Quilt weight cotton has been the primary staple for the quilt industry for many years. Cotton is a natural fiber that is comfortable and breathable against the skin. It is durable and versatile making it easy to accommodate the many ways we sew.
As the quilt industry has changed and grown, our options for cotton have changed with it. Quilt cottons have become brighter and bolder with larger scale prints. Modern quilters now have a overwhelming palette of fabric to choose from. Companies like Westminster Fibers, Art Gallery Fabrics, Cloud 9 Fabrics, and Robert Kaufmann are also producing different weights and blends of cotton to offer even more choices. These choices have opened up a whole new world for garment sewists, too!
So, when you step into your local quilt shop, what are you going to find, and what does it mean for you?! Here is my list of cotton love.
Quilt shop quality cotton manufacturers use long staple cotton which means a higher quality fabric. They have an average around a 3% shrink rate which is about an inch a yard. It is the most versatile choice for quilts, garments and accessories.
Shot cottons are a more open and loose weave. The threads are dyes before the fabric is woven. The warp and weft threads are also often different colors which lend a iridescent effect to the fabric. Because of the dye process and loose weave, shot cotton tends to shrink and bleed more than quilt cotton. Always prewash it! Shots add a nice, simple sparkle to quilts. They are cool, soft and drape well for tops and dresses.
Cotton Voile/Cotton Lawn
Voile was once considered a garment fabric, but it is making its way into the quilting world. Voile is a lighter weight, semi-sheer cotton with an almost silky texture. It shrinks at the same rate as quilt cotton. The silkiness of the fabric does mean it will need a little extra patience when sewing, but it is so worth it! Voile is usually put up on 55/60 inch bolts making it more flexible for garment sewists and quilt backs.
Quilt weight cotton/linen blends such as Robert Kaufmann Essex Linen are usually a blend of 55% linen and 45% cotton. Linen, like cotton, is a natural plant fiber. It softens as you wash it and stays cool against skin making it a great choice for quilts and clothing. The linen content causes it to shrink and wrinkle a little more than pure cotton. Your favorite starch or starch alternative will come in handy while sewing.
What is your favorite fiber? How are you using it in your sewing?