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Sewing garments with Quilting Cottons


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This site is no longer being updated so head over to Seamwork to get all the latest patterns, tutorials, video classes, and more.

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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.

Fabric Care:

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.


We recommend 50wt cotton or polyester thread. Polyester thread is stronger than cotton and tends to come in more colors.

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.

Seam Finish:

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.

Constructions Tips:


  1. 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.
  2. Add a lining in a lawn or voile to help your garment drape a bit better and be more comfortable on the skin.
  3. 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!
  4. 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.

Suitable For:


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.

Full Skirts:

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.

The Zinnia and Ginger skirts are perfect for using cute quilting cotton prints.


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”

Katie Whittle   —   Producer

Katie teaches new skills through in-depth tutorials, sewalongs, and articles for Seamwork Magazine and The Colette Blog. She's all about encouraging sewers to try new techniques and create a personalized wardrobe that makes them feel great!

Comments 186


I’ve never seen a pattern printed onto a fabric before! It’s like a paint by numbers for beginners. It’s such a great idea and would make a great gift for xmas.


This is awesome! I’ve never seen a pattern printed directly on fabric. It would be so fun to try!


I’d love to try this out.

Linda Nelson

What a great guide. Thank you!


Hmnnn colette AND sprout goodies!! I hope so! Fingers crossed.
I am thinking the sway dress by papercut patterns is also a good one to try with quilting cotton, the short version.
Great tips, thanks !
Colette makes my life happier, every day ❤️


thank you for the tips! i just skeptically made a laurel in quilting cotton and was surprised how well it worked, you just never know!


Thank you very much for the detailed information. It is really helpful for beginners like me. I love your site, too! Very nice design.


I would love love love to win the Aster Sprout pattern! As a Mum of 2 under 3 I never get time to sew so this would make it a lot easier. It’s the perfect breastfeeding top too ;)


Thank you for the tips on setting a sleeve – it will reduce my frustration considerably!


I love the Aster pattern and using quilting cotton is such a great idea! I made my very first top with quilting cotton. It was an unstructured top and as you say sewing with a quilting cotton made it a breeze to sew. A hint to my age, I made it on my mother’s treadle sewing machine!


This is very helpful tutorial thank you


I am really excited about this series! Not all fabrics are created equally and this is great for helping us novices learn the differences.

Lisa Gregory

Sounds like fun! I like making circle skirts and full skirted dresses out of quilting cottons. The large variety of prints makes them so much more fun!

Karrie Smith

I would LOVE to win your pattern on some fabric!! Thanks for the chance!


I’ve made a few garments with quilting cotton but do find it tough to figure out a good combination of fabric and pattern. This looks lovely though. The stiffer drape really works well.

Sue Holman

I have loved the Aster shirt pattern since it came out. This was a great article. Too bad most of the independent fabric stores are basically quilt shops with very little fabric for clothing other than cottons. I like to feel my fabric before purchasing, so online shopping isn’t safe four men!

Karen Jones

I have been wanting to try a Sprout pattern and I think that Aster is a perfect choice! I agree, quilting cottons don’t work for everything, but sometimes they are the only fabrics available AND they do have the best designs! I think they are fine for fuller skirts and fit/flare dresses.

Charlotte E

I’ve seen lots of projects using Sprout pop up over the internet but am yet to use the service myself. I think the hardest part would be picking the fabric as the choice is overwhelming!


I agree, that took me about a week and the Aster only took a day to sew up. ;)

Diana Sorbo

Some of my first projects were Sorbetto tank tops in quilting cotton. I’m actually wearing one today! Love the substrate series, and the Aster has been on my list of awhile!


such great information. as someone who is mostly self-taught, this really helps me with some of the mysteries of why choose which fabric. plus spponflower ? thanks!


Hi there,
I’ve used quilting cottons for years but always found it difficult to find a pattern that will match in terms of cut and drape. Your pattern looks amazing and articles always so helpful! Would love to win this amazing package!! Thankyou x


Oooh, pick me! Aster is such a classic shirt. I want one!


What a fun giveaway! I’ve wanted to try the cut and sew fabrics for a long time. :)


I love the Aster. I am looking forward to seeing more Sprout patterns.


Super helpful post. Thanks!


This is a cool idea. I have been wanting to try aster! Thank you for the give away.


Oh goodness, how lovely!


This was really helpful! Thanks for the tips.


The Aster does look perfect in a quilting cotton—I absolutely love the pearl snaps too! Thanks so much for the fabric guides they are incredibly helpful and I look forward to many more in the future!

Pauline Kelly

I use quilting cottons for some projects including skirts and tunic type dresses. Some are of a lovely weight and pattern they are just too hard to pass up. I especially love them for children’s clothes. Yes, I would love to win and try your lovely blouse in a Sprout design.

Gay Gremmel

Loved the article – great info! And would love to try the sprout patterns – thanks for the opportunity!


Whenever I buy quilting cotton and say it’s for apparel, it’s almost guaranteed that I get a disapproving sideways glance – but it’s pattern like this that I buy it for! Would love to add Aster to my library and my closet! Thanks for the tips and tricks.


The articles on different fabrics are very helpful, thanks for them (and all the other excellent info/tips you all share).

I’d love to make the Aster blouse, I making Hayden as my first top. thanks heaps :)


This looks like the perfect project for a beginner like me. Hoping this beginner is also a winner today :-)

Laurinda Pudlo

Ooo- what a cool shirt! I bet I could sew that… I’d love a chance to try!

Pia Swartz

Oh great post! I just got my hands on a bunch of viscose crepe fabrics, and it scares me to start cutting the “living fabric”, as the seller called it.

