Continuing our series on fabric, in this post we’ll be focusing on cotton. Cotton is by far the most common material used in home sewing. It’s usually inexpensive and comes in a wide array of colors and prints. Chances are good that you’ve already sewn with several types of cotton fabrics. Even if you feel you have cotton nailed down, take a look at these different fabric descriptions. You may learn something new!
We recommend pre-washing all cotton fabric at least two times. Unless your cotton fabric is a blend or extremely delicate, put it in the dryer at least once. This will shrink the fibers. Better to shrink the fibers on purpose before sewing than shrinking your new garment in the dryer by accident. Cotton is very sturdy and can withstand much washing and drying. However, we highly recommend hanging your garments to dry rather than using a dryer. This extends the life of your garment regardless of the fabric content.
Voile and Batiste
Voile (rhymes with oil) and batiste are commonly made of 100% cotton. Both are very thin and semi-sheer fabrics. They’re often considered interchangeable but a key difference between the two is voile’s crisp hand. Cotton batiste is often used as an underlining because it’s a soft, breathable fabric.
Both voile and batiste are used as apparel fabrics. When made into a garment these fabrics must be layered or lined because they’re so thin. These thin fabrics work well in clothing that flows, so stick to dresses and skirts without too much structure. Simple shirts look lovely but must be lined or worn with a cami since the fabric is semi-sheer. Staystitching is incredibly important due to the loose weave of these fabrics. So be sure to stay stitch any curves once the fabric has been cut.
Quilting cotton is a hot topic with many opposing views. Who knew such a simple fabric would become a sewing controversy? Quilting cotton refers to fabric made specifically for, you guessed it, quilting. Literally thousands of prints are available in quilting cotton. Due to different manufacturing styles, quilting cotton does come in different weights.
Yes, you can use quilting cotton as apparel fabric. The main thing to remember is that quilting cotton tends to be stiffer than apparel cotton. It isn’t particularly soft and has a stiff drape. It works best when made into structured garments. The fabric is sturdy and holds up through many washings. In general, quilting cotton makes very casual garments and is utterly adorable when made into simple little girl dresses. You’ll find that sewing with this fabric is incredibly easy. It’s easy to cut, doesn’t slip and slide, it holds a crease and irons nicely. See why it’s popular with quilters and sewers alike?
Shirting cotton comes in four different types of weaves: satin, oxford, twill and plain. In general, shirting cotton is a lightweight fabric. It comes in many colors and the prints tend to be limited to stripes and plaids. There are, of course, other kinds of prints available. A tour of the shirting section at your local fabric store will show you that shirtings favor masculine styles. Although satin shirting is a little slippery, shirting cottons sew up as easily as quilting cotton. Garments are usually limited to shirts and pajamas as it’s too lightweight and crisp for dresses.
Cotton denim is a fabric we’re all familiar with. Made with a twill weave that’s visible from both sides, denim is usually a heavy weight fabric. It’s very stiff and makes good jackets, pants and simple skirts. Lightweight denims also have a stiff drape but can be made into simple dresses and shirts.