12 Differences Between Quilting Fabric and Apparel Fabric

Many fabrics advertise they are designed for certain projects but when you get to the store and start comparing material, you see there is little difference between the fabrics. It hap[pens as manufacturers use advertising to broaden their sales yet do not change the fabrics they sell.

There are two big differences between quilting fabric and apparel fabric. One is that quilting material is usually made from a plain weave while clothing fabric is made from all kinds of different weaves. Two, quilting fabric is generally made from 100% cotton and clothing fabric has a variety of fibers creating it.

To learn more about the differences between these two types of fabrics, just continue to read our article. It explores the issue so you can save time and find the right fabric for your upcoming sewing project.

What's Quilting Fabric?


Basically, quilting fabric is 100% cotton material that has been given a plain weave. Its purpose is not to create a fashion statement, or to look good outdoors but to keep you warm at night when the evenings become a bit chilly.

You can find quilting fabric in a variety of cotton styles like cotton flannel, cotton voile, cotton decorated fabric, and linen but the standard go-to material is and always has been 100% cotton.

Then the material is neither light nor heavyweight and according to Goldilocks, it is just right. The usual weight for a good quilting weight is medium. Also, this weight allows for the quilt to be washed often without ruining it.

On top of that, quilting fabric is said to be very beginner-friendly. Those starting in sewing will have an easier time using it than apparel fabric. its drawback is that this material can wrinkle a lot and very easily. You may find that you are ironing it more than other apparel materials.

Can You Use Quilting Fabric for Clothing?

Yes, you can use quilting fabric for clothing but the quilting fabric you use must meet the same requirements that apparel fabric must meet. First off, you have to look at the quality of the fabric. Will it be durable, strong, and hold together well.

Second, you need to see if the pattern is okay to use in clothing projects. Not everyone is comfortable wearing a quilting pattern to the mall or school. Then not all quilting material is good for all clothing options.

A batik is said to be good for tunics but the real batik is said to be very stiff. Fourth, the next thing you have to do is look at how well the quilting fabric will drape. Not many drape well so you may be out of luck with a favorite quilting fabric that you want to turn into a nice dress.

If the garment you are making is very structured, then the stiffer quilting fabric may be ideal for those types of projects. You are going to have to use your best judgment on this and make the call yourself.

Using Quilting Fabric for Clothes


As we were just explaining, this is something that you will have to consider yourself as you know who is going to wear the clothing item and what is the purpose behind using this style of material over apparel fabric.

The purpose will have lots to say about if it can be used effectively or not and you are going to have to consider the drape of the material. You do not want to embarrass yourself or a family member but making them something to wear that will get them laughed out of school.

There are special circumstances where quilting material is a lot better to use than apparel fabric and you need to well aware of those circumstances. A medium weight fabric, which is what quilting fabric normally comes in, is not good for a lightweight fabric’s temperature zone.

One of the dangers of using quilting fabric for clothing is that the finished item often looks bulky and very homemade. That is a look that is not that flattering to most figures.

How is Quilting Fabric Different?

It is just the basics that make the fabric different from apparel fabric. How the fabric is woven, what fibers are used to create it, if the dye is actually dyed on or printed on, and so on.

First off, the plain weave is the simplest weave of all and it does not have much stretch to it. When woven into its medium weight size the breathing factor goes down somewhat so you are looking to this fabric to keep you nice and warm.

Then the patterns given to quilting fabric while cute, don't always translate into a good pattern for fashion-conscious people. But that concern is more subjective than objective. There is no accounting for some people’s taste at times.

The drape is going to be your biggest concern as quilting fabric is not made for draping at all. It is made to lie there and look good while performing its warmth and comfort duties.

The feel of the fabric may be a bit different as well as some quilting fabrics are quite stiff and clothing fabric is quite flexible for the most part.

