Quilting with Fabric

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. It's best to use all cool colors or all warm colors in a quilt.

Before you begin a quilting project, it is worth investing in the best materials you can afford. Many inexpensive fabrics are less likely to be colorfast. Avoid the regret that goes with choosing a fabric that isn't quite perfect because it is less expensive than the fabric you love.

Try to select only 100-percent cotton fabrics for the face and back of the quilt. Cotton is easy to cut, mark, sew, and press. It is also widely available. Fabrics that contain synthetics, such as polyester, are more difficult to handle and are more likely to pucker.


For the most part, you should select colors of one type -- either bright or pastel -- to use in one quilt. Consider using cool colors like purple, blue, and white or warm colors like yellow, orange, red, and off-white.

Sometimes a fabric that seems light by itself is very dark next to other fabrics. To avoid this, look at all the fabrics you plan to use through a red transparent report cover (available in most stationery stores). Do the fabrics you thought were dark look dark next to the ones you thought were light? Do you mix light and dark fabrics? Does this create the effect you are trying to achieve?

Use prints with a variety of scales or all with the same scale. That is, use large prints, medium prints, and small prints in the same quilt or use only large, medium, or small prints. If you use all small prints with one large-scale print, the large-scale print will probably look out of place.

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Keep the size of your prints the same -- all large or all small, for example.

When you have selected fabrics, buy a small amount of each (no more than 1/4 yard). Cut out enough of each fabric to make up one block. Evaluate the block. Are you happy with all the fabrics and how they work together? Step back and look at the block from a distance. Does it still look good? This is the time to make changes to your fabric selection if necessary. Be sure you do it right away so the material is still in the store.

The backing fabric should be similar in fiber content and care to the fabrics used in the quilt top. Some wide cottons (90 and 108 inches) are sold specifically for quilt backings. They eliminate the need to piece the back.

As you work on quilts, it's a good idea to keep a scraps basket rather than discarding unused fabric. Some quilts call for very small amounts of fabric for appliqués. If you can find the right color among your scraps, you'll save yourself the trouble and waste of purchasing 1/8 yard of fabric for a much smaller piece.

Not what you're looking for? Try:

  • Check out Quilting with Thread to learn about the best type of thread to use in your quilting projects.
  • Excited to quilt, but don't know where to begin? See Quilting Materials for a place to start.
  • Learn How to Quilt or brush up on the basics with our refresher course.