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Thread: Question on using 100% cotton fabric - what happens if you don't?

  1. #1
    mosaicthinking's Avatar
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    I have a newbie question on 100% cotton fabric. I have recently been given some fabrics by a friend and there are some I can feel by touch are 100% cotton. Others feel like cotton but I can't be sure and I might be tempted to use them after prewashing and ironing them. Is this risky?

    What are the reasons why all the quilt patterns specify 100% cotton fabric? Are the reasons traditional or because of something bad associated with using a blended fabric?

    Will the fabled quilt police come and arrest me if I don't go 100% cotton?

  2. #2
    Marjpf's Avatar
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    There are no quilt police! Sometimes a blended will behave differently than 100% cotton. Also it will needle differently when you quilt it. I have mixed fabrics in quilts before and haven't had any problems. Just wash them all the same first, so any changes will happen before you put the work into it.

  3. #3
    Super Member Prism99's Avatar
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    The "burn test" can determine whether a fabric is all cotton or not. Basically you set a small piece on fire (be careful!) and see if the fabric turns to ashes (cotton) or beads up (polyester).

    Cotton fabrics are preferred by quilters because they handle well. A cotton fabric can easily hold a creased edge for applique, for example, while a polyester fabric is much harder to crease. Polyester fabrics fray much more easily than cotton fabrics, so you want to be sure to provide quilting near seam lines to reinforce the seams and reduce stress on them from handling. Polyester fabrics are slipperier than cotton, so it's harder to get accurate points, etc. with polyester. Finally, polyester never fades and doesn't shrink, whereas cotton fabrics both fade and shrink a little. This means that the quilt does not age in the same way that antique quilts have. At the end of 20 years, the polyester fabrics will have their original color while all the cotton ones have faded togeter.

  4. #4
    Super Member Rebecca VLQ's Avatar
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    ^^^I was just wondering this myself! :D

  5. #5
    Power Poster MadQuilter's Avatar
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    Just think of crazy quilts: They use all sorts of fabric, but because they can behave unpredictably, they are generally sewn on a foundation like a muslin. No, you do not need to stick to cotton, but if you do, then you know what to expect (how the fabric will behave). You can certainly mix fibers but I would recommend that you prewash everything to take out the shrinkage factor. Prewashing will also show if any fabrics will not hold their shape, burn during pressing, or otherwise misbehave.

    Just have fun and see what works for you.

    Now if you wanted to join a swap, then cotton is the rule, and there is a swap police.

  6. #6
    Moderator littlehud's Avatar
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    If they have all been washed it should be OK.

  7. #7
    Super Member Oklahoma Suzie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marjpf
    There are no quilt police! Sometimes a blended will behave differently than 100% cotton. Also it will needle differently when you quilt it. I have mixed fabrics in quilts before and haven't had any problems. Just wash them all the same first, so any changes will happen before you put the work into it.
    If you are hand quilting, the mixed fabrics are hard to quilt, but they sure can be used.

  8. #8
    mosaicthinking's Avatar
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    Thank you for your advice ladies. It's very helpful.

    Sounds like it's not too risky to use a blended fabric as long as it's been washed and pressed and has passed that test.

    Prism99, I can't imagine one of my quilts still being in use after 20 years, but it's a lovely thought.

    I do admire those of you who have the skill and patience for hand quilting.

  9. #9
    Super Member jljack's Avatar
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    Mosaic, just remember that there are some quilts 100 years old that are still loved and used. It's how you construct the quilt that counts. Use whatever you like, keeping in mind how each fabric will shrink or wear. That's the only thing.

    Janice

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