Tuesday, March 3, 2015

March Lesson (& Giveaway): Choosing Fabric & Batting for Free Motion Quilting

January Lesson: Beginners Guide to Free Motion Quilting
January Roundup: Beginners Guide to Free Motion Quilting - Roundup
February Lesson: Thread
February Lesson: Thread Roundup


Through my charity Quilting A Memory I get to work with all sorts of fabrics for families who have lost loved ones  I have quilted with everything from mens vests to woolen kilts to satin wedding dresses. So far the only fabric I have had to say no to was a thick toweling dressing gown. So it might not surprise many of you to learn that I am anything but a fabric snob. To me fabric is fabric and fabric can be made into quilts.

I know there is a whole thing over designer fabric versus the cheaper prints you can buy at JoAnn's. But I also know that fabric lines who have produced cheaper fabrics for JoAnn's now have quilt shops begging for the same material.

Again my mantra is - if you like it - use it.

My other mantra is - if you are practicing - don't spend the big bucks. Your neighbors 1 year old baby is not going to notice that the train print is from JoAnn's rather than a designer beauty. Keep it cheap - your whoopsies won't hurt as much. 

From a free motion point of view I can give you the following information with regards to fabric.

Solids will show off your quilting and all your mistakes. But once you feel more confident you will learn to love (or perhaps hate) them.

Linen or Peppered cotton also show off your quilting but are a little more forgiving due to the fleck in the fabric. Cirus Solids by Cloud 9 are divine as are the peppered cottons from Studio E.

Busy patterns can sometimes hide any quilting you do on it. This can be an aid in the beginning when you are practicing but annoying when you do want your quilting to show.

Wool, flannel, fleece, velvets etc - use a thicker thread if you want the thread to show. If you use a finer thread (like So Fine#50 by Superior) your thread will be almost invisible and you will only see the texture created. You can play with thread thickness, contrasting color etc to either 'hide' or display your quilting in these thicker fabrics.

Correcting Quilting Mistakes
If you have made a horrible mistake that you can not live with - unpick the stitches very carefully - soak the area and massage the needle holes while wet a little to help them close up again. Let the fabric dry before re-quilting the area. Some fabrics do not recover very well from being unpicked - especially if your quilting is dense. But I do unpick - and I soak - and it dries - and no one notices (or no one has said anything yet!)

The choices of batting are about as far ranging as fabric and thread. It is very much about personal choice and experimentation about what you prefer. You can find batting in white, natural and black - and in various lofts (thicknesses.) There is a lot of useful information out there about batting:

Want a chart to print for your craft folder? 
Batting Characteristics Chart by allpeoplequilt.com 
Quick Reference Chart on Batting Options by allpeoplequilt.com 

When choosing your batting you want to think - What and who are you making your quilt for? If it is a wall-hanging you might want the batting to be on the stiffer side. If it is for a bed - perhaps a softer drape? Are you using a special technique? For example Karen McTavish recommends a particularly puffy poly for trapunto work. 

Bamboo is a relatively new batting that is available. I have not used it - but I understand care is very important it doesn't like heat and it has the lowest of all lofts (thicknesses.)

Cotton is favored for its soft texture. It can sometimes feel stiff after quilting but after washing and usage softens considerably.

Cotton/Poly blends are touted to have the benefits of cotton with more loft. Your quilting lines can also be further apart with a blend than with 100% cotton.

Poly is resilient and lightweight. A favorite I understand with people who ship and show their quilts at shows.

Silk - is your go to choice if you are quilting for a garment. Silk is the most expensive batting you will find.
Wool batting can be translucent. If you have a white top and your backing is dark or pieced with dark pieces - you will see color variation in the top of your quilt. I love wool - it is my personal favorite - but if I am working with a white top I will use a cotton batting or ...

... you can layer batting. I often use a cotton batting with wool batting on top to give a really lovely full look and produces a lovely heavy feeling quilt with a beautiful drape - but it then does give you a thicker wedge to be fighting through your machine.

Did you know some battings have an up and a down side? Placing your batting the right way up will help your needle have an easier time of punching through all the layers and ultimately provide a better finish for your quilt. APQS has a great article here than goes through several batting types.

Keep your batting scraps - you can use them for FMQ practice sandwiches or quilt as you go quilt or you can sew them together with long & wide zig zag stitch to make a big piece of batting! (You can also get strips that you iron together bits of batting to make them bigger - but I have never used this method.)

Talking of quilt as you go .....

When you are beginning on your FMQ journey. Don't start on a large quilt. Get used to quilting on smaller more manageable sandwiches (quilt sandwiches not marmalade ones.) This is why I think a quilt as you go method would be a great start for anyone starting their FMQ journey.

This months giveaway is :

Quilt As-You-Go Made Modern by Jera Brandvig. This is a really lovely book full of ideas, lovely photographs, different quilt as you go techniques and project ideas.
20 13.5" squares of Hobbs wool batting - which will be enough to get you started on a quilt as you go baby quilt.  I love wool batting - its gorgeous and soft, natural with puff. I hope you will love it too.

To win this giveaway - please let me know where you buy your fabric from and what kind of batting you prefer. Leave your comment by March 30th - don't forget to leave some link/information that will enable me to contact you somehow.

