How To: Quilt Fabric

Learn how to quilt fabric and add beautiful bespoke details to your products and garments. Quilting can be a wonderful way to update an item and take your sewing projects to the next level. Watch our corresponding YouTube tutorial for more details: How To: Quilt Fabric.

What fabric to quilt?
Start by thinking about the fabric you wish to quilt, this will depend on the project you are working on. It is possible to quilt a large variety of fabrics, such as cotton, poly cotton, upholstery, denim, wax cotton, leather, suede the list is truly endless.

Depending on the fabric you choose you will also need to make a decision as to whether you require wadding (batting)? Or whether you simply plan to quilt the fabric as a single layer? If the fabric is lightweight you may need support from interfacing or another fabric such as calico, lining, exterior fabric?

Think about what you want to achieve, the look you have planned for your garment or product and how much support your fabric needs. Test scraps of your fabric with different backings before you start, this should help with the decision making process; which option looks and performs the best.

Choose a wadding (batting) weight?
If you choose to work with wadding (batting) you will need to decide on the weight and material content (polyester, cotton, silk, wool). Generally speaking a thicker wadding will provide a stiffer finish to the project, this will depend on what you are making.

What materials do you need?
– Fabric
– Thread
– Wadding (optional)
– Backing Fabric (optional)

What quilting equipment do you require?
– Sewing Machine
– Scissors
– Pins
– Removable Pen, Chalk, Pencil
– Ruler, Tape Measure
– Walking Foot (optional)
– Safety Pins (optional)
– Craft Adhesive (optional)

What do you plan to quilt?
We recommend that you quilt your fabric BEFORE cutting it out in your desired pattern or shape. Quilting can shrink fabric and can be fiddly if you are quilting a small area. Therefore it is always best practise to quilt an area of fabric large enough for your pattern, plus a bit extra for shrinkage. Cut out a piece of fabric ready.

How do you draw quilting lines?
Start by drawing quilting lines onto the RIGHT side of the fabric (you wish to quilt). Using a removable pen or chalk, test this pen before use to check that it can be removed and will not damage the fabric you are working with.

We prefer to start drawing the quilting lines with a 45 degree angle, however you are welcome to start the lines where you desire (you do not have to work with a diagonal angle, you are welcome to quilt straight lines up and across the length of fabric). To achieve a 45 degree angle, position the ruler diagonally along the top edge of the fabric. Your ruler may have a 45 degree marking that you can work from, alternatively if you are working with a ruler similar to ours, simply position the diagonal lines of the inch (centimetre) markings onto the top edge of the fabric, make sure the diagonal line of the inch (centimetre) is straight along the fabric.

Once the ruler is lined up, draw your first line along the length of the ruler using a removable pen or chalk.

What size quilting lines?
It is also important to consider the size of the quiltings lines you desire. This is again a function and design decision, think about the look you want and the function of the item. Quilting lines closer together will provide more structure than those further apart.

Generally speaking the smallest quilting lines we use are 1/4″ (5mm), and the largest (we commonly use) are 1 1/2″ (4cm). However we have completed larger quilting lines for large projects, such as tote bags and garments.

Draw the next quilting line the chosen distance from the first line, onto the fabric. Use a ruler to measure this, the ruler we are working with in the images will allow you to line up the previously drawn line with the measurements on the ruler. This will provide a quick and easy method to draw lines the desired distance apart.

Complete all of the quilting lines in this direction.

How to draw quilting lines in the opposite direction?
To complete quilting lines in the opposite direction position the ruler so that the measurement markings on the ruler are parallel to the original lines. Ideally you want to draw squares with the quilting lines, (it doesn’t matter where you begin on the fabric).

TIP: If you are planning on completing lots of quilting I would recommend purchasing a similar ruler, they are very reasonable and we use them for everything in the studio; from pattern cutting to quilting.

If you are struggling to mark the quilting lines onto your fabric, check out our corresponding YouTube tutorial: How To: Quilt Fabric.

Once you have started drawing lines in the opposite direction, use the same method to continue drawing lines the desired distance apart across the piece of fabric.

Working with wadding (batting) or a backing fabric?
If you are working with wadding (batting) or another backing fabric you will need to position this onto the WRONG side of the fabric. The main fabric must be RIGHT side facing up when sewing, so that you can see the lines you drew previously.

Place the wadding (batting) onto the WRONG side of the fabric. You are welcome to place another layer of fabric underneath the wadding (batting) as a lining, however it will depend on the project you are working with. The majority of the time we work with the main fabric and a layer of wadding (batting), so that the lining can be added at a later stage of product construction, this will neatly hide seam allowances.

If you are working with wadding (batting), or an alternative backing fabric, cut the fabric or wadding (batting) larger than the main fabric. Quilting can shrink as well as move the fabric slightly, you want to be certain that the backing fabric or wadding (batting) will cover the whole piece of fabric when you are finished quilting.

Leave approximately 1/2″ (1cm) of backing fabric or wadding (batting) around ALL of the edges.

Pin the layers together using pins. Alternatively use safety pins to hold the layers together, safety pins work well on larger areas of quilting to stop shifting of the layers. You will need to remove the pins or safety pins when sewing.

Alternatively use a repositionable craft adhesive. Check the instructions on your product, spray the adhesive onto the WRONG side of the fabric. Place the fabric onto scrap paper or newspaper to protect your work surface.

Position the fabric onto the wadding (batting) or backing fabric. Reposition if required to make sure that the backing fabric or wadding (batting) is at least 1/2″ (1cm) larger than the fabric around ALL of the edges.

How to sew quilting lines?
We would recommend using a walking foot on your sewing machine, this will help to move the layers of fabric through the sewing machine, preventing unnecessary shifting and creating an even, beautiful stitch. You will find it easier, but it is not a requirement.

Start by stitching down a CENTRAL drawn line on the fabric, stitch down the other lines working outwards, towards the edges of the fabric. Stitch all of the lines in the SAME direction. Both of these techniques will aid to prevent shifting of the fabric layers.

Work with a back stitch or lock stitch at the start and end of the stitching row. Keep the back stitch to a minimum 2-3 stitches forwards and backwards. Trim threads regularly as they are easily caught up in rows of stitching.

We are working with a dark thread in the tutorial, so that you can see the stitching. You are welcome to work with an inconspicuous or visible thread depending on the look you require.

What stitch length should I use?
Generally speaking you will be able to work with a standard 2.5mm stitch length. However if you are working with a thick fabric or heavy wadding you may wish to use a longer stitch length so that the stitches are visible and pleasant to the eye. I would recommend testing this.

Once you have sewn all of the lines in one direction. Start sewing the lines in the opposite direction.

As before, start sewing on a line in the middle of the piece of fabric, and sew all of the lines in the same direction. Both of these techniques will help to prevent shifting. Work from the middle out to both edges.

Once you have finished sewing, trim any remaining threads.

Trim off the excess wadding (batting), or backing fabric. Cut around the fabric edge.

Now your fabric is ready to work with. Take your pattern piece and position it onto your quilted fabric, you may like to think about the placement of the quilting lines onto the pattern or template you are working with. Remember to work with your pattern as normal; true and measure the grainline of the pattern to the fabric.

I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial and learned some new tips and techniques that you can use in future projects.