, the best ways to identify if the fabric is quilting cotton is to look closely at the weave – is it uniform and of a high thread count. Next, check-out the drape of the fabric. If it is a little rigid and not soft and flowy, then it is highly likely you have quilting cotton. We also recommend comparing the fabric with a sample you know is quilting cotton to help with determining whether it is quilting cotton.


We hope this information on quilting cotton helps you in selecting fabric for your next sewing project. As always, we are here to help. If you have any questions, please reach out and let us know. Happy Sewing!


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