I have heard so many people wonder if you can use quilting cotton to make clothes. I am here to tell you, YES you can!!! And it is so much fun. There are so many fun prints that will spice up your wardrobe. However, there are a few things to remember when using quilting cotton for clothing. I thought I would walk you through some and also share a printable you can save as a reference when you are preparing for a quilting cotton project. It will be linked below. I have made a lot of clothing from quilting cotton from a floral suit to dresses and pants. Here is a look at some of them. I also will share a sneaky tip for softening stiff fabric at the end….so keep reading.
Width of Fabric
The biggest challenge people seem to have is that they forget that most quilting cotton is made in narrow widths such as 44/45 inches wide instead of 54 inches wide like a lot of fashion fabric. Did you know that these wider widths are a relatively new thing? Just take a look at some vintage sewing patterns and you will see more narrow widths. For example, this Vogue 1027 pattern has pattern layouts and lengths for 35-inch wide fabric.
You can still get 48-inch wide fabric from Great Britain and 40 or 42 inch wide Indian Silks. So this tells us that garments absolutely can be sewn with narrow-width quilting cottons. Here is a conversion chart for different fabric widths I found on SEW4Home.
If you have a pattern that calls for 2 yards of 54-inch wide fabric you will easily know you need 2 yards of 44-45 inch fabric, the standard width for quilt cotton.
So we know we will need a longer length of fabric usually but another thing to think about is wide pattern pieces may not fit in the width. For example, wide skirts such as circle skirts will not fit. You will need to find a different style skirt or piece fabric together. This may not be a look you are going for or nap and grain may not make it plausible. Some patterns will not have a layout for these narrow fabrics so you will need to figure out how to lay them out yourself. I will tell you a secret… I never use the pattern layouts anyway. Most of the time you will use more fabric than needed as they don’t always lay out patterns in the most economical way. It may take you some practice on how to do this. If you want me to write about how I go about this please leave a comment below.
If you get quilting cotton at a store such as Walmart, and I’m not being a snob here, but it is gonna be of lesser quality of fabric than you would if you get it from a better quality fabric supplier. And this goes for all fabrics, not just cotton. When you are a new sewist you may not realize the difference but as you start to work with different fabrics you will start to recognize the quality of fabric. When I returned to sewing a few years ago I made the mistake of making a dress from Walmart quilting cotton. The dress was a fail because I did not make it long enough but also the fabric was of poor quality. It faded quickly, it did not feel good against my skin, it did not press well and its drape was not the best look for the dress. We will talk more about drape later. These fabrics are fine if you want to make a test or practice piece but you will want to move on to better quality quilting cotton.
I regularly buy from quilting shops online. I used The Fabric Snobs quilting cotton to make the floral suit in my above example, and my most recent project highlighted in this post can be found here. The pattern is McCalls 7937.
Check the Drape
For different projects, you will want a different drape. The drape is the way fabric lays against your body. You have fabrics that are fluid like chiffon, moderate like cotton, or voluminous like wool. Cotton usually classifies as a moderate drape however, different weights and quality cotton will have different drapes. I have noticed that cheaper cotton has a more stiff voluminous drape while higher quality has a more fluid drape. What you want or need will mostly depend on the project however, I would contend that for most everyday casual wear you will want less stiff cotton. For example, the dress that I used Walmart cotton on stuck out poorly at the seams instead of laying nicely down. Poor quality will only get worse after you wash it. It is easy to test the drape of the fabric place a piece of fabric on top of your arm or another surface to see how it looks when it falls.
Laundering and Shrinkage
I am sure even if you are a new sewist by now you have been told plenty of times to launder fabric before you sew it. Some people do this to get out harmful chemicals from dyes and the manufacturing process but all should do this to be sure that the fabric shrinks before you make a garment that will later possibly shrink and no longer fit after all your hard work. I will admit for some knits I will skip this step. I know, “do as I say not as I do”, however quilting cotton is a critical step. Cotton can shrink from 2-7%. Imagine making a form-fitting bodice before washing it and having it shrink. You may no longer fit into it. I have had that happen to me and it is heartbreaking after spending so much time making something. When pre laundering quilting cotton I always try to make it shrink as much as possible so I will wash on warm or hot and dry it in the dryer.
Now and then you will fall in love with a fabric that is too stiff and is not laying as nice as you would like. When you pre-launder your fabric put a can of Coke a Cola in the wash cycle. Yes, I know odd but it works. It won’t stain the fabric or anything else but it will help loosen the fibers slightly. If you want it to soften more you can soak it in coke before putting it in the washer.
See the link below for my Top Tips on Using Quilting Cotton for Sewing Clothing below.
Until Next Time! Please follow me on Instagram at www.Instagram.com/lovelyforlife1 and https://www.facebook.com/Lovelyforlifedesigns