Tips for Choosing Fabric for a Quilt

After practicing with the Colour Wheel and learning the basics on how to apply Colour Theory to create your own palette, it is time to search for fabrics for your next quilt project :)

On this post I will talk about the type of fabric that has served me best in my quilting journey -hello quilting cotton. Shall we start? 

Let's go fabric shopping

It might be veeeery tempting now that you have started quilting to spend a lot of money on all those beautiful cotton quilting fabrics you see everywhere and even, maybe, a bit overwhelming.

To avoid excessive spending or ending up with fabrics that don't work well together, I have created a list of tips and suggestions that will also help you build a useful fabric stash.

*Before starting, I want to clarify that all of these are based on my experience working with quilting cotton which is the only fabric I have used for my quilts so far. There are makers who like to make quilts with other types of fabrics such as double gauze or linen, among others.

  • Start with pre-cut fabrics. This has been already cut and colour coordinated and! many quilt patterns use them. Some of the most popular ones are:
    • Fat quarter: 18’’ x 22’’
    • Jelly roll: 2 ½’’ x 22’’ (40 / 20 strips)
    • Layer cakes / charm packs / mini charm packs: 10’’ x 10’’ / 5’’ x 5’’ / 2 ½’’ x 2 ½’’ (40, 42 squares and half bundles)
    • Honey bun: 1 ½’’ x 22’’ (40 / 20 strips)

Meadow Star Charm Pack from Ruby Star Society

  • You can also opt for buying yards or half yards of a designer curated fabric collection. These fabrics are also pre-coordinated, containing a variety of colours and prints that work well together.

  • Talking about fabrics with prints, this is what you need to have in mind before purchasing any:
    • The scale and density of the print (is there negative space around it?).
    • Symmetry: mirror or rotational.
    • Directional elements.
    • Theme: make some cards with holes in the shape of squares, triangles… to see how the unit would work if you were doing fussy cutting. 

Besties Blossom Hop To It Metallic by Tula Pink at Fat Quarter Shop 

  • Check the fabric properties:
    • Weave: the tighter the weave, the sharper the needle; the stronger, the stronger the needle.
    • Weight.
    • Width: usually 42'' or 43''.
    • Grain: straighten it before cutting.
    • Transparency.
    • Shrinkage.

  • Go for different shades of the same colour for a monochromatic look. This will make your job of finding fabrics much easier. Maybe opt for different prints working well together?

  • Think about incorporating a solid to a busy design or if you are using many different prints. Stocking up on a variety of solid fabrics is always a good idea if you come across a sale at your favourite fabric shop. The brand I always go for is Pure Solids from Art Gallery Fabrics.


Example from Suzy Quilts using a solid sashing in between blocks

  • If you want a bit more excitement from your solids, use a Blender. These fabrics come with a tone-on-tone small print that appears like a solid fabric when you look at it from far away.

Hole Punch Dots Collection blenders from Ruby Star Society

They help blend the different elements of your project together. Its subtle print draws the eye from the solid colors on your quilt toward the primary section and back out again without overwhelming the viewer.

I am a huge fan of blenders and I use them as main fabrics for many of my quilts.

  • And last, ask your local fabric shop (or online store) for help or for physical fabric swatches for you to check a colour or texture.

Fabric shop in the Netherlands courtesy of Stitched in Color

* Also, I want to mention that it is not mandatory to pre-wash your fabrics for a quilt IF you don't plan on washing it afterwards (e.g. if you are doing a wall hanger).

On the contrary, if you intend to wash your quilt either by hand or on the washing machine from time to time (always use a gentle cycle and let it dry outside naturally), I encourage you to pre-wash your fabrics. If you do this, you might need to use some sort of starch spray to give the stifness and shine back to them.

And that is it for this post! I hope you feel a bit more confident in your quest for new fabrics for your next quilt project. On the next post, I will talk all about wadding!

Thank you for reading and happy quilting,


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