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We’re going on almost a decade of appreciation for Erin Burke Harris’ quilting and sewing! Erin shares her work at House on Hill Road and has a new book out published by Stash Books, QuiltEssential: A Visual Directory of Contemporary Patterns, Fabrics, and Colors.

QuiltEssential is a reference for planning and designing the quilts of your dreams! It’s not a pattern book but rather focuses on the process of quilting, from selecting your fabrics and getting the most out of that fabric to quilting techniques and more.

From the publisher:

    Got a question about quilting? Whether you want to know how to choose colors for your quilt, how many squares or triangles you can cut from the fabric you have, how to mix and match quilt blocks, or the difference between French quilting and sashiko— you’ll find the answers in Erin Burke Harris’ quick-reference directory of contemporary fabrics, colors, designs, and quilting techniques. Includes helpful photos, charts, and tables help you make your own design choices; guides to quilt settings, piecing styles, color combinations, and fabrics; and bonus profiles of popular contemporary quilters and their quilting journeys.

Erin joins us today with some great tips for moving beyond quilting cotton to incorporate different fabrics in your quilting. Step outside the box with linen, velveteen, denim and more! We also have a QuiltEssential giveaway! (North America addresses only this time, please.) Just fill us in on your quilting plans in the comments below for your chance to win. What’s your next quilting endeavor? Do you have a specific block you’re mulling over, or a new pattern to try? Do you have a work in progress or are you thinking of starting your very first quilt?

Quilting with Different Fabrics

Most of us quilters gravitate towards one type of fabric: quilting cotton. And, really, why wouldn’t we? It’s readily available in small shops and bigger stores, it comes in thousands of prints and colors and is a very durable, practical choice. It has a crisp hand that presses nicely and is very easy to sew by machine and by hand. No wonder we all love and stash it!

Sometimes it’s fun to think outside the box or off a different bolt, in this case. I’m talking about quilting with fabrics other than quilting cotton. Many other cotton substrates and even fibers other than cotton will work well in quilts. All you need is a little knowledge about various fabrics and how to handle them before you start cutting and sewing. Combining different fabrics and fibers in one quilt will give it amazing texture and depth. Just keep in mind that mixing different fabrics of similar weights will give you the best results. If you choose to use different weight fabrics, testing them together is a good idea. This will give you the opportunity to increase your seam allowance or stabilize the fabric before you even begin. Likewise, when combining different fibers in one quilt, it is advisable to pre-wash everything first. This will take care of shrinkage and help reduce dye bleeding.

Here’s a rundown of some good candidates for quilt fabrics and some little sewing and care tips to ensure you get great results.

1. Voile + Cotton Lawn
Do you love Liberty of London prints and silky voiles? Both of these fibers work well in quilts. The soft hand and beautiful drape of voiles and lawns makes very lightweight and cozy quilts. They fabrics are often wider (54” to 60”) than standard quilting cotton and come in a variety of solid colors and prints. When quilting with these cotton fabrics, use sharp, thin pins and a microtex needle to produce the smallest holes possible and to avoid slipping.

2. Corduroy
Corduroy’s inherent ridges and nap make it a great choice if you want to add subtle texture to a quilt. Small wale corduroy works best, as larger ridges produce bulkier seams. Made of cotton, corduroy is soft to the touch and comes in all kinds of colors. It can creep when you sew it, so make certain to use pins and possibly a walking foot when piecing corduroy.

3. Denim
This workhorse cotton fabric is extremely durable and will hold up to heavy use. You can buy it straight off the bolt or repurpose used denim jeans and clothing for use in quilts. And these days, you can find it all kinds of colors, not just blue! When sewing quilts with denim, it’s a good idea to use a denim needle in your machine and a larger (1/2”) seam allowance to help with raveling. Also, pressing seams open will reduce their bulk.

4. Linen
Many modern quilters use linen in their quilts with great success. This woven fabric has a more pronounced texture than quilting cotton, but feels good to the touch and softens with use and washing. It’s wonderful for patchwork piecing, but can stretch and ravel more than quilting cotton. Cutting linen with the grain and using spray starch as a stabilizer will help make it easier to handle. Loosely woven linens aren’t ideal for quilts, but can be used successfully with a larger (1/2”) seam allowance and pre-laundering for shrinkage.

5. Silk
The subtle sheen and soft hand of silk gives it a luxurious feel. It is also a very durable and warm fabric that makes it a wonderful choice when quilting. Silk’s bright colors and beautiful prints will add visual and textural interest to your quilts. Woven silks such as dupioni silk, Habotai (China) silk and raw silk (silk noil) can all be used in patchwork most successfully. Like voiles and lawns, you will need to use a new, sharp microtex needle and fine, sharp pins to avoid large holes in the fabric. You can also choose to stabilize the fabric with a lightweight interfacing if necessary. Or use silk for string quilts and other piecing methods that use a muslin foundation. Prewash silk in the manner in which you will launder the quilt in the future. As most silk is dyed, it is important to test for color fastness.

6. Velveteen
This napped, cotton fabric is silky and soft to the touch. Made from cotton, it is machine washable, making it a great choice for quilts. It will shrink so pre-washing is advised. To avoid ruining the nap, place a terry cloth towel on your ironing board and place the velveteen face down and press from the wrong side. When sewing, you may want to lessen the pressure on your presser foot or use a walking foot to prevent the nap from being smashed.

7. Wool
Naturally breathable and a good insulator, wool is a great choice for durable and warm quilts. It’s readily available in a wide variety of rich colors and patterns, as well as various weights. The biggest downfall to quilting with wool is that it will shrink and felt when subjected to steam and hot water. The best way to deal with this is to wash the quilt in cold water and hang to dry. You will also need to use a pressing cloth and low heat when pressing wool or you may want to try a seam roller instead.

Learn more from Erin in QuiltEssential: A Visual Directory of Contemporary Patterns, Fabrics, and Colors!