Daydream by Kate Spain Quilter's Weight Cotton; photo via A Quilting Life
Here's an overview of the common fabric choices available today, along with some tips on how to choose and use the best fabrics for quilting:
Quilter's weight cotton
Quilter’s weight cotton is high quality 100% cotton fabric perfectly suited for quilting. It's typically accepted as the best fabric for quilting. While quilter’s weight cotton does have shrinkage, it typically shrinks less than cheaper cotton fabrics. Higher quality cotton fabrics are also less likely to bleed, although all fabrics should be tested for color fastness when using them in quilting.
Quilt shops have traditionally been the only source of the best quality cotton quilting fabrics, but recently, several national fabric chains have added a variety of quilting weight cotton fabrics to their inventory.
Quilter’s weight cotton is also used for clothing by quilters and sewists. Cotton used for clothing should always be prewashed and dried before beginning any cutting or sewing in order to avoid shrinkage and fit issues after the garment is completed.
Home decor weight cotton
Home decor weight cotton is a heavier cotton that often has a sateen finish. It's perfectly suited for quilted home decor. While this fabric doesn’t drape well because of its heavier weight, it is the perfect fabric for quilted bags, quilted pillows and throw cushions where just a little extra “body” is desired. This fabric often comes in widths of 54”, which also makes it economical to use for home decor projects that require wider yardages. It can also be used for quilting, but because of the heavier weight, an exceptionally light batting should be used.
Voile cotton prints by Anna Maria Horner for Free Spirit
Voile is soft, silky lightweight cotton that's slightly transparent. Because of its lightweight characteristics, it's often used for clothing, such as blouses, dresses, skirts and scarves, but this fabric has also recently become a popular choice for quilters. Several major fabric designers have included voile collections that mix and match with their quilting weight cottons. Quilts can be constructed using all voile fabrics, or the voile can be combined with quilting weight cottons. Using a voile backing for a quilt top made with quilting weight cottons gives the finished quilt a softer, silky finish.
Essex Linen by Robert Kaufmann is a natural fiber fabric blend of 55% linen and 45% cotton. Many quilters like the texture Essex Linen brings to their quilting projects and routinely mix this natural fiber linen/cotton blend with quilting weight cottons. Essex Linen is a wonderful fabric choice for quilts and for sewing home decor.
Quilter’s Linen, also by Robert Kaufmann, is actually an all-cotton fabric with the look and texture of linen. Many quilters like to use this fabric along with their quilting weight cottons since they don’t have to worry about the issues that can arise from mixing different types of fabrics. Quilter’s Linen is also a good choice for quilting and sewing home decor.