Most quilters use 100% cotton fabric for their patchwork quilts. While part of the reason has to do with tradition, another part is due to what is practical.

Cottons tend to shrink at the same rate as each other. Most natural fabrics will shrink at least a little bit, even though the manufacturer has pre-shrunk the material. Blends will shrink at different rates than natural fibers, and 100% synthetics will shrink very little or not at all.

By mixing cotton fabric with cotton-polyester blends and synthetics, when you wash your finished quilt, you may end up with some very strange puckering. Some patches may be all puckered up, while others are perfectly flat.

Cottons are easy to sew. Many quilters finger press their patches and blocks as they quilt, and only iron (or press) their quilt when they have large sections complete. Along with way as they are sewing, they will “finger press” their work.

Finger pressing is just using your fingers to fold over a seam allowance before sewing it to another piece.

100% cotton fabric is more likely to stay folded over when finger pressed. Blends and synthetics will just keep popping up – they want to be straight, not folded over.

Why does that matter? It’s easier to quilt when the seams lie flat and are on one side of the stitching. Twists in the seam allowances add bulk to the quilt top and will cause your quilting stitches to be uneven.

Cotton breathes. Cotton, like other natural fibers, retains heat, so it keeps you warm, whit it “wicks.” Wicking is when the fabric draws moisture away from your body and allows it to evaporate. Synthetic fabrics capture both heat and moisture – you will be warm and also sweaty.

Cottons are reasonably priced, readily available and come in a huge variety of colors and patterns. Most fabric shops have a large selection of cotton fabrics. With the popularity of quilting, many shops have all of the 100% cottons in one section of the store, making it much easier for quilters to shop. Many cities and towns have quilting shops that carry only 100% cotton fabrics. And shopping online expands the variety even further.

Happy Quilting!

Penny Halgren

Penny Halgren is a quilter of more than 24 years who seeks to interest new quilters and provide them with the resources necessary to create beautiful quilts.

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©2006, Penny Halgren