(Please note: Giveaway will only be shipped within the US.)


  1. I buy my fabric from all over online! :D I get my batting either by the roll from Joann or individually from Seaside Quilting. :) Thanks for the chance to win!

  2. I get fabric all over the place: my local quilt shops, the internet, my friends, thrift stores. I agree you shouldn't spend the big bucks on something you are practicing, but that is balanced (for me, anyway) by making something I'm going to be excited about when I'm using fabric I love (I have expensive taste). I haven't tried too many battings, but I think I prefer lower loft battings. I tried a high-loft poly one for a charity project and it was really hard to work with because it shifted so much. I've bought two packs of Quilter's Dream cotton. It's so soft! I would love to try the wool. Maybe quilt-as-you-go will work better for me with wool batting.

  3. I get fabrics from everywhere--hopefully on sale. I very rarely purchase fabric that is full retail price and have found my best bargains from a Yahoo quilters flea market group. I usually use 80/20 batting that I purchase on a roll.

  4. I buy the majority of my fabrics from quilt shops as I feel the quality is so much better. With that being said, I have not purchased much in the last few years as I am trying to whittle down my immense fabric stash. I am mostly making small wall quilts or miniatures now days too so not using as much fabric now either. I love wool batting and how it quilts so use it in a lot of my miniatures as I can get it flattened where I want and also get a faux trapunto look in the areas that are not quilted as heavy.

  5. I buy mine mostly on line and I love cotton bartending, thanks

  6. I buy most of my fabric from Connecting Threads and I use Warm & Natural or Warm & White cotton batting. I've never tried anything else.

  7. I buy most of my fabric from www.sitnrock.com (my mom owns the store so I can get a great discount). I also buy from other websites online and local quilt stores depending on what I need and their selection. I prefer Warm & Natural batting.

  8. I buy most of my fabric from City Quilter in NYC. I have only used cotton batting to date but would like to try some wool batting.

  9. What a keeper! This lesson will be bookmarked, for future reference. Thanks, Rachael. I buy my fabric mostly from three sources: my local quilt shop, Gothamquilts.com (because they are awesome girls with great taste in fabric!) and fabric.com, because they have good prices, and good sales. I think I get my solids mostly from them. Batting is a different story. I don't want to store it, so I don't buy much at a time. Usually, only after I finish a quilt. I have only bought Quilters Dream, as I heard from many it is the best. I can't wait to try that wool-cotton combo you like!

  10. HELLO, Thank You for a swell Giveaway>book looks so neat!
    I buy fabric mostly from FQS+Southern Fabrics+locally.
    My favorite batting is Hobbs Premuim Cotton, for crinkly old-fashioned-look in quilts;any light weight poly or cotton works for wallhangings.

  11. On line stores and i love cotton battening

  12. I use about 99% all online stores. We do not have a quilt shop close at all so I left 1% for when I travel and find one! I use 100% cotton batting but would love to try something else. Thanks so much

  13. I use cotton batting and buy on line way too often. Paula K.

  14. I am loving to try the quilt as you go! I buy material from my one local quilt shop and then Fields Fabrics in West Michigan and some on line! I use cotton natural batting . thank you!

  15. I live near Joanns Fabrics and go there for batting and fabric. I'm a comfortae beginner and am making a quilt for my 7 year old daughter. Next quilt is mine and I'm going to buy the best fabrics from an online store that has gorgeous, rich fabrics. Ahh, daydreaming here. 😊. andreadonnan@yahoo.com

  16. Also, your article was extremely helpful to me! I am so scared of FMQ and still only stitch in the ditch or do straight lines. I'm getting up the courage!

  17. I get my fabric from JoAnn's or Hohhy Lobby, I like to use a poly-fil for my batting.

  18. I buy my fabric from my sister's quilt shop. But, because I am a brand new quilter, I have no favorite batting - yet!!!

  19. I buy fabric at a local quilt shop and online. I prefer Warm and Natural batting but would like to try Hobb's wool batting.

  20. I usually buy fabric from Joanne's with a coupon but lately I've been getting great deals online from Connecting Threads and Hancock's of Paducah.
    I always use Warm and Natural Batting.

  21. I am disabled and on limited income. There is very little money to purchase fabric when I do it is usually from Joanne's online. I repurpose old clothing and sheets for most of my quilt fabric.

  22. I usually get fabric from JoAnn's & Online. Have used Warm & Natural, but usually use polyester....haven't been quilting very long tho....was a sewing person since Kiddo's were little :) Would LOVE to have this Book! thanks for the chance to Win!

  23. Honestly I buy fabric all over the place. Online shops like FQS, CT, Whittles, Marshalls Dry Goods, EBay, Yahoo Groups, friends, local areas like Hobby Lobby, JoAnn,Carolina Cotton even Walmart if I like a piece I see. I use Dream Cotton or Warm n Natural. I would love to improve my FMQ skills.

  24. I buy my fabric and batting a a tiny local shop. Very tiny! The next closest place is over 2 hours away and I don't have a vehicle. I have to use whatever type batting is available at Annette's little shop

  25. online; cotton - poly batting


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