The Basics of Quilting Fabric: What You Need to Know

Quilting has been a form of making beautiful cloth for centuries, and quilters have used them to make fantastic designs that are both lightweight and comfortable. Some researchers even believe that quilting can have both physical and mental health benefits for quilters. 

Given its many benefits, it is only natural to want to know about quilting fabric. This article will inform you about the best quilting fabric, some of its uses, and how to take the best care of quilting fabric.

What is Quilting Fabric?

What fabric is used for quilting

Quilting fabric is any material used to sew a quilt; this material could be velvet, voile, or flannel. Cotton remains the most popular option because it is easier to quilt with, doesn’t stretch like other quilting fabric, and holds well through several washes.

The cotton used for quilting is usually plain woven, and the weaves follow a basic basket-like weave pattern. To achieve this effect, textile workers sew more than two layers of fabrics together.

Quilting cotton has a denser weave than cotton used to make apparel and has a thread count of 60-75 threads per square inch. This high thread makes it strong but surprisingly easy to cut through during sewing. 

Although cotton is the most preferred, it is not always ideal for all kinds of quilting. The type of material needed will depend on what you intend to quilt. Quilters prefer cotton flannel for baby quilts because of their cozy texture and breathability.

No matter the kind of quilting fabric you choose to use, all suitable quilting fabrics must possess the following characteristics:

  • High Thread count
  • Higher weave density than apparel fabric. Weave density helps their durability.
  • Flat press printing that allows detailed engraving
  • A complex dying process
  • More layered colors in their designs.

Quilt backing is an integral part of the quilting process and forms the bottom layer of the quilt. It adds more resilience to the quilt and is also a form of expression. Cotton remains the best choice for quilt backing, as with the front. Designers also use a specially designed fabric called Wide back fabric for quilt backing.

A Brief History of Quilting Fabric

Quilting has been a significant part of many ancient civilizations. Various pieces of evidence have linked quilting to China, North Africa, and the Middle East. The earliest known quilt comes from Ancient Egypt and dates back to 3400 BC. Archeologists have also discovered old quilt materials dating to 100 BC in Mongolia.

Evidence in Europe shows that quilting has been since the 12th-15th Century. The earliest known fabric used by quilters was Egyptian cotton, showing a trading relationship between Europe and North Africa.

But it is in Europe where Archeologists found the first decorative quilt pieces, and Europeans used quilts to document historical or even legendary events. One of the earliest European quilt pieces found told of the legend of Tristan and Isolde.

The techniques of quilt fabrics are not much different than they are today. Many designers also use original Quilt fabrics to create warm clothing in the early 21st Century. The use of quilts soon expanded to include making blankets and used in decorative pieces. Quilting also became famous as a fashion trend during this era.

How is Quilting Fabric Made?

Cotton is the source of the most commonly used quilting fabric. Quilt cotton fabric is always plain woven, the simplest way to weave cotton fabric.

Textile manufacturers derive cotton fabric from the cotton plant, and the plant is harvested and defoliated using giant machines, and the farmers convert the harvested cotton to cotton bolls. The cotton bolls are, in turn, converted into bales that textile factories weave into fabrics.

Unlike Apparel cotton, manufacturers use longer and stronger cotton fibers known as Pima or Egyptian Cotton to produce quilting fabric. Pima cotton is more even and leaves less lint in the weaving machines. The quality of the cotton and its uniformity give the quilting cotton more resilience than its counterpart.

Manufacturers also use fewer threads when weaving quilting cotton fabric. Apparel cotton has a thread count of 150-180 thread/inch and quilting cotton range between 60-75 thread/inch. Despite using fewer threads, the quality of the cotton used in quilting fabric gives it more fabric weight than apparel fabric.

Another trick manufacturers use during the weaving process to differentiate quilting cotton from other cotton is how they weave the threads. Textile workers often use different color threads on the waft and weft, and this technique makes the fabric shimmer based on how light falls on it.

