Cotton vs Quilting Cotton: What Is Quilting Cotton Fabric?

Even within the same fabric fibers, there are many differences. Those differences help define the material and give each style a sense of purpose. For quilting cotton, its purpose is to keep people warm without having to worry about looking good all the time.

What is quilting cotton fabric? One of the biggest differences between these two cotton materials is that quilting cotton is supposed to outlast you. It is made from a plain weave yet held to the highest production standards possible. Then it is woven in a tight even manner with a medium to high thread count.

To learn more about quilting cotton just continue to read our article. It has the information you want to know about so you can make the right choices when it comes to using cotton fabrics in your projects. Take a few moments and learn all about this important quilt additive.

What is Quilting Cotton Fabric?

One thing is for sure, it is still cotton material made from natural cotton fibers and generally, it is always made from 100% cotton fibers. Then the thread count is a little higher than regular cotton materials but lower than the count found in cotton bedding.

When making quilting cotton the manufacturers do a test run on inferior fabrics to get all the bugs out and make sure the real print run produces top quality results. Where quilting cotton fails is in the drape. it is supposed to be inferior to the drape most regular cotton fabrics have.

This fabric is made for quilts and not clothing items which also sets it apart from regular cotton materials. Plus, it is not designed to be washed frequently. That makes it difficult to use for regular clothing especially clothing for children. Then the material is not durable when turned into clothing.

Are Quilting Fabrics 100% Cotton?


If there are different fabrics used for quilts, the stores are not saying they sell them. There is a possibility that you can get quilting fabric in other fibers other than cotton but we have not found any. Only inferences that this may be so.

All the stores and websites we researched, only sold 100% cotton quilting fabric. JoAnn’s was one of them as were other online discount fabric stores. There is a reason why this is so.

First, it is easy to work with, and second, cotton likes to stick to itself which is helpful when you are basting or doing other sewing activities. Third, cotton presses well, and fourth it breathes well.

In addition to all of that, you will find 100% quilting cotton just about anywhere. All the stores seem to carry it and chances are it will always be in stock. It is soft and comfortable as well, making it ideal to keep you warm.

Quilting Cotton vs Regular Cotton

Depending on who you listen to quilting cotton seems to be produced according to the highest standards possible. Others don't agree with that thinking but they may have bought the inferior runs at a local discount store and not the good stuff.

Quilting cotton is a bit stiffer than regular cotton and it is not supposed to be washed that often. Plus, the former material may be very high-end quality losing out to regular cotton only in the draping department.

The way the threads are spun and then woven are usually in the best way possible so that you are getting the best material for your quilts. Then quilting cotton may only come in the 40 to 45-inch width size while regular cotton tends to come in a variety of widths when sold by the bolt or by the yard.

Quilting cotton may not be as durable as regular cotton when turned into a clothing item but it will last for about a year or so under normal conditions.

When to Use Quilting Cotton

The obvious answer is when you want to make a very top-quality quilt that will last for generations. But that is not the only time you can use this material. You can use it to make clothing items out of it and it will work for that.

The problem when you do that is that the drape may not be as good as regular cotton. You are getting a very good fabric when you buy the high-end quilting fabric =so it will make a nice dress, skirt, or another article of clothing when paired with the right pattern.

Making pillows out of this material is also a good project to work on. Those pillows should last you a long time and they should be comfortable to sleep on or just rest against. Pajamas are another good option as the material is warm and soft.

You actually have a lot of uses for this material outside of turning it into a quilt.

The Thread Count of Quilting Cotton


Why people talk about thread count so much is because the number of threads used in a fabric influences the quality and the weight of the material. The thread count is defined as the number of threads in a square inch.

Then when it comes to quilting cotton, the thread count is generally higher than in other cotton materials except for bedding. The actual number is 68 by 68 threads per square inch making it a high-quality fabric to use.

A material having 60 by 60 threads per square inch is usually seen as too light for quilts. The problem with a high thread count is that the weave is very tight making it harder for hand quilters to sew the seams etc.

The evenness of the thread count, 68 by 68, makes working with this material a lot easier. The reason for saying that is that the material will have the same amount of giving in all directions.

How Much Does Quilting Cotton Weigh?