Difference Between Quilting Fabric and Apparel Fabric

Category Quilting fabric Apparel fabric
Origin usually the cotton or flax plants from both natural and synthetic fibers
Weight generally a medium weight covers all the categories of weight
Weave plain weave a variety of weaves including knit
Ease of use very easy can be quite difficult at times and generally harder than quilting fabric
Care wrinkles easily and needs lots of ironing can wrinkle easily and needs ironing and it doe snot wrinkle and doe snot need ironing
Stretch basically no stretch to it at all some materials can stretch while others cannot
Size usually found in the 44 inch width only can range from 36 to 60 inches wide
Comfort can be stiff but very comfortable can be soft, comfortable, smooth as well as a bit rough
Drape does not drape well for the most part drapes very well
Look can look homemade quite quickly can look perfect for a princess or a plumber, etc
Style more for casual wear than anything else good for any occasion or any level of wear from dirty to formal
Pattern can look great when on the bolt but turning it into clothing can be a source for headaches a variety of patterns that look good no matter what

Can Quilting Fabric be Used for Curtains?


There is no reason why you can’t. After all, all fabric is good for many of the same types of sewing projects you have planned. If you find the right quilting material that drapes well and you add a nice lining then your curtains should look good.

Also, quilting fabric may be the perfect material to hang up in your getaway cabin up in the woods. It may not be the best material for a mansion but it will work in some homes in between the two residences.

This will be your call as well as many sewers have had great success in turning good quilting fabrics into nice drapery. it is a great option to match your bedding, curtains, shams, etc., and give your bedroom a nice consistent look.

If you like that country look, then go for it. Nothing is stopping you from experimenting and broadening your sewing skills or creativity. It is a good option especially if the quilting fabric is cheaper by the yard than normal drapery fabrics.

Can Quilting Fabric be Used for Upholstery?

It is possible and you may get away with using this material for your furniture but before you jump on the bandwagon, maybe you should look at the situation upholstery fabric has to work in.

First, it is very visible. It is the first thing your guests will notice when they enter the rooms of your house that have this style of furniture. Second, it is the fabric that will get the most wear and tear and you have to decide if quilting fabric is tough enough to handle that amount of use.

Third, there is what is called the double rub factor when upholstery fabric is made. That material needs to have a score of 25,000 in this category for it to be of fairly good material to be used for furniture. A score of 53,000 and above means the material will last you for decades.

Fourth, can the quilting material handle pets? This is a question those pet owners need to ask before they rush out and buy the cheaper quilting fabric. If you have no pets or the piece of furniture is not going to be used a lot, then you might be able to get away with using quilting fabric.

Finally, natural fibers like 100% cotton are very appealing to the eye but their durability factor is very low. Once you examine all the requirements it may be best to avoid using quilting fabric instead of upholstery material for your furniture.

Can You Use Quilting Fabric for Cushions?


Yes, you can use quilting fabric for cushions but it will depend on the type of cushions you are thinking about using the material on. Cushions are often associated with those removable sections of your lover, seat, sofa, or easy chair while some people use that term to describe pillows for furniture or other types of pillows.

If it is the former, then read the section on upholstery again and see if the material you want to use will meet those rigid standards and circumstances. If the sofa, etc., is in a high-use area of your home most likely you should stick to upholstery fabric and save the quilting material for other projects.

But if you are going to use the material for pillows, a.k.a. cushions, then it is a great way to match the design of the comforter you have on your bed or the different beds in your home.

It should also save you some money as quilting fabric should be cheaper than upholstery fabric or high-end materials like Egyptian cotton, silk, and so on.

Is Quilting Fabric 100 Cotton?

Generally, and we use that word as there are always exceptions to the rule when it comes to fabrics, yes it is. 100% cotton is the best material to use for quilts as it is a nice weight, can breathe, easy to care for, and comes in a variety of colors and patterns.

Sometimes 100% cotton can bleed on you so be careful how you wash it. Cotton decorating fabric is also used and it is heavier than 100% cotton and comes with a sateen finish. The issue with this option is that it does not drape well so it is not a good choice for matching curtains, etc.

You can find quilting material made out of linen but it may be a little more expensive than all the cotton varieties you can use. Also, the open weave allows for unraveling to take place.

Then there is cotton flannel, a popular choice for those who like making baby quilts. Its main attribute is that it is very soft and cuddly. Finally, you can use voile cotton if you want a more lightweight quilt option. It can also be combined with other quilting fabrics to keep the weight down.

Is Quilting Fabric Tightly Woven?


The best answer is that it can be. it is tighter than the open weave of many linen materials you can buy. The plain weave style does help hinder raveling from taking place so it is not a bad weave to use in quilts.

