Choosing fabric for your first quilt can be daunting.
So many luscious fabrics at the store to tempt you.
The one constant is to use 100% cotton quilting fabric—regardless of what color or design you pick.
On this page you'll learn why cotton is such a good choice for your quilts.
Next you'll see what to look for—and what to avoid—to help you choose the best quality fabrics that fit in your budget.
Let's get started!
...and with good reason.
It's easy to find.
There are stores that sell nothing but quilters cotton. Big stores carry it, too. (Further down you'll learn what to look for to make the best buying decision.)
It's easy to work with. Cotton
presses beautifully and holds a good crease. This two features alone make it the hands-down perfect fiber for the
But there's more.
Cotton likes to stick to itself. This is a big help as you're sewing patches together. It's an even bigger help when you're basting your quilt sandwich with a cotton batting. Everything just naturally wants to hold together.
And finally, the cotton fibers 'breathe'. That means that while your quilts will be warm, they won't suffocate you. Polyester tends to hold everything in and can get uncomfortably hot.
I can still remember my amazement when, standing in line to get my fabric cut at the Rag Shop in Edison, New Jersey, I overheard two gals talking about a sale at the 'Quilt Shop'.
You could have knocked me over with a feather.
Stores with nothing but quilt fabric??!!!
You can find listings of them here on this website, organized by state and country.
Just remember to call
ahead to check their hours so you don't waste either your time or your
gas on a visit when the store is closed. (These stores are small businesses and they deserve to have some time off. :D)
The fabric they sell is 99% of the time a better quality than that sold at the chains like Joann's, Walmart and the like.
The bottom line?
Chain store fabric, even though it is 100% cotton, is cheaper because it's different.
Lower thread counts, cheaper dyes and printing processes with less or no finishing are just some of the differences between it and the fabric you'll find at your local quilt store.
You will be able to feel the difference.
No. Not at all.
If it is what fits in your budget, then by all means, please stay within your budget. But use what you know (remember YOU are a smart cookie!) to purchase the best quality from within the chain store.
Avoid fabric that is stiff—you'll know it when you feel it.
Its 'board-like' quality does not conjure up memories of the 'cuddly-ness' of a well-loved quilt.
Why's it so stiff?
The finishing process was either omitted or skimped on.
If the fabric feels limp, it's likely due to a lower thread count (something less than 60x60 threads/inch).
Fewer threads to the square inch means less fiber to hold everything together...maybe not a problem for a wall-hanging...but in all likelihood it will lead to a shorter useful life for a well-loved, much-used, oft-washed patchwork.
Stay away from limp fabric. It's no fun to work with.
At best you'll be starching the living daylights out of it to make it manageable to work with. Worst case, it will fall apart before any of the other fabrics in your creation.
And that's just not a good use of your time or your money.
Even if your budget doesn't have room for regular quilt store quality 100% cotton fabric acquisitions, that doesn't mean you can't visit your local store.
Notice how you don't find stiff fabrics there. In fact, many feel almost 'silky'.
Just like higher thread count sheets feel more scrumptious, so do higher thread-count fabrics.
Proper finishing processes further contribute to the wonderful 'hand', or feel, of the material.
Quilt stores order complete lines of fabric to please their customers. Usually though, there's a couple of bolts in a line that don't sell as well.
They're still good quality cotton quilting fabric. It's just that the rest of the line has left the shop. They're left all by their lonesome.
That's why they're on sale.
Keep your eyes peeled.
There are always a bolt that confounds me as to why it's in the sale pile. It's worth checking, especially when you're stash building. The bolts can be marked up to 50% off.
This yardage is also a good source for cheap, quality cotton backing fabrics.
Soak up the inspiration. Both in the quilts on the walls and the people in the store.
Looking is always free!