Quilt Fabric – Learn More About Cotton Fabric

We can’t make a quilt without fabric and fabric isn’t cheap so knowing more about quilt fabric available on the market. Quilts can be made with a variety of fabrics but for this article, we are going to stick with the traditional cotton fabric. Also, we are going to stick to new fabric, i.e. not upcycled from clothing. If I covered all of the fabrics that have been used to make quilts this post would take a week to read and I know none of us have time to read a novel on fabric. So let’s jump into cotton quilt fabric.

Learn what the difference is between quilt shop fabric and big box store fabric.

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Not all cotton fabric is the same. Yes, it is all made from the same fiber cotton but it comes in different quality grades. Think of it like sheets 100-200 thread count is fine but aren’t going to last, 300-500 are good and will last longer but not a lifetime, and 1,000 thread count are amazing and your grandkids will probably be using them. The fabric you buy at stores like Walmart is going to be similar to 100-200, big box craft stores like JoAnn and Michael’s is going to be similar to 300-500, and the fabric you get at independent quilt shops are going to be like the luxurious sheets that will last a lifetime.

Fabric Quality

There are several factors that go into the quality of the fabric. I will do my very best to keep all of this as simple as possible. I’m almost as passionate about how quilt fabric is made as I am about vintage Necchi sewing machines.

The Cotton

The first thing we need is cotton, you can’t make cotton quilt fabric without cotton. The cotton from fields is turned into thread and the thread is then woven into fabric.

Once it is baled, ginned, and graded the cotton will be shipped off and pulled into threads, if you have watched someone spin yarn from wool it is a very similar process.

Fabric Greige

Greige is pronounced like the color gray and not beige. Fabric greige is the grading system for the fabric. The quality of the cotton is one part of the fabric grading equation. The number of threads used, remember the sheet reference earlier, also plays into it as well as the thickness of the thread used in making the fabric. If you are interested in more about the process of making the fabric Toyota Industries has a great infographic on it.

The fabric at this point would resemble unbleached muslin. It then goes to be printed or dyed to become the quilt fabric we know, collect, and love. There are a few more steps, various finishes are done depending on which manufacturer purchased the fabric greige.

Why Quality Matters in Quilt Fabric

I know those two sections were kind of boring to most of you but those processes really do matter. Higher quality fabrics are typically, there are always exceptions to the rules, thicker so you won’t get seam shadows. Those thicker fabrics also tend to wear better and longer than the thinner fabrics. That means that the project will last longer if taken care of properly. If you are putting in days to make this quilt you want it to last a while.

Where to Find High-Quality Fabrics

The fabric we find in our locally owned quilt shops or independent shops online is usually higher quality than the quilt fabric sold in big box stores. It’s like anything else on the market today, big box stores are looking to move volume at the cheapest cost to them and they aren’t as worried about the quality. Those independent shops are worried about you coming back time and time again.

How Do I know if the Quilt Fabric is High-Quality?

The easiest way is to find an independent quilt shop and go pet fabric. Learning what good fabric feels like is the best way to learn but if you can’t feel the fabric is to learn what brands sell high-quality quilt fabric. You can go check out the shops in the links above. The most common names you will see will be Moda, QT Fabrics, Northcott, and Riley Blake. There are a bunch of other brands though too.

When To Use Each of The Quality of Quilt Fabric

Ready to get your fabric stash organized? Head over to our how to store fabric post to learn more.

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Ever wonder what the real difference between quilt shop fabrics and big box store fabrics? How about where you can use which fabric? You’ll learn that and more here.

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