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(More) Quilting Basics

Updated: Sep 9, 2020

Hi everyone, and welcome to Part 2 of this introduction to quilting. In my previous post, I talked about quilting tools. And honestly, although super important, quilting instruments are nowhere near as interesting (or exciting) as the fabric! Picking the right fabric is SUPER important, and looking at fabric is where I often get my inspiration. There's something about the look and feel of fabric that gets the creativity flowing! As you get ready to start your quilt, you probably already know what kind of fabric you want to use for your quilt. You may want to use up scrap fabric already available at home or purchase all the fabric for the quilt, or perhaps you want to make a memory quilt - from old T-shirts, or other old clothes that have sentimental value. As you're deciding what you would like to use, you want to keep the following in mind. 

Here are some of my tips on picking the right fabric. 

Tip 1: Ideally, pick the quilt pattern BEFORE you start. This will help determine how much fabric, and how many types of fabric you will need.

Tip 2: Get all the fabric you will need before you start, or at least have a way to get more of the same type of fabric. It's not fun to start a project with one idea in mind, only to find out you run of fabric part-way through the project!  Tip 3: BUT, if you DO run out of fabric - don't worry, part of the charm of a quilt is these little imperfections. To keep going, try to get something similar to the original fabric (i.e. if the original fabric was navy blue, with little white flowers on it, then the new one could be navy, with some other white motif on it, if you get what I mean).  Tip 4: If you are purchasing fabric for your quilt, especially for a beginner quilt, pick cotton. Cotton fabric is quite versatile and quilts very easily. It is easy to iron out creases from cotton without fear of damaging the cloth, and you won't need to worry about the needle getting caught in the fabric or pulling threads out when you sew the pieces together.  Tip 5: If you don't want to purchase fabric for your project and use what you already have, then ideally, all the fabric should be of the same or similar material. There is a simple reason for this - you will need to iron the fabric quite often as you press seams and remove creases. Having more than one type of fabric in your project will mean you might not be able to use the same heat setting on your iron. (This is one reason I prefer cotton or other fabric which is equally sturdy. I can set my iron to one heat setting and not worry about ruining the fabric with too much heat from the iron, while also not being able to remove creases from other parts of my quilt.) Tip 6: Don't be afraid to use and mix lots of prints! Whether you get your fabric block-printed, screen printed, woven, or dyed, this is your chance to explore your creativity! Ideally, keep some sort of recurring theme throughout the quilt that pulls it together, but steer away from too many plain fabrics, or you might end up with a rather boring quilt. Quilts are meant to be a bit scrappy, so it's okay to experiment with mixing prints, and different colors together. 

Tip 7: Colors! At the start of your quilting journey, you might want to pick one main color, and pick complementing colors and prints for the rest of the fabric. Depending on your style you could pick shades of the same colors, or pick contrasting colors. You might worry that it will look too haphazard, well, I would suggest creating a "mock" quilt block (I'll talk about quilt blocks in my next post) to get a sense for what it will look like before cutting up all of the fabric. Something else I would suggest is to use some plain (un-printed) fabric in lighter colors in the border fabric; this also prevents the quilt from seeming too busy. 

In my quilts, I like to keep one COLOR or type of fabric be a part of the main quilt block (i.e. the busy part of my quilt; often the smaller pieces), and have the same one reappear as a border, or in the binding. For my current project, I plan to use my backing fabric in the pattern for the quilt-top, and use elements from the quilt-top in the quilt backing. These little touches bring the whole quilt together! One thing I have discovered as I have picked fabrics is that darker fabric isn't always the best way to go (unless you want to use it as border fabric or backing) Also, don't be afraid to use bright colors like reds, oranges, yellows - these will add character to your quilt.

Tip 8: An alternative to this would be to go with fewer colors and using different shades/prints of the same color. This can keep the busy-ness of the project to a minimum and your quilt won't seem as haphazard.

Something else to consider

Make sure you follow any pre-use fabric care instructions before you start your project. This might be pre-washing your fabric or soaking them in salt water. This will prevent shrinkage later and it's a great way to get rid of excess color, which can be a problem with lots of cotton fabrics.  I always get more material than is required so I can make up some extra items to go with my quilt - like pillowcases, cushions, a wall hanging, or other touches. I'll post some basic patterns that can be used for these (probably after we've done most of the work for the quilt top). The quilt pattern that I'll be introducing as part of this blog series is quite straightforward and a great beginner quilt! We'll get into it in the next blog post.  And finally. Normally, I like to go to my local market to get the materials. That way I can lay the fabric on top of each other to see if they go or mix and match with different types of plains and printed fabrics etc. Now, if you are able to do that (while staying safe and maintaining physical distancing etc.), then do that! But, if like me, going to the market physically is not possible, then there are plenty of online retailers you can use.  Here are some links to online stores I have found for shipping in India (and worldwide): 

  • Fabriclore - I purchased fabric from Fabriclore and LOVED it! They have a wonderful selection of fabrics. My shipment was delivered in record time, and the quality is pretty great! The colors didn't run in pre-wash either. Fabriclore also lets you buy smaller bits of fabric (0.5m) so you don't end up with a lot of fabric you don't have any use for (although, there is always a way to use up leftover fabric!)

  • Fabcurate - They have quite a range of cotton fabrics available which you can purchase as pre-cut pieces (less than 1m)

  • Sanskruti Store

  • Itokri

  • The Indian Ethnic Co.

  • etc.

Disclaimer: I haven't used all of these yet, so I can't FULLY endorse them, but they are rated well, and the fabric seems reasonably inexpensive, so it's definitely worth a try! The only drawback is that you may need to get at least 1m of the fabric, which could be more than you will need. Also, delivery dates could be delayed because of Coronavirus limitations.  Phew, that's quite a lot of information! In my next post, I will get into the details of a quilt pattern that is a great beginner's quilt.  Blessings, and happy quilting! 


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