Then there is no one style of plain weave. it is very adaptable and can be woven in different textures and forms. That means that you can add more tension or remove some that exists between the warp and weft design.

Or you can use various counts of yarn and on it goes. When making a quilt you are looking at having the end result look good and to be able to keep you warm. The plain weave can be adjusted to meet those objectives.

All you have to do is compare the quilting material you want to use and make sure it is tight or open enough for what you have in mind. A plain weave is an excellent option when you are not looking to have any stretch included in your sewing project.

Is Quilting Fabric Thick and Heavy?

No, or at least it shouldn’t be. Heavyweight materials include upholstery, canvas, brocade, poplin, denim, and more fabrics. The heavier the fabric the thicker it will be. Generally quilting material is a medium weight.

While thicker and heavier than lightweight fabrics, quilting material is still flexible, can be breathable, soft, and very comfortable. It is also durable enough to handle frequent washing and should not fall apart on you if everything was done right.

Heavyweight materials may be too thick and inflexible to work as a quilt except for denim. But it will depend a lot on where you live in the country and those areas that get extreme cold weather may have you thinking of using those heavier fabrics.

For the most part, sticking with the medium weight should have you covered even in those extreme areas of the country. The choice is up to you and you should stick to what works best in your home.

What Weight is Quilting Fabric?


As we have mentioned throughout this article, quilting fabric is a medium weight. it seems to be the ideal weight to use as the material remains soft, comfortable, and easy to manage. Plus, they are easier to keep clean than heavyweight materials and do not come with the same laundry concerns as lightweight fabrics come with.

The medium weight in quilting is like the Goldilocks factor in the fairy tale. It is just right. Plus, that makes it easier to sew with as you do not have the hassle of trying to keep it where it needs to be when you are sewing with your machine.

And it is not so heavy that you need help maneuvering it to get the stitches just right. That makes it the perfect weight to work with. This weight is also durable and strong enough to handle the many washings you must do if the quilt gets too dirty.

What Does Quilting Fabric Look Like?

That is the wonderful thing about having 100% cotton as quilting fabric. It comes in so many brilliant and not so brilliant colors that you can mix and match without clashing for years.

If that isn’t enough for you quilting fabrics come in a variety of designs, patterns, and creative or cute looks that you will have no end to the options you can use. The only problem that comes in is that often those colorful designs and patterns look great on the bolt but not so great when you get it home and spread it out.

Some discernment will be needed and you can’t always go with what looks good to you if you are giving the quilt away to someone else. This is going to be your hardest decision in quilt making. Everyone’s tastes are not the same and what looks good to you may be appalling to someone else.

Quilting Fabric vs Flannel


There is no real competition here as both materials are usually made from 100% cotton. There are some wool and synthetic flannels but all versions are generally soft, and comfortable like a quilt should be.

The key to this is that 100% cotton quilting material will shrink on you and to avoid that with flannel, you would need a blend or 100% synthetic fiber in the flannel fabric.

Flannel can be mixed with other fabrics when quilting making it an ideal option to be more creative in the look of your project. If you stick with 100% cotton, you have to be careful that the dye does not bleed out in the wash and waste all your hard work.

When you really want to have a soft, cuddly quilt then you should go with the flannel material. It is perfect for those cold nights in front of a fire and you are trying to unwind from the day.

Does Quilting Fabric Need to be Prewashed?

It is not mandatory to do this but in the long run, it is probably the better decision to make. Pre-washing removes shrinkage and helps defend against color bleed. Cotton will shrink on you and the darker colors tend to bleed and ruin the look of your finished quilt.

On top of that, all cotton fabrics do not shrink the same. That is partially due to the chemicals placed on the material and the quality of the cotton used to make that fabric.

Then there is the chemical factor. many quilting fabrics are treated by the manufacturers to prevent sizing issues, shrinkage, along other chemicals. if you have a problem with those additives then you should pre-wash the quilting material and get rid of them.

If you like taking chances then maybe you can avoid pre-washing the material but we would not recommend you taking that chance.

Some Final Words

There are some differences between quilting fabric and apparel materials and while you can use the latter for the former, the reverse is not always so. You have to be careful in using quilting material as apparel fabric because of the nature of the material.

However, you are free to use quilting fabric in any manner you deem worthy. Your results, durability, and look just may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

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