Types of Quilting Fabric

Quilting Fabrics

Designers use different types of quilting fabrics to make different types of quilts. Some of the more commonly used types include:

Quilters Weight Fabric

Quilters Weight is a popular choice for many quilters and designers. It is made from 100% cotton and thickly woven, producing durable quilts. Also, its edges do not fray easily. 

Despite its thickness, Quilters Weight is surprisingly easy to work with, cuts easily, and requires slight adjustments before sewing. The only drawback for Quilters Weight is that it tends to stretch easily. Despite this drawback, many designers consider Quilters Weight the best quilting fabric for beginners.

Quilters Linen

Quilter’s linen is an all-cotton quilting fabric with the look and feel of linen. However, it differs from all classical linen because it doesn’t shrink quickly. 

Another advantage to Quilter’s linen is that it has a beautifully textured look of classic linen but is more straightforward to quilt on than its more troublesome counterpart.


Voile is a very transparent and lightweight type of quilting fabric. They are made either from polyester or 100% poly-cotton blend.

Voile can be used on its own or in combination with other quilting fabrics like Quilters Weight. Many designers prefer them for sewing quilt backing. Voile helps make lighter quilts and is mainly used to make summer quilts.

Cotton Flannel

Cotton Flannel is a favorite choice for quilters who intend to make baby quilts. Its soft and cuddly texture makes it a perfect choice for the delicate skin of babies. But it can also be used by humans of all ages. Cotton flannel can be quilted alone or with other fabrics.


Wool is one of the best insulating pieces of fabric you will ever find, and it is also highly resistant to mold and mildew. They are also flameproof and are good at holding pockets of warm air.

Wool, however, has its disadvantages. They are costly and may not be available to all quilters. Also, they have fewer printed patterns than other quilting fabrics, so they limit the option of the designer.

Cotton Decorating Fabric

Cotton Decorating Fabric is one of the heavier types of quilting fabric on the market today. They come with an exquisite sateen look but lack the drapability of lighter fabrics. They are the preferred choice for quilting decorative home pieces.

Uses of Quilting Fabric

What is Quilting Fabric used for

One of the most prominent uses of quilting fabric is clothing. Textile manufacturers use quilting fabric to make various clothing types, including baby clothes, blankets, dresses, sweaters, and socks.

You can also use quilting fabric to make decorative and other home project pieces. Indoor and outdoor furniture covering is a good example, and furniture makers use quilted fabric to make fancy quilted chairs.

Quilters also use quilting fabric to make beddings, throw pillows, table runners, and doll clothing. At home, you can use it to embellish picture frames and wrap gifts.

Designers use quilting fabric to make accessories such as headbands, bracelets, purses, and bags.

Because of how durable certain quilting fabrics are and how it is to sew on them, you can use certain types of quilts to make family heirlooms that pass down to offspring.

Caring For Quilting Fabric

Quilted Fabrics are durable, but that doesn’t mean you can afford to treat them shabbily. Here are some tips to make your quilt last longer.

  • Inspect the fabric regularly to ensure no loose threads or stretch seams.
  • Shake and vacuum your quilting fabric to remove accumulated stray dust and dirt. 
  • Brush your quilting fabric gently with a soft brush or lint roller. Brushing is essential if you have pets and wish to remove some stubborn pet furs.
  • Wash quilted products once every three to four months. The less you wash your quilted fabric, the longer they are bound to last.

Note: If your quilted fabric is delicate, avoid using a vacuum as it will ruin the fabric.

Washing Your Quilting Fabric

Hand washing is the best way to wash the quilted fabric as washing machines tend to cause loose stitching. If you using washing machine is unavoidable, you should use a short, delicate cycle with cold water and a gentle liquid detergent.

Before Handwashing, check for the colorfastness of the fabric by rubbing a wet white cloth over the different colors on the fabric. It is best to take the fabric to a professional dry cleaner if the color comes off.

Pre-treat the fabric for stains and wash in a sink or tub with cold water and a mild liquid detergent. Avoid powder detergent since they leave residues on the fabric. Also, avoid oxygen bleach if the quilting fabric is made from wool.

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