Quality Quilting Fabric
When I shop for quilting fabrics, I'm in
heaven. To me, it's an exciting part of
quilting. But I didn't always feel this way. As
a beginner, I thought all fabrics were created
equally. If it looked great on the bolt, I
I put this notion to rest
after I washed my "discount" fabrics for the
first time. By cycle's end, I had a load of
frayed and twisted fabrics. This experience
taught me a valuable lesson:
Always buy quality quilting fabrics.
Trust the Quilt Stores
Many quilters shop at
quilting stores because they specialize in
quality quilting fabrics. You'll find that
these fabrics cost more. Believe me, they're
worth it. You don't want to put hard work into
a quilt that's going to fall apart. Honor your
time and talents by choosing quality
So, how do you choose
quality fabric at discount and chain stores?
That's the purpose of this article. I'm going
to show you how to inspect fabric like the
pros. Once you learn the secrets, you'll never
buy cheap fabric again.
What Fabrics Do Quilters
Hands down, most quilters
use 100% cotton fabric. Fabrics made from
natural fibers like cotton are easy to sew,
iron and quilt.
They also fray less than blended fabrics.
Muslin, calico and broadcloth are good examples
of cotton fabrics.
Most cotton fabrics come in
44"/45" widths. Always check the label to be
sure. Keep the width in mind when you're
figuring out how much quilting fabric you'll
need. While you're at it, write down the care
instructions, the name of the manufacturer and
the name of the print. File this information
with a swatch of your fabric. Refer to this if
you need to buy more fabric.
Is the Fabric On-Grain?
Turn the fabric to the wrong
side. Does the vertical grain run straight up
and down? Does the horizontal grain run
straight from side to side? Do both grains
cross at perfect right angles?
Does the weave run parallel to the selvages? If
so, you fabric is "on grain." That's what
you're looking for. If the grains aren't
straight in both directions, avoid the
Quality quilting fabrics
have higher thread counts. Thread count means
the number of threads woven into a square inch
The magic number lies between 68 and 78.
Quilting fabrics in this range are thicker and
more durable. They also shrink less, sew better
and last longer.
don't list the thread count on the label. But,
you can decide if you're looking at quality
quilting fabrics by examining the weave.
Are the threads loosely
woven? Can you easily pull them apart?
Does the fabric look thin? Hold your hand
behind a single layer.
Can you see the outline of your hand? If you
answered "yes" to any of these questions, the
fabric has a low thread count.
Does the Print Align with
Even if your fabric has a
straight grain, the print might be off. Look at
the cut edge, the fold and the selvages. Does
the print look even against these edges? If so,
that's a good sign.
If the print looks crooked, put the fabric back
on the shelf.
Does the Fabric have a
Have you ever walked by a
row of quilting fabrics and noticed a strong
odor? Beware. You're smelling chemicals. Some
manufacturers try to disguise inferior fabrics
with heavy layers of starch or sizing. This
makes the fabric look thick and stable. But
it's only temporary. Once you wash out the
chemicals, you're left with thin, limp
Grab a corner of fabric
between both hands. With generous pressure, rub
back and forth with a rapid, scrubbing
Now, smooth out the fabric and feel it again.
Has the fabric lost its stiffness (body)? Does
it feel thin and limp? If it does, you know
you're dealing with junk.
Does the Color Rub Off?
When you "scrubbed" the
fabric in the previous test, did the color rub
off on your hands? "Crocking" happens when the
dyes in the quilting fabric aren't sealed (a
sure sign of inferior fabric). If color
transfers to your hands, it's not
If you don't see the word "colorfast" on the
label, test the fabric yourself. Here's
Cut out a small piece of
white cotton fabric, about three inches square.
Wrap it around your finger. Rub your finger
back and forth on the fabric you're testing.
Now, look at your white piece of fabric. Do you
see any color? Even if it's slight, don't buy
Does the Design Skip or
Find a table and unfold the
fabric so you can see several yards.
Are there any spots where the pattern overlaps?
Check the fabric carefully for other
occurrences. If you see it once, you'll
probably see it again.
Now, check your fabric to
see if the design skips. While you're at it,
make sure the color doesn't fade or disappear
in certain areas.
Does the Fabric Feel
Manufacturers add a final
finish to quality fabrics. This seals the dyes
and gives the fabrics a softer feel or "hand."
But cheap fabrics don't get a final finish. So,
they feel stiffer and they wrinkle more
Take a corner of the fabric
and squish it tightly in your hand.
Does it feel stiff and crinkly? Does it have a
lot of wrinkles?
If so, don't buy it.
Print this Handy List
If you study my quilting
fabrics checklist, you'll save a lot of time
and energy. To make it easy, print out the
following list and take it shopping.
Color Rubs Off
Grain line Crooked
Align with Grain
Pattern Overlaps or
Colors uneven or dull
© 2004 http://sewaquilt.com
About the author:
Creator and publisher of http://sewaquilt.com,
Gloria shares 16 years of quilting experience
with new quilters. On her website, she teaches
beginners how to make their first quilt. Gloria
hopes to keep this fun and creative tradition