Petra Thorsson

I love quilting fabrics. I’m drawn to quirky things and quilting fabrics usually have quirk alright. One of the reasons for why I sew is so that I can have the quirky clothes I want, but you can’t find in stores. I’m currently working on Hawthorne in a cute cat print :)


Oooh I’d love to be in with a chance of winning! I’ve been wanting to try Sprout Pattetns AND the Aster!


My first top was made with quilting cotton. It didn’t fit me but I still have it. I still like to sew with quilting fabric. Also, I love the Aster!


Who knew along with Quilt Police and Sewing Police there were also Fabric Use Police? I’ve used “quilting fabric” for my granddaughters clothing for years. Just purchased my first sprout garment but not yet started construction. Thanks for the opportunity to win.


JUST started picking up sewing again with the Laurel pattern and am enjoying the freedom that making my own clothes is going to give me. Just need to get a little better ;).


I bought Aster when it came out, but haven’t yet found the perfect fabric for it. I LOVE quilting cottons (the colors and designs nowadays are fantastic), and your article convinced me it may be a great choice for this pattern! It would be a super-fun project!


Thanks for the sewing tips. I am a long-time quilter but just starting to sew garments. Thanks for the giveaway and discount code.

Donna B.

I made about half a dozen Asters last winter in fun flannel prints for my college daughter for Christmas. She tends to wear t-shirts all year, but needs just a bit more warmth in the winter and opts for flannel, either alone or over her t-shirt. It takes a pretty hefty temperature drop for my daughter to even “bother with” a sweat jacket, and the wool pea coat doesn’t come out until it’s REALLY cold, so flannel is right up her alley. I would love to make an Aster for myself from the Sprout collection. –Donna B.


I made a Mojave in quilting cotton this summer and it turned out really nice. Got it on clearance at Joann Fabrics for $3.00 a yard!! I like to look for deals in quilting cotton to use as wearable muslins.


You all always give the best, most comprehensive info on every topic you cover–thank you!
I am very intrigued by the Sprout Patterns idea, but have been reluctant to order as some of my normal alterations involve shortening the pattern from shoulder to waist. But I think I’ll give it a go with 20% off!
Any tips for altering the preprinted fabric?


Laying out the pattern is my least favorite part of garment sewing. I would love a chance to try out the cut and sew process.


Thanks for these tips! The Aster is next up on my to-sew list and it will likely be in a quilting cotton!

shelby mosel

Love, love, love! Haven’t used Sprout patterns yet. But I’ve bought and sewn quite a few Colette patterns and cant wait to try out Sprouts stuff!!! <3


I’m still a beginner sewer (-ist?) even after at 31 with my mom teaching me in grade school, so most of my projects are with quilting cotton. Glad to know it’s ok to still do!
I need to sew more than!


Great tips! I’m going to check out the other fabric links too. I already know what design of Aster I would make.


What a great post! I loved it, thank you so much for sharing your knowledge. Also I’d love to win this pattern :)


Don’the be afraid to try quilting cottons. I have been using them for many years. So many colorful prints have could a fabricaholic resist.


A lovely way to use the Quilting cotton. I will give a try to that!


Love the advice on seeing with quilting cotton. There are so many fun prints to choose from. Thanks!

Camila A.

This version of Aster is gorgeous. I really want to try Sprout Patterns and this print is so tempting! But do Sprout patterns work for those of us who need to make FBAs?


Heck yeah! Finally permission to make that Aster and Dahlia with a quilting cotton. My failed attempts and newness to sewing made me stitch-shy of these sturdy cottons. Thank you for this perfectly practical quilting-cotton recipe.

Kira Withers-Jones

I think Aster looks great in a quilting cotton. I’d love to make one with a quirky cat print and Spoonflower is fab for that sort of fabric.


I would love to try this. Thank you.


The whole Sprout thing has always intrigued me! Winning the contest would be a lovely belated birthday gift! LOL


Quilting cottons are one of my favorite fabrics to sew with! I look forward to the chance to win the aster and try a fun print from Spoonflower.

Sylvia Steinshouer

The fabric idea was great. It confirmed what I thought about quilt fabrics © and I loved the hint about setting in sleeves.

Show and Tell Meg

I’ve been dying to try Sprout as well as aster, so this would be so great! THANKS for a fun giveaway :)


I love Spoonflower’s approach of printing the pattern on the fabric. I have never tried Sprout patterns and of course I like the Astor pattern…so it’s a win, win, win situation…if I win.


Spout patterns seem great for pattern matching which is always a pain with garments. It would be awesome to win.


Just made my sister a circle skirt with polka dot quilting cotton, which she loved. I’ve also made a couple of garments for myself. It certainly doesn’t work for all (or even most) projects, but I’ve had some good experiences.


The Aster looks so cute tucked into skinnies!


These fabric posts are so helpful!
I’d love to make an Aster and try sprout patterns


As a new sewist I was told to begin with more forgiving fabrics – cottons, chambray etc. Oh, how I wish I had listened! Two pink toddler skirts later- one with organza, one with chiffon, mama could use an Aster project in a quilting cotton! Love love love these fabric posts. I no longer say rayon ‘tchalliss’ – thanks Colette team


Great, informative article. Please enter me into the giveaway.


I spend a lot of time dreaming of what to sew next and pour over each and every email and post from all of you talented people. A Sprout pattern AND Cotton Steel to win….that would be heaven


This post was so helpful! I was looking to make a shirt out a nice cotton woven, I found:

I am thinking it will work perfectly! Thanks again!

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