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Quilting fabrics. What is best for quilting?

Quilting fabrics seem to confuse many, especially newcomers to the craft. Here I explain the difference in cottons and why it is generally best to stick to quilting cottons for quilting.

Quilting fabrics
Freedom fabrics quilting cottons

COTTON

Cotton is a fibre that is processed into different types of fabrics. Some are more suitable to quilting than others and are known as quilting cotton fabric. This is generally to do with weave and weight. Quilting cotton is a medium weight fabric that tends to hold its shape without undue stretch. This makes it perfect for quilting, usually without the use of starch. It is stable and less likely to fray.

Even within the category of quilting cottons you will find slight differences in weight. Generally speaking quilting fabrics have a thread count of at least 60 – 65 per inch. I love Moda fabrics and many of their fabrics are of a slightly lighter weight, but very easy to use as quilting fabrics, for which they are intended.

Quilting fabrics
Moda quilting cottons Voysey collection

Cotton Lawn is another lightweight fabric that is also useful for quilting. Think Liberty Tana Lawn.

Just remember that not all cottons are equal and not all cottons are suitable for quilting. Cotton fabrics vary greatly in quality and price.

Poplin is more suited to dressmaking. In general you need to avoid high thread count such as Egyptian cotton and most cotton sheeting. Tight weaves make quilting more difficult, especially hand quilting. Quilting cottons generally shrink less than some other cottons. Fabrics are also less likely to bleed, so it is worth seeking out quilter’s cottons and paying a little bit extra for them.

Avoid sateen finish. Sadly most of the digital printers now enabling home designers to print their own fabric seem not to supply quilting cottons. I would also avoid polycottons. Quilting takes a lot of time, buy the best fabric you can afford.

On the home printer you can buy cotton sheets to print from your computer. I have a number of designs that I print in this way and feature in my quilts.

quilting fabrics
Moda William Morris metallic fabric

ALTERNATIVE FABRICS

There are a number of other fabrics which are suitable as quilting fabrics. You might wish to try a linen and cotton blend or a silk and cotton blend. My favourite alternative fabric is to buy quilting calico and hand dye it.

Pure wool is another alternative that is mostly used in folk type quilts and applique.

If you can afford it, silk is a wonderful quilting fabric.

BACKING

It is worth making a special mention for backing fabrics. Not least because there is a common misconception amongst quilters that the back of the quilt does not matter. However, this is the part of the quilt often against your skin, so just because it is not seen, does not mean that it does not matter. I pay equal attention to front and back. I am very fond of double sided quilts.

Generally speaking if your quilt top is pure cotton, then your backing should also be pure cotton and preferably of the same make and manufacture to ensure the same behaviour with regards to washing and shrinkage. Some manufacturers make extra width so that backing can be cut as a whole piece if desired. You can join pieces when needed.

quilting fabrics
quilt back using the same cotton fabrics as the front with a different design

MIXING FABRICS

If you mix fabrics, make sure they behave the same and shrink at the same rate. This also applies to any embellishments such as ribbons that are on the quilt. Mixing fabrics is often better when applied to art quilts as opposed to bed quilts.

You can see the quilt patterns, kits and designs on the website

Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2021

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Types of Quilt Wadding Batty About Batting

Types of quilt wadding – so many these days but they all have different purposes. Even the Americans and English cannot agree on a name – it’s batting in America and wadding in England. It’s the filling in your quilt sandwich – quilt top (patchwork), wadding, quilt backing.

types of quilt wadding
silk wadding

I really am going batty over batting. All because I decided that my new wearables, my quilted jackets and coats must have natural wadding that was breathable. That narrows the choice down somewhat as you will see.

You might choose your wadding based on many different factors such as price, fibre, environmental considerations, loft (how thick or thin, it does not necessarily equate to more or less warmth) etc. You get what you pay for. Since I am a girl that not only likes a little luxury, but deserves it; I’ll start with

SILK

The height of luxury. It tends to come in two types – if you are lucky enough to get pure silk, grab it with both hands, no matter the cost. It is breathable therefore will keep you cool in summer and relatively warm in winter. It does however seem to be very rare. I bought from The Silk Route some years ago and have now used it all. I am devastated that she no longer stocks it as people do not want to pay. It was very reasonable just 26 pounds and made three jackets. Very thin, easy to quilt. Great for clothing and quilts alike. Drapes well.

types of quilt wadding
top pure silk wadding, bottom pure wool wadding

So this time around I had to settle for Hobbs Premium Silk Blend. It has 10% polyester. Not keen on the look, very smooth and unsilk-like. It is about the same quarter inch thickness (loft) as the pure silk I had. Hope it is as good as they say. Next on my list of must haves is

WOOL

Still quite luxurious but much cheaper than silk, wool wadding again is natural and breathable thereby meeting my two tests for ‘will I like this wadding?’ It will keep you cool in summer and warm in winter, without bulk. Some people say it beards, I have never had that problem. Watch the loft, it can be 1cm thick, which is great for some purposes only. Good for hand quilting and also hand tied quilts. Absorbs moisture without feeling wet.