This will depend a lot on the thread count in the fabric. But generally, a heavy-weight piece of fabric will weigh in the neighborhood of 6 ounces. A lighter quilting cotton yard of fabric may weigh around 4 to 5 ounces.

Again, it will depend on the thread count in the material. The lower the thread count, the lower the weight. The higher the thread count the heavier the material will weigh. Then you have the problem of where did the yard of fabric come from.

What that means is that if you cut off a yard of material it may weigh only 5 1/2 ounces but it comes from a bolt of cloth that weighed in at 6 ounces per square yard. In other words, the weight of the cloth may not be the actual weight of the cloth because it is smaller than it should be.

Sometimes it is best just to go by thread count and not weight when you want to judge the quality of the quilting cotton.

How to Identify Quilting Cotton

The label will tell you what is inside the package but that would be cheating a little bit. When you have two identical-looking pieces of cotton next to each other, you would have to find different ways to tell them apart.

Quilting cotton will be a bit heavier than regular cotton. Since there are more threads in the former material, the weight will be greater. Then your fingers should be able to tell the difference between top-quality quilting fabrics and other versions of cotton material.

There is a distinct feel that sets it apart from those other versions. Next, you can check the drape of the material. If it does not drape the same then the one with the worst type of drape should be the quilting cotton.

The burn test will only tell you if the material is 100% cotton or not. It won’t distinguish between different types of cotton materials.

Does Quilting Cotton Shrink?


Yes, quilting cotton does shrink as almost all cotton fibers shrink. Being a natural fiber, they can loosen up quite easily when the heat gets a little too high for them. Pre-washing is a must even with quilting cotton.

But how much they shrink depends on the type of cotton used to make that quilting variety. Some will only shrink up to 3%. That means that if your quilting cotton piece is 100 inches expect it to come out at roughly 97 inches when the laundry is done.

Wash in cold water for cleaning but if you want to remove the shrink so you do not have to worry about the size when you are quilting, wash in warmer temperatures and put the material in the dryer.

Your shrink rate may differ depending on the quality of the fabric you have purchased. Expect more shrinkage in lower quality cotton materials than in the higher forms.

Can Quilting Cotton be Washed in Hot Water?

According to one quilting store, some manufacturers only state you should wash the material in cold water, use a low dryer heat, and then the gentle cycle in both. other manufacturers excluded using the dryer, the iron, and absolutely no heat.

So it is best to err on the side of what the manufacturers say. that way you are protected in case anything goes wrong. The reasons you pre-wash are not limited to getting all the shrinkage out.

You do not know what has come in contact with the fabric so washing before sewing makes sure all bacteria, germs and other contaminants are removed before you handle it. Another reason to do it is to remove any chemicals the manufacturer has placed on the material.

Then you want to work with a nice soft even material to make sewing easier as well as keep the fabric nice and smooth. You can avoid that antique puckered look. Prewashing is a good idea and can put your mind at ease.

How Much does Quilting Cotton Shrink?

There is no set limit on this issue. Plus, no control switch cuts off the shrink rate when the material has reached a certain amount. So your results will depend on any number of factors.

First, if the material was pre-washed by the manufacturer before it was shipped out. Second, the quality of the material will determine how much the cotton will shrink. Third, how you wash it and on what cycle you use.

Some quilting cotton will only shrink up to 3%. Others may do more and still more will do less. Once you get all the shrinkage out of the material, you should be able to sew with ease knowing your quilt will not lose its shape.

The best thing to tell you is to be careful when you do your pre-wash as you never know how much material will disappear. Always buy a little bit more fabric than you need to cover yourself when shrink rates do not co-operate.

How to Soften Quilting Cotton


One way to soften quilting cotton is to wash and dry it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The water and the drying action should get those stiff fibers to soften up some.

Or you can soak the material in your washer filled with water and about 1/2 cup of fabric softener. Then leave the fabric in that solution for the night The reason you want to wash first though, is that the different chemicals added at the manufacturing plant have created the stiffness.

You want to get rid of those chemicals that you can in order to soften up the material. if you do not want to use more chemicals to soften up the material, you can make your own homemade fabric softener and leave the chemicals out.

All you do is mix 3 cups of water, 1 cup of vinegar, and 1/2 cup of regular hair conditioner. Then mix those ingredients and you have yourself some safe fabric softener to use.

