What Makes Quilting Cotton Unique?
A video version of this post can be found here.

Have you ever wandered down the quilting aisles in a fabric store and marveled at the array of colors and prints? Or wanted to make clothing with quilting cotton and wondered what makes it different from other 100% cotton fabrics? The fabric you choose can make or break your project, which is why it's important to understand the different options available to you. Today, we'll be discussing what you can expect from quilting cotton fabric, ways it can vary from company to company, and things that you can make with it!

What is quilting cotton?

Quilting cotton is a wonderful fabric that is easy to sew and great for beginners! It is made from 100% cotton with a plain weave and is usually 44/45” wide. It presses beautifully but is prone to shrinking, so I’d recommend always prewashing your fabric. I like to wash my fabric in hot water and dry it on hot as well, even though I never treat finished items this way. I do this just to make sure all of the shrinking is out of its system before I sew an item, and to ensure that it won’t shrink any more if it did get accidentally washed or dried in hot temperatures. 

As the name implies, quilting cotton is intended for making quilts, but it can be used for other projects. Later on, we will discuss projects that are best suited for this fabric. Quilter's Tip

Are all quilting fabrics created equal?

The quality of quilting cotton can vary quite dramatically, and the only way to know which ones you like best is to work with them. Quilting fabrics will vary in weight, thread count, and smoothness from manufacturer to manufacturer. Each company has its own standards and ideals. The quilting cotton you buy at big box stores is not going to be the same quality as some of the higher-priced fabrics from smaller companies. Additionally, every quilter has their own preference for fabric thickness and feel. I've met many people who prefer the lighter-weight and smooth feel of Art GalleryRuby Star Society, and Birch Fabrics quilting cottons, but there are others who prefer the substrate used by Cotton + Steel or Kona. So, if you are new to quilting and unfamiliar with these brands, I would recommend buying small pieces of fabric from various companies and seeing what you like best. You might find that you have a preference, or you may like them all, but the only way to know is to try them out!

How does quilting cotton differ from 100% cotton apparel fabrics? 

Quilting cotton can be used to make apparel, but it is usually crisper, has less drape, and isn’t as soft as most lightweight apparel cotton fabrics. It also wrinkles pretty noticeably, so it will need to be ironed. For this reason, I don’t generally recommend making clothes from quilting cotton, but there can be exceptions to this. Some companies use cotton poplin as their quilting cotton substrate, and poplin is generally smoother, lighter, and drapier than standard quilting cotton. Cotton poplin will still wrinkle, but the wrinkles will fall out easier and be less noticeable than in a heavier broadcloth-style quilting fabric.

So, what is quilting cotton good for? 

If you'd like to make use of some of the amazing quilting fabrics available, check out craft patterns like potholders, purses, wallets, and more! Quilting cotton is ideal for these projects and a great way to get familiar with the different brands and weights of fabric available. These projects are also a good way to practice using various types of interfacing and other sewing notions that you may not have used before!

As far as clothing goes, I'd say quilting cotton sews up best into full gathered skirts, or dresses with a full skirt and structured bodice. Both are recommended due to quilting cotton's fairly stiff drape. It will make very beautiful and dramatic gathered skirts with lots of body, and looks best around the bust and other curvy areas when techniques such as darts, pleats, or gathers are introduced to keep the fit from being too boxy. Of course, this is all up to personal preference, as well, so don't be afraid to experiment and try things out! Even if a project doesn't turn out the way you hope, each one will teach you something that you can use to guide future makes!

Keep an eye out for next week's post, as we'll be talking all about what other fabrics can be used for quilting! And keep scrolling for a handy fabric yardage chart that you can print and hang in your sewing room or save to your phone for quick reference! 
Fabric Yardage Measurement Chart

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