26 May 2021

Five Tips for Sewing Clothing with Quilting Cotton

Five tips for sewing clothing with quilting cotton

The pretty prints beckon... the cute colours call to you... sometimes their allure is just too strong to resist. Yes, we're talking quilting cottons.

Quilting cottons - or just "medium weight cottons" - are often used for home and accessory sewing. They come in an array of beautiful designs and quirky prints, and - crucially - tend to feel stiff and hold their shape, rather than hanging softly. This stiffness puts many stitchers off using quilting cotton for sewing clothing, but if you embrace this kind of fabric for a perfectly paired project, the result can be gorgeous! 

So when is it okay to use quilting cotton for sewing apparel? Of course part of this comes down to personal preference, but the guidelines I tend to follow are these:

Five tips for sewing clothing with quilting cotton

1. Determine how much drape or body your project needs

Quilting cottons tend to have quite a lot of body to them, so won't cling or flow over your curves. I learnt the hard way in my early days of sewing that quilting cottons make super crisp blouses that stand away from your body - which works well for some designs, but not so well for others.

Five tips for sewing clothing with quilting cotton
While they don't work so well for garments you want a bit of drape or flow for, this feature can be an asset for certain projects. Quilting cottons are perfect for our beginner-friendly Jaimie pyjama bottoms and shorts (which comes in size UK 6-24 or UK 16-34), and because you wear them indoors, you can go wild with your fabric choices!

Five tips for sewing clothing with quilting cotton

A-line skirts can also work nicely in this kind of material as they hold the bold structure well. Our Miette skirt (comes in sizes UK 6-20) needs a bit of body to hold the gorgeous shape, so quilting cottons can work beautifully for a summery version.

Five tips for sewing clothing with quilting cotton
Five tips for sewing clothing with quilting cotton

Other lovely skirt options that work with this wonderful fabric are the Clemence skirt (comes in sizes UK 6-20) from Love at First Stitch and the easy-peasy Dominique skirt (comes in sizes UK 6-24), and both are also great for beginners - yippee!

Five tips for sewing clothing with quilting cotton

2. Avoid projects with sleeves

I'm not saying it should never be done, but personally, I wouldn't sew sleeves in quilting cotton - unless they aren't too close-fitting. Armholes and sleeves need to be flexible enough to allow you to move your arms and shoulders comfortably, and quilting cottons could make this annoyingly uncomfortable. If you are working on a statement sleeve with volume, however, quilting cotton can help you achieve the dramatic effect you're after!

Try making the sleeveless version of the Francoise dress in quilting cotton - it's a great shape for showing off a bright and bold print.

Five tips for sewing clothing with quilting cotton

3. Be realistic about what prints you are likely to wear

I must admit I can happily spend hours playing an unconscious game with myself of find-the-quirkiest-fabric-imaginable while browsing online fabric shops. But before you buy 3 metres of that squirrel print fabric, ask yourself honestly whether you will wear a squirrel print dress. If you will, great! But it's worth considering whether you'd get more use out of a make up bag or cushion, for example. 

Five tips for sewing clothing with quilting cottonFive tips for sewing clothing with quilting cotton

Or, get a little hint of this fun print in your outfit with our FREE detachable collar pattern. This cute collar will bring a pop of personality to your outfit, and allow you to choose that print your heart desires :)

Lined Delphine skirt - sewing pattern in Love at First Stitch
Five tips for sewing clothing with quilting cotton

4. Consider adding a lining

Adding a silky lining underneath the cotton will allow the garment to glide over your body a lot more easily. Plus it'll feel much nicer against your skin. Yes, it takes a bit more time, but it can be well worth it. Read more about adding a lining to a skirt and lining a dress.

Five tips for sewing clothing with quilting cotton

5. Experiment and embrace!

Quilting cottons are easy to sew, widely available and come in so many gorgeous designs... it seems a shame to save them just for quilts! Take an informed risk with what to make with them and you might just surprise yourself...

Do share what you make with us on Instagram by tagging us @TillyButtons. Now to embrace those quilting cottons and have a little fun!


Author: Tilly Walnes
Model photos by Fanni Williams and Jane Looker
Fabric snaps: Louise Carmichael