Quilt Fabric Selection Tips

In the “old days” women would make quilts from scraps of fabric or from old clothing. They used whatever they had available. Nowadays we tend to buy new fabric for our quilts.

Many of us buy heaps more fabric than we need or just because we liked the look of it. It’s called hoarding. I confess I am a fabric hoarder. I am addicted. I have to restrain myself from even going into fabric and craft stores because I find it so hard to resist. And all the online stores… so tempting. Don’t you agree?

But that’s not what I wanted to talk about here.

See I even get carried away just talking about fabrics. Quilt Fabric Selection Tips

Basically you can use any fabric to make a quilt. As long as they are the same type of fabric. I’ve even heard of people making a quilt out of knit fabric. That’s one I haven’t tried.

Fibre Content

Most of us use woven fabric and make a decision between cotton or polycotton. They each have their own advantages and disadvantages and we each have our own personal choice.

Cotton is a natural fibre so breathes well. It is strong and durable and comes in a multitude of colors and weaves and thicknesses. It does crease though, which can be a positive as it will keep sharp edges when ironed.

Polycotton, up to 50% polyester, is also strong and durable and comes in a wide range of colors. Some people think it has a softer texture than 100% cotton. It drapes well and tends not to crease too much.

There is probably a while list of other advantages and disadvantages of each but these are the ones I’m most concerned about.

Personally, I tend to use 100% cotton because I like that it is natural. I like my quilts to have more of a classic homemade feel to them and I think cotton adds to this. But that’s just me. Whatever you choose it is best to use the same for the whole of the quilting project to maintain the appearance and quality.

Quilt Fabric Selection Tips


Apart from thinking about the fibre content you really need to look at the weave of the fabric. If the weave is too tight it can be hard to sew, especially by hand. If it is too loose it won’t keep its shape and the batting can tend to poke through. It can also tend to fray which means the life of the quilt will be reduced, particularly after a few washes.

Having a pile on the fabric like velvet or corduroy can also create challenges.

To make things easier for you there are whole ranges of quilting fabrics available in many quilting stores and online. That makes it much easier to buy with confidence online. If you stick with these you won’t have to worry. And they have a huge range of colors and patterns so you won’t feel deprived.

Prewash or not?

There is always an ongoing debate about whether you should pre-wash your fabrics or not. I do. Always.

I prewash for several reasons. A big reason is so any shrinkage will happen before I put the quilt together. I find the fabrics easier to handle once washed as it removes any size or starch from the fabrics. It also gets rid of any dust that has accumulated from being in the store.

If you do prewash your quilting fabrics make sure you “square them up”. I find this easiest while the fabric is still wet. Pull on the diagonal along the length of the piece. This will help straighten the grain. Iron the fabric before cutting out and use the steam from the iron to do any final straightening. It’s important to have the fabric straight so that when the quilt is constructed it sits flat and keeps its shape better.

Estimating Quantities

I’ve included a list of finished sizes for your standard quilts.

Most good patterns should tell you exactly how much fabric you need for the quilting project. If it doesn’t then basically what you do is calculate how many pieces you need in each fabric. Work out how you’re going to arrange them for cutting. Draw a rectangle to represent the fabric piece with a standard width of 45 inches or 110 cm. Divide the useable width of the fabric by the length of one edge of a piece. Don’t forget any borders. You’ll want them in continuous pieces, as much as possible. Or draw a map showing how the pieces will fit together. Draw this to scale. Don’t forget to include the seam allowances as most templates show the finished size. Allow about 2 inches per yard or 5 cm per metre for shrinkage.