Thursday, March 24, 2011

Quilts: Fabric Basics

My quilt fabric 'stash'
In last Thursday's post, Throwback Thursday : Wall quiltsI promised to come back with tips for making your own simple quilt, whether it be for bed or wall.                                                           
I am not a master-quilter, by any stretch of the imagination.  I am impatient.  I am the person who is sewing a baby quilt the night before the shower.  I need the projects to be quick and fairly easy, with the fabric color combos, and chosen design as the star.  You won't find me hand-quilting, or even using any machined, all-over quilting methods.                                                                                                                                                                                        
If you've ever been intimidated by quilters or quilting books, maybe this series of hints and instructions will be for you.  I hope to share the basics, as well as the tips that have made quilting faster, easier, and that help construct a great looking quilt without painstaking detail work.                                                                                                                                                                                                             
One of the soft flannel
It's important to start with 'square fabric,' which has straight, not angled or twisted, grain. 100% cottons work best, and it doesn't pay to 'go cheap.'  Cottons meant for quilting are usually of a nicer weight, have minimal shrinkage and fading/bleeding, and offer stable, straight 
grain.  They are available in the more traditional finish, or in flannel, which can make a particularly cozy quilt.  These nicer quality fabrics make nice clothing, too, because most wrinkle less than a lot of cottons.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        
Printed plaid...Not the same on the
 back and not through to the edge
Even with special quilt fabrics, though, I hesitate to choose a printed-on stripe or plaid, 
because the lines are often not quite exactly in line with the grain of the fabric, requiring you to cut the pieces off-grain in order to work with the printed design.  
Woven plaid.  Shows on the back
and all the way through to edge
When using stripes or plaids, it's best to choose those that are woven in.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

In many designs, when using prints, choosing a variety of tiny prints can give the same effect as solids, but with some added interest with visual texture.  For the prints themselves to have more impact, it's good to choose a variety of print sizes...some tiny, some medium, and some larger scale designs that can mix together for a better balance. For example, all medium or large prints can be visually demanding and uncomfortable to view, and will also overwhelm the pieced design.                                                                                                                                                                                                      
Tiny prints can work as solids

Medium and large prints
compete with each other

Mixtures of different sized prints can be really pleasing

It is best to wash all of the fabrics first, so the different pieces don't shrink later, at possibly different amounts.  For wildly bright colors, or any fabrics seem to bleed a lot of their color, you might want to investigate color-setting methods or use a different fabric, rather than taking the chance of ruining a finished quilt on its first washing.                                                                                                             
I think this advice may have come a little out of order, as you have to create or choose a design before selecting appropriate fabrics, and knowing how much to buy.  I apologize for that, and will try to address that next.  It's the fun part.


  1. Your quilting stash is so organized. Mine is willy-nilly everywhere. Love how they look all rolled up, and in color blocks. Great tips! I'm a bit slack with prewashing & preshrinking fabrics, and I always regret it. Thanks for sharing these quilting tips.

  2. Most of my fabric stash, through the years, was barely organized by type, but I was actually decent at keeping the quilt fabrics organized so I could see what I had. Maybe because the pieces were smaller. I had an old pattern cabinet and I could fold and organize them like files within the pattern dividers. But Hubby wouldn't let that old metal cabinet come in the new house, so I had to come up with a new plan! Now all my fabric is stored similarly in upper cabinets around that room. It's much better than stuffed in boxes.

  3. Hubby sounds like he has an eye for style! Our house is decorated in old hand me down furniture. Wish someone would have refused to let some of it in the door!

  4. I think he'd have a good laugh at being suspected of caring about style...Hubby's eye was on protecting the new floors and walls from the metal corners! ;-)

    If it weren't for hand-me-down furniture, we would have little to sit on, little to set things on, and little to store things. Our furnishings are definitely a work in progress.


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