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Choosing Fabric for Your Quilting Project

Buying fabric often becomes on of the most enjoyable parts of quilting.  This is way quilters often end up with lots of fabric, which is referred to as their stash. Why is fabric shopping so enjoyable? It is because fabric is so appealing to our senses. There are so many beautiful colors, and so many lovely prints .There are a lot of emotions that run through a quilter when they are shopping. That is why they often have to have just a little piece of so many different fabrics.

A quilter’s stash can bring them so much pleasure that they will take out their fabric and refold it several times a year- just to touch and look at it. If you become an accomplished quilter you may tire of the less expensive fabric, and only want to sew with high quality quilt fabric. At that point, you have to be careful not to mix the high quality with the lower quality fabric in the same quilt.

Quilt shop fabric is usually thicker with more threads per inch. You cannot see through it. It will last longer, does not ravel as easily when washed, and wrinkles less after washing. Some of your more inexpensive fabrics will literally tie into knots if you put a quarter of a yard in the washing machine and dryer.

I recommend buying 100% cotton whenever possible. Then you never have to wonder about the fiber content of your stash. Cotton is durable, and holds creases well, which comes in handy when you are piecing.

Examples of Quilting Fabric

almost solid green quilting fabricThis is an example of your basic quilting fabric. It is not a solid, but reads solid, even up close.  The pattern is small. It is perfect for cutting into tiny pieces to make quilting blocks.

Solid fabrics are considered workers as opposed to the fancy fabrics in the quilt. Plain fabrics give the eye a place to rest and keep the design from become too busy.

large scale yellow floral fabric When you use big blocks in your quilt you can use large scaled patterns like the yellow floral to the left. This fabric is an example of a "star" or featured fabric.  In most cases you cannot cut up large prints and use them for piecing blocks. The small pieces are different colors when the fabric is cut up.

Large scale patterns are great for borders, and can work for sashing strips on some quilts. 


small print quilting fabricThis small scale print is a worker. The print is small and consistent.  It can be cut up the same as the green piece above to make pieces for block designs.

Using a piece with a small scale pattern has a different effect than using a solid. The piece above has an old-fashioned feel about it. It moves the eye around more than the green fabric above and it gives the quilt a little more personality than a solid print.


juvenile quilting fabric Children's prints are also known as juvenile or baby fabric. Juvenile fabrics range from fabrics that are light and delicate to prints that appeal to older children with fun trucks, dinosaurs and other things that they like. Prints of well-known commercial images are called licensed prints. An example of one of these would be Thomas the Train. See the Snowball quilt block page.

Plaids work well in all quilts. They look great next to floral prints or other patterns with rounded edges. They give a quilt personality. Checks, stripes, and other geometric shapes do the same thing.

Other fabric types include vintage, reproduction fabrics and the beautiful batik fabrics. Choose your fabrics carefully. You may be using them for years, as you will be keeping all your scraps. Sometimes after a few visits to the store your taste changes. You need some exposure and time to make sure you purchase that which you are going to continue to like.

There are two schools of thought on whether to wash your fabric when you first bring it home.

Reasons to Pre Wash Your Fabric

You could complete your quilt, wash it, and one of the darker colors could bleed and discolor the lighter fabrics and ruin your quilt.


The sizing could gum up your needle and sewing machine.

 

Reasons not to Pre Wash Your Fabric

The sizing keeps the fabric stiffer, and makes for greater piecing accuracy.

After you complete the quilt you will wash it.  It will shrink, and give the quilt an old-fashioned puckered look.

Quilters are split on this issue.  I choose to wash my fabric first. If I need more stability in the fabric, I just use some spray starch on it.

You need to decide what you are going to do, because you don’t want to end up with both kinds of fabric in your stash.

Most quilts are scrappy these days. They are made with many fabrics.  When you find a piece you love, you can buy just half a yard or less, and work it into a quilt. It is a lot easier on the pocketbook, and it adds another fun thing to do when traveling.

 

 

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