You might be tempted to save a little money and purchase apparel fabric for your next quilting project. You may even want to purchase the apparel material because you like the pattern so much. Resist the urge. You know how the quilt your great-grandmother made 60 years ago is still intact, yet the one you made two years ago is already falling apart? It’s because of the fabric, most likely.
1. Thread Count
Right off the bat, quilting fabric has a higher thread count and this makes it stronger. Fabric for quilting projects should have at a minimum 60-by-60 threads. How you determine this is by the square. In other words, you want to purchase quilting fabric that is at least “60 square.” A higher square will leave you with a more durable fabric, so if you want your quilt to stand the test of time, go as high as you can.
The high thread count doesn’t just make the fabric stronger it also makes it easier with which to work. When working with a 60-plus square, you will find that your quilting fabric doesn’t beard as much. It also gives the quilt a silkier hand. In addition, if you’re a newbie to quilting – welcome – you’ll find the durable fabric feels better in your hands while you quilt.
You may have noticed that the colors and prints on your apparel fabric aren’t as bright as those on quilting fabric. This, too, is attributed in part to thread count. Fancy things such as yarn diameter, cotton filament, and cotton staple all combine to improve the fabric printing and dying process. You don’t have to know what these things are; you just have to know that they give you a more vibrant quilt.
When quilting fabric is manufactured, producers use more “screens,” or colors. This helps give the quilting fabric its complex “engravings,” if you will. The patterns can be more sophisticated with quilting material, because the material itself can stand up to the screening and flat bed process. This leads the material to a much better finish, which is the final reason you should purchase quilting fabric.
After printing, quilting fabric must endure a chemical bath to set the dye. Thicker thread counts mean there are more cotton fibers to absorb and hang onto the dye. Now you see why the colors and patterns are more vibrant on quilting fabric. If not done correctly, or done on a lower thread count, your colors and patterns are going to bleed, so, no you do not want to use apparel fabric for your next quilt.