The Quilting Process: Choosing Quality Fabrics

Hello there, Welcome back to the series. Apologies for the break in transmission, I was on some sort of “holiday”. If you are just joining the series you haven’t really missed much, see what we’ve talked about so far herehere and here,

Last post I was talking about my trip to the fabric store, what I love about it, the challenges and just a background chat on the importance of fabrics to the Quilting process. I mentioned we will be spending some time talking about fabrics and how important it is to make the right choice when choosing the fabrics for your Quilt.

Picture this, you’ve just gone to the fabric store, snatched this bold and fabulous fabric and your head is already bursting with ideas and if you are like me who hardly used to do a bleed test, you are probably cutting into the fabric as soon as you get home but wait a minute…are you sure about the quality of that fabric? Have you done all due diligence to ensure you got the best fabric for that project?

Color is a major consideration while choosing fabric for your Quilt, but in my opinion it pales in comparison to choosing the right fabric in terms of Quality. I mean it won’t matter much whether you choose that gorgeous fabric that’s so “perfect”…It has the perfect pattern, the perfect color for that project you have in mind but at the end of the day it bleeds all over on the first wash…oops!  While bleeding isn’t the only thing to check in terms of fabric quality, it is hugely important.  Think of the fact that you are putting so much energy, resources and time into making that masterpiece and you want it to be loved and cherished, something that will obviously stand the test of time right? All that is defeated if it bleeds all over, unravels or shrinks terribly after washing. Yes certain fabrics have the tendency to shrink (remember the batting will shrink also) and in some circles it is believed that this add a sort of vintage beauty to the Quilt but you don’t want one that shrinks ridiculously especially if you’ve neither pre-washed your fabrics before piecing nor made allowance for shrinkage.

How about the fabrics that fade horribly after a very short while – this is usually due to bleeding or poor color steadfastness but what ever the case, it’s just bad quality period! In the short while I’ve been quilting I’ve had my fair share of fabric woes believe me. I know the majority of Quilters use 100% Cotton and it makes total sense to use the best quality you can get. However, when I started , (I’m only slightly better now) I couldn’t spot a 100% cotton fabric to save my life. I’ve stuck to the same fabric retailer for a while now because I’ve tried and tested his fabrics and he seems to be telling the truth when he tells me a particular fabric is 100% cotton :).  I sometimes invest in designer Quilting fabrics from online retailers but like I previously stated, international shipping isn’t cheap! African Wax Prints (Ankara) are flowing in abundance around me and oh my they have such lovely colors and designs that you just want to buy and buy but the the same principle applies, there are so many varieties that every now and then with all your good intentions you end up with one which is more of a nuisance than a beauty! Don’t even get me started on fabrics that have such horrible chemical smells or the ones that are so stiff but frays and becomes extremely limp and wrinkly on pre-washing them 😦

Bottom line is when you find that fabric that is not only perfect in terms of color, scale of print, design but also of a good quality it is absolute MAGIC!  You are not scared of using any complementing color because you are worried of your darker colors bleeding all over the lighter ones. This is a genuine fear for me and I almost have a phobia for using light solids for this particular reason, I’ve mostly stuck to grey, charcoal or black but I want to be able to use white or pastels generally without second guessing myself! It is this fear that has led me on the quest to finding a way forward. I went on the search for answers to questions like how do you identify quality quilting cotton, how do you prevent bleeding or fading? I will be sharing with you the answers I found to these questions and other helpful hints. What do you do when you don’t have access to quilting cotton fabrics?…easy I go for home decor fabrics which are more readily available in my local fabric stores or other locally available cotton fabrics in my case- African Wax prints and batiks.

Firstly and probably the most important hint…DON’T BE A CHEAPSKATE I know the fabrics are very pretty and it is also cotton after all, the temptation is so great to just give it a try, how bad can it be right? It can be very bad…PLEASE DON’T DO IT!!! 🙂

When in doubt (If it’s red, blue, purple, green or black or just dark for that matter) totally do a bleed test or just go ahead and pre-wash – this means starching and ironing your fabric again before cutting but you’d be happier in the end I promise. There are various ways of doing a bleed test or checking for color steadfastness (Google is your best friend 😉 ) For me I take a small piece of  wet white fabric, gently rub it against the fabric in question, if there’s even a  slight transfer of color, I am definitely pre-washing. If after a couple of washes the bleeding persists…it’s time to toss the fabric, it’s going no where near my Quilt!

 bleeding In my defense this fabric was so lovely I couldn’t resist but after a quick bleed test I decided to pre-wash…Thank God I did it could have been a disaster!!! After a couple of washes though, I was happy enough to use it in my project albeit not as bright as before but not so bad either. Used it as a backing for this throw pillow/cushion…  PhotoGrid_1459435917501[1]

For more info on bleeding, color steadfastness and pre-washing, see the links below:

On a final note, remember that handy checklist from Quiltropolis here it totally sums up everything, you should really check it out but in a nutshell, here are the things you should look out for on your next trip to the fabric store:

  • Thin fabric
  • Stiff Fabric
  • Strong Odor
  • Color Rubs Off
  • Loose Threads
  • Grain line Crooked
  • Print Doesn’t Align with Grain
  • Pattern Overlaps or Skips
  • Colors uneven or dull

Here are some of the other useful links I found with relevant information worth checking out 🙂

Note: I’ve read that there are certain chemicals, home made remedies involving salt, Vinegar even baking powder to help with bleeding and setting colors but I am yet to experiment with these, maybe salt though. As always please kindly share your useful hints and experience with us in the comment section 🙂

In summary, there’s nothing like using the best quality fabric for your quilts so do whatever it takes to ensure you get the best. It’s a rather long post but very worth it. Next time we will be talking about colors in choosing your Quilting fabrics. In the meantime, have a great weekend full of many Quilty possibilities and thanks again for stopping by.

Until next time…XX

Sola 🙂






2 thoughts on “The Quilting Process: Choosing Quality Fabrics

  1. I wouldn’t have been able to tell you had pre-washed the fabric before making the pillows. They still turned out to be bright and pretty. Well done!


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