Choosing Quilting Fabric
Check out our handy tips when it comes to choosing the right quilting fabric for your projects.
What is quilting fabric?
Quilt blocks are structured and precise, which means they work best when made with fabrics that have a square weave. These fabrics are stable and don't stretch, so they make crisp clean cuts and are easy to control while sewing. Cutting and sewing with the grain will keep your completed blocks stable, and prevent any warping over time.
The best fabric to quilt with is cotton. This is for several reasons:
- Cotton is a natural fabric so it is breathable. This means it is comfortable to sleep under, and feels good against the skin.
- It doesn't stretch, so it is easy to sew with, and maintains its shape over time.
- It also holds colour well, and won't fade easily over time.
- Cotton comes in a variety of weights, from light lawn to thick flannels, so you can create anything from light summer layers to heavy winter warmers.
Before you begin, it's important to know that quilting measurements are always in yards and inches, and these cuts are sized accordingly. This can take a little getting used to for beginners, but as all quilting patterns, rulers, and other accessories also use this
Fat Quarters & Fat Eighths
A fat quarter measures 18 x 22 inches. It's made by cutting a half yard of fabric from the bolt, and then cutting this in half down the middle. As the name suggests, a fat eighth is one half of a fat quarter. These cuts are useful because they allow for fabric to be cut and used economically, getting the most out of every piece.
Buying fabric in fat quarters and fat eighths allows you to get a greater variety of colours and prints for your budget, because you're not buying full yards from the bolt. You can find fat quarter bundles already made up at the store, which allows you to easily buy a selection of colours and prints that coordinate perfectly.
Jelly rolls are a fantastic way to buy a variety of matched fabrics from a single range. They are made up of full lengths of quilting fabric that are rolled up together and cut into 2.5 inch widths. Jelly rolls are perfect for creating blocks that are comprised of lots of small squares or strips.
Depending on the size of your quilt, you may need to choose some extra-wide quilting cotton to use for the back of your quilt. Backs can be made by piecing together regular quilting fabric, but wide fabric makes the job a lot easier, and eliminates unwanted seams. When calculating the quantity of fabric you require for a project, remember to factor in quarter inch allowances for each seam.
Colours & Patterns
There really is no end to the range of colours and patterns available in quilting fabrics. You'll always be able to find a colour palette and range of prints that suits your personal style.
We have a few useful tips that can help you narrow down your choices and select fabrics for a quilt you'll love:
- Consider the size of the prints you are choosing. A large scale print will look fantastic on big blocks, but will be lost on projects where you're cutting fabric into small pieces.
- Choose colours that complement each other. Ideally you'll want to choose colours that are either next to or opposite each other on the colour wheel.
- If you have a 'hero' fabric that you really want to show off, choose plainer and more toned down prints to go with it. This way your favourite will stand out.
Don't forget to choose a backing fabric that compliments your quilt top. It's generally a good idea to pick something with a simple pattern that won't compete with your beautiful piecing.