During the summer, we partnered with our buddies over at Cotton+Steel for a fun substrate series and took an in-depth look at how to sew with different types of fabrics.
We’ve decided to start an on-going fabric series that will teach you how to have the most successful experience working with individual fabrics. Today, I’ll discuss the nuances of sewing garments with quilting cottons.
Quilting cotton is by far the most common and easily assessable fabric out there. They can be found at the “big-box” stores as well as the brick-and-mortar shops.
Sewing garments with quilting cotton is a hot topic with many opposing views. Who knew such a simple fabric would become a sewing controversy? Quilting cotton is a fabric made specifically for, you guessed it, quilting. For many of us, our first garment was made of quilting cotton. For me at least, the multitude of fun prints on quilting cotton motivated me to start sewing in the first place. There are hundreds of companies producing quilting cotton and due to different manufacturing styles, quilting cotton does come in slightly different weights and drapes.
Yes, you can use quilting cotton as apparel fabric. The main thing to remember is that quilting cotton tends to be crisper than apparel cotton. It isn’t particularly soft and has a stiffer drape. This fabric works best when made into structured loose fitting garments. It’s sturdy and holds up through many washings but may need to be ironed frequently. In general, quilting cotton looks best made into casual garments, with ample ease.
Our friends over at Sprout Patterns offer cut-and-sew patterns that print the pattern and fabric design directly onto quilting cotton. They recently released our Aster blouse and I made my own Aster in a Spoonflower design I’ve been eyeing for quite some time. They offer a Basic Cotton Ultra and Kona® Cotton Ultra quilting cotton. I choose the higher quality Kona® Cotton Ultra for my Aster in order to have a lighter drape.
You’ll find that sewing with quilting cotton is incredibly easy. It’s easy to cut, doesn’t slip and slide, and irons nicely. Which is why it’s so popular with quilters and sewers alike.
Depending on the quality of your quilting cotton, it may shrink a considerable amount. We suggest pre-washing your fabric before cutting to ensure that all shrinkage is done before you start sewing your garment up.
Use a gentle detergent that has no dyes or perfumes. If your washer has a second rinse cycle, take advantage of it to rinse out any extra dye or residue. Dry on cotton or “permanent press” setting.
The Kona® Cotton Ultra from Sprout Patterns should be machined washed warm or cool on a gentle/delicate setting, using phosphate-free detergent and machine-dried using a low temperature or permanent press setting. The estimated shrinkage is 2-4% in length and 0-2% in width.
Quilting cotton is quite sturdy. Generally, a hot, steamed press will work wonders and will not damage the fabric. Press with the printed side down, when possible, for better results.
A rotary cutter and a cutting mat were originally made for cutting quilting cotton and this technique will make clean cutting lines and will save your joints. I choose to cut my Sprout Patterns fabric with scissors because it wasn’t necessary for me to lay the fabric flat.
Chalk, transfer paper, and marking pens will all work well on quilting cotton. Whenever possible, mark on the wrong side of the fabric to avoid affecting the printed side.
Fusible light weight interfacing works perfectly. The lightweight of quilting cotton does not lend itself to sewn-in or heavyweight interfacings.
Sewing Note: For thread weights, a smaller weight number indicates a heavier thread. The weight of a thread is actually a length measurement. When 50 kilometers of that thread weighs 1 kilogram, it is a 50 weight thread. A 40wt. thread is heavier because it takes only 40 kilometers of thread to weigh one kilogram.
You should choose your needle size based on the type and weight of thread that is being used as well as the fabric that is being sewn. Since quilting cotton is a mid-range fabric, we recommend using a Universal needle, 80/12.
Quilting cotton doesn’t fray too much but raw edges should be finished in some way. For the best results, serge or use pinking shears to finish raw edges. Quilting cotton is generally used in more casual garments and fine seam finishes are not necessary.
A 1″-2″ double turned hem is great for a garment made in quilting cotton. If your hem is too small it may turn up and not lay flat. Try a blind hem stitch rather than straight stitching your hem to elevate the garment a bit more.
- Opt for the 3 basting stitch lines when setting in sleeves. Quilting cottons don’t have much stretch on the cross grain and can be a pain to ease into tight quarters. The extra basting stitches will help you gather up the extra fabric in your sleeve cap for easier set-in sleeves.
- Add a lining in a lawn or voile to help your garment drape a bit better and be more comfortable on the skin.
- Do not be fooled by the structure of quilting cotton, it will most definitely stretch when cut on the bias. Staystitch right after cutting to avoid stretched out necklines!
- Quilting cotton prints are literally printed onto the fabric, therefore, your stripes may not actually line up the grain line of your fabric. Keep this in mind when pattern matching and cutting.
Loose-fitting Blouses and Dresses:
Quilting cotton tends to have a good amount of body and doesn’t have a light drape like other lightweight cottons. In a loose-fitting garment, the fabric has room to move about rather than cling to the body. Simple details like darts and plackets will sew up nicely while fine details may be a bit tricky.
Try the Dahlia or Seamwork Mojave for for two totally different takes on the quilting cotton dress. The Aster was is perfect choice for quilting cotton because of it’s structured yet loose-fitting shape.
A gathered or a-line skirt made in a quilting cotton will keep it’s fullness and will lay far enough away from the body to provide shape. Also, hemming quilting cotton is such a dream, it takes a press so well and your hem won’t shift around.
Pajamas and sleepwear are perfect for a fun quilting cotton print. After a few washes, the fabrics stiffness will lessen and will stand up to many a night lounging on the couch. The combination of the two are a perfect pair for any beginner sewers that are dipping their feet into garment sewing. The Seamwork Moji pants would make some real cute lounge pants for a cozy night in.
Like Learning about different fabrics?
We’ve got a great collection of fabric profiles on our blog.
Sprout Pattern Giveaway!
In celebration of Aster’s release, together with Sprout Patterns, we will be giving one lucky winner an Aster project. This giveaway includes one digital Aster pattern and your very own cut-and-sew Aster in any Spoonflower design you’d like!
To take part in the giveaway, just comment below. On Friday, November 4th, we will announce the winner in our Sewing Chatter blog post. We’ll email you as well, just in case.
Also, for the next 48 hours, save 20% on any Colette project on Sprout Patterns with the code “COLETTELOVE”