All About Quilting Cotton for the Garment Sewist
We've all been won over by the bright, playful, and amazing prints on Quilting Cotton, but what use is it for garment sewists (spoiler: there are lots of uses)?
What is Quilting Cotton
Quilting Cotton is a plain-weave, midweight, 100% cotton fabric. Plain weave just means that the weave is basic; it doesn't have any extra texture woven in. This creates a nice, flat base for printing. This base fabric is fairly sturdy, doesn't have any stretch (except on the bias), and doesn't have much drape; it's what we would refer to as a structed drape. Most quilting cottons are printed, with designs ranging from licensed characters, to photo realistic prints, to more abstract artwork.
Why are there so many different prints?
Quilting Cotton is intended primarily for quilts (shocking, I know). The companies that design it tend to create lines; a series of designs that all coordinate or match, to make selecting fabrics for a quilt easier. Since quilts can be made for anyone, there is a wide variety of different designs and themed prints to appeal to a wide range of people. We've seen Star Wars prints, Fishing-themed prints, prints featuring lingerie, abstract squiggles and lines, rainbows, photo realistic space prints, and yes, even prints with fried chicken on them. Literally, if you can think it, there is probably a quilting cotton printed with it.
Is it easy to sew?
Quilting cotton is a stable woven, and is one of the easiest fabrics to sew. It's great when you're just learning, because it doesn't shift, it's easy to find the grainline, and it irons well.
What can you make with it?
While it's intended for quilts, there is nothing that says you can't use it for other projects! Common projects for quilting cotton include pillows, aprons, and bags, but you absolutely can make garments out of it as well. Because it is quite structured, the best results will come with a garment that requires a bit more structure to fit properly. Quilting Cotton makes fantastic fit-n-flare dresses, skirts, and even structured button-ups. It's really great for kids clothing; and even for pyjama pants. It does soften slightly with washing and wear, but it will never be particularly drapey. Of course, it's perfect for quilted jackets too! Something to keep in mind is that most Quilting Cotton is 44" wide, while a lot of garment fabrics come in a 58" width. So you will likely need more yardage (but most patterns have both lengths listed).
Do you need any special tools to work with Quilting Cotton?
If you're making garments, we always recommend using nylon or polyester thread rather than cotton, as it has more flex to it. If you use cotton, the stress of clothing seam maybe cause it to break (and the last thing you want to do is pop a seam on your new me-made gear). While you can buy needles intended specifically for quilting cotton, a universal needle will work just fine. You don't need any special feet for your machine, though a walking foot is always great if you're sewing several layers at once, to keep them from shifting. An iron and a surface to iron on is a must if you want crisp seams and clean hems.