Can Quilting Cotton be Used for Clothing?

Yes, quilting cotton can be used for clothing, and depending on the quality of the cotton material, those clothes may or may not last. One sewer reported that when they did this, the clothing they made lasted for just over a year. Not long by any standards.

Other sewers have used high-quality quilting cotton to make their clothes and theirs lasted for a longer period. The main concern in using this material for making clothes is the drape. Quilting cotton is not known for having great draping ability.

It does have a high thread count so that will make the material a little more durable but the look of the clothing may be a bit on the dull side. Another drawback would be the washing side of things.

Quilting cotton is not made to be washed a lot and you wash clothing a lot. The result after several turns in the washing machine is having distressed-looking clothing.

Can You Use Quilting Cotton for Curtains?

There is no real reason why you can’t. But hanging any material in the window may produce some sun fade. To avoid that from taking place, you should add a lining to those curtains.

The lining should be washable and fit the material. The lining is needed as quilting cotton may not block the light effectively enough. Having lining in those curtains makes sure that it does.

Then you can benefit from all the different colors and designs quilting cotton comes in. You broaden your choices and the look you bring to any room you place them in. Plus, you could match the curtains to the quilt just by buying a little extra material.

And, you may be able to pick this material up when it goes on sale. That way you save a little money while getting a pattern or color you really enjoy.

Can You Embroidery On Quilting Cotton?


Yes, you can and it may be one of the best materials to use when you are going to embroider on your quilt. The reason for this thinking is that quilting cotton is heavier than other materials and it is better at holding the embroidery threads.

As long as the material is woven, this is a very good option to use. Just make sure to use cotton thread, especially if the item will end up in the microwave at some point in its existence.

Quilting thread has a nice tight weave to it and the extra threads per square inch make it an ideal fabric to use when you want to do some embroidery on your quilt. But this option is up to you and you do not have to use quilting cotton if you do not want to. Explore all options so your quilt turns out the way you want it to look. Creativity is a good influence at times.

Does Quilting Cotton Bleed?

Yes, quilting cotton can bleed and this is one of the reasons why you pre-wash the material. Pre-washing will get the excess dye out of the material but it won’t prevent that bleed later on. Darker colors may bleed more than lighter ones so make sure to separate the cotton fabrics and wash dark colors with like colors.

Light colors do not necessarily bleed but why take the chance. Make sure to wash them in similar colors just in case. Use a cooler water temperature as well. How much these materials will bleed depends on the amount of dye and other factors used in creating the quilting cotton.

Besides bleeding, you should pre-wash quilting material to get rid of the many chemical coatings manufacturers put on those materials. The removal of the chemicals helps make handling the material a lot easier to do and softens up the fabric.

Does Quilting Cotton Need to be Prewashed?


There are reasons why you should pre-wash this material. We have stated those reasons earlier. But here they come again. First, you need to remove the shrinkage unless you want that antique puckered look.

Second, the different chemicals are removed making the fabric softer to work with and easier on the hands. If the material gets too soft, you can always add as much starch as you want to stiffen it up again.

Third, the fabric remains smooth and even when you pre-wash. That makes matching up with other materials a lot better and has them remain the same shape for a long time.

Fourth, since fabrics shrink at different rates this is a way to make them all equal and fit together a lot better. Finally, pre-washing removes a lot of the excess dye used in creating the patterns and colors.

Some people have created reasons why you should not pre-wash. The first one is that unwashed fabrics press better than washed ones. It also is supposed to sew better. Second. washing after the quilt is finished helps you obtain that antique look you may admire and want.

A weaker reason is that the logic goes that the finished version will never be washed so why take the time to do it before it is completed? A final reason why you do not have to pre-wash is it takes some time to do this chore and that is time you could use making the quilt.

But those reasons actually pale when you use the best reason to pre-wash quilting cotton. You do not know where the material has been or what thing or animal has touched it before your purchase. It is always good to pre-wash just to remove the germs and bacteria from the material.

Some Final Words

Quilting cotton has its advantages over regular cotton. It is usually a higher quality material with a higher thread count. Also, it is made to meet higher standards of production.

Its main weakness is that it doesn't drape well and while you can use it for clothing it is not the best option for those projects.

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