COTTON

This used to be my go-to when I first started quilting. However it is not environmentally sound, especially when the amount of water used is taken into account. It is not breathable either, so I am not sure why so many of us use it in quilting other than it being reasonably cheap and very available. It is usually thin. It also comes in blends with polyester, but I prefer it on its own. It absorbs moisture and stays wet, it does not wick away moisture like wool.

TIPS

If you want more stability, look for needle-punched.

Look carefully at the wadding and get it the right side round so that you do not push the wadding through your quilt as you go.

BAMBOO

Also often found as blends. Although it is touted as more environmentally friendly than cotton, that is very debatable. As a natural fibre it is breathable, drapes well and absorbs moisture. It is usually low loft. Like wool, it is said to wick away moisture.

POLYESTER

Manmade fibre from plastic that is not breathable and the only quilting that should happen with this abomination is a wall or art quilt if you must not bed or wearables. Available in different loft but it does not drape well. It does not shrink. It can beard. It is best avoided as it is usually not from renewable sources and is the most environmentally unfriendly.

SHRINKAGE

Buy pre-washed if you do not want to wash it. Most non pre-washed will shrink 3-5% on the first wash and some people hate that crinkled look, whilst others love it.

So when you look at different types of quilt wadding, you now know what to look for.

PACKS OR METRES

Wadding is sold either in set sizes in packs such as crib, single, double, king or by the metre. I always prefer to buy by the metre. It’s more economical and you can get really wide widths. It really is worth while shopping around as prices vary hugely.

Make sure when you buy you get the right types of quilt wadding for all your quilt projects. Here are my quilted jackets with silk wadding.

types of quilt wadding
Types of quilt wadding

Tune in next week to see which wadding I used in my quilted coats.

Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2021

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Quilting Reversible Coats Two Coats In One

Quilting reversible coats is a bit more challenging but you get two coats in one. Using a non traditional lining, you can create coats that give you two different looks.

Every time I made the quilted jackets, a little voice inside my head said ‘make it reversible’. Yet the outer and inner fabric plus quilt wadding does not make this an easy task. Still, I am always up for a challenge.

THE JELLY ROLL QUILTED REVERSIBLE COAT

The jelly roll quilt is now complete as far as patchwork goes. The sleeves are now done with two linings and two outers. This quilted coat is the one that started life as a jelly roll that was made into 4 art quilts. I unpicked those to make a coat. I dislike nylon linings found in commercial coats, so I chose another quilting fabric that was pure cotton. The Morris metallic fabrics are a little heavier than the usual quilting fabrics, but I thought they were too good to hide. So this will definitely be the first time I am quilting reversible coats along with the second on my quilting table

quilting reversible coats
sleeves for the jelly roll quilt

THE HEXAGON QUILTED REVERSIBLE COAT

Unlike the jelly roll quilted coat, this one is all hand stitched. Yet I have finished all the hexagons around the same time. over 100 made in around one month. Good going. Now to sew them all together.

Also unlike the first one, this quilted coat has a plain lining in pure cotton. One of the fabrics from the front of the coat.

I have loved making this, although my hands have sometimes complained.

quilting reversible coats
Just two of the wonderful hexagons

QUILT WADDING

Or batting if you prefer is a matter of choice. Some go for cheap, some for content, others for the environment. There are lots of arguments about it all. My preference is for natural quilt wadding. If you are taking the time to make it, both you and the product deserve the best. All the quilted jackets were made with silk wadding. That seems hard to come by at the moment and it is the most expensive wadding of all. For these two coats I opted for wool, but when it came the wadding has such high loft (1cm) that I thought I would look like Bibendum. More wool and silk are on order. I purchased the Hobbs silk wadding as I could not get the one I used for the quilted jackets.

Tune in next week to see which I choose and how I quilt my two coats.

The ecourse will be available shortly, meanwhile take a look at all the quilting and textiles ecourses I offer here

Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2021