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What are the Different Types of Quilting Fabric?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 16, 2024
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Besides the middle layer of fluffy batting, quilting fabric is needed for the top and bottom layers. Ready-made purchased bed sheets are often used for the bottom quilt layer, especially if the finished piece will be a bedspread. Cotton is the most classic and common material used for piecing together quilt tops because it's considered the best for even beginning quilters to work with; it's also a soft, comfortable and affordable textile.

Good quality, 100% cotton should be used for quilting fabric to avoid the material being too thin or rough. Calico and gingham are two classic cotton fabrics used for quilting. Calico textiles have an allover print of tiny flowers. The color schemes may be earth tones, dark colors or brighter shades.

Like calico, gingham also features an allover print, but it's of little squares. Although gingham is sold in many different colors, pastel shades of blue, pink, yellow, green, tan and orange are especially popular in quilting. Quality cotton is used extensively in quilting, as it's tightly woven rather than containing a loose weave that isn't durable for quilts.

Other tightly woven fabrics suitable for making quilts include denim, corduroy, velvet, silk and wool. Even leather can be used in quilting, although extra sharp needles are needed and it's not the easiest material to stitch. Wool is known for its warmth even when it gets wet, so it's a good choice for making quilts used for camping.

Silk is an elegant, luxurious choice although it can be expensive as well as a bit slippery for beginning quilters to stitch. Velvet is also a luxury quilting fabric. It has a rich plush texture that can add an interesting look to projects.

Corduroy has a more informal look than either velvet or silk. It's a sturdy textile with an allover ribbed, or striped, textured pattern. Denim, the fabric used to make blue jeans, is another informal but popular quilting fabric. Dark or light shades, or a combination of denim squares or other shapes, can be pieced together along with other types of fabrics to create rustic quilt styles.

The sheet or fabric piece used for a quilt's bottom layer should be close in weight to the materials used on the top. The color should also coordinate well with the other colors used in the quilt. Materials with any type of stretch to them shouldn't be used as quilting fabrics. They are too difficult to piece together neatly as the fabric moves too much.

Different prints as well as solids are usually combined in quilting. The scale, or size, of the designs on printed quilting fabrics are generally classified as small, medium and large. Small prints include tiny dots as well as calico, while medium prints may describe striped patterns. Bold Hawaiian flower designs are examples of large printed fabrics.

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