Tips for Beginning Quilters (Part 2)

Note: This is article is the 2rd in a series called Tips for Beginning Quilters.
Tips for Beginning Quilters – Part 1
o Tips for Beginning Quilters – Part 2 (this article)

Hi. My name is Nicky and I’m addicted to fabric. (Group: “Hi, Nicky.”)

There I said it, but it is not an addiction that I want to be cured of!

Of course, I’m not really addicted. An “addiction” infers it is something I can be cured of, but my love for fabric runs far deeper than a mere addiction. In reality, quilting is in my DNA. 🙂

Tom and Nicky (Blue)

By the way, I should say that before I post my articles, I ask my husband, Tom, to look them over and proofread them for me. As a prank directed at me, Tom wrote an introduction (Quilter’s DNA) at the start of my last article, Tips for Beginning Quilters (part 1), and inserted that cartoon just as a way to tease me.

However, I thought it was hilarious and I kept his words on Quilter’s DNA in the article and it posted that way. Now the joke is on him, for I am sure I will be referring to my Quilter’s DNA for years to come! 🙂

In this article we are going to cover fabric and precuts.

Fabric by the bolt

Fabric by the bolt

Fabric basically comes in two types of cuts:

1. By the bolt
2. Precut

Fabric by the bolt

While precut fabric seems to be growing in popularity, most quilting fabrics come on the bolt. Keep in mind that fabric on the bolt is folded in half, so the length of the bolt is not an indication of how wide the material is. Generally speaking, material by the bolt will be 44 to 45 inches wide.

Many quilters, myself included, have a strong preference for fabrics made of 100% cotton. In my experience, smaller fabric stores tend to stock only 100% cotton fabrics, whereas some of the larger chain stores carry both 100% cotton fabrics, and fabric blends.

There are many reasons to choose a particular fabric for a quilt: its pattern, its colors, its texture and perhaps its price… but it is always good to remember that a quilt exists long after the hours you have spent making it. Choose fabric with those years in mind.

If you selected 100% cotton for all the fabric in your quilts, then the quilt will have a consistency as it wears over time, and will hold up evenly over many washings through the years.

So please watch out where you buy your fabric and be aware of what you are purchasing!

Selvage (or “Selvedge” in UK English)

Please note that fabric purchased by the bolt has an edge to it — literally. The edge of fabric by the bolt is called the “selvage” if you are American, or “selvedge” if you are from the rest of the English speaking world. (I must say, in this particular case the British English spelling makes more sense to me, after all “selvedge” has the word “edge” in it, which is what the word is referring to: the edge of the fabric. At any rate…)

Primarily, the selvage is the fabric manufacture’s way of stopping the edges of the fabric from fraying. Selvage is also a place where many fabric companies put the name of their fabric, the collection it is from, and who manufactured it. For example, the picture below shows selvage which tells us that the fabric is titled “Hunky Dory” and is part of the “Chez Moi” collection made by “moda.”


After the fabric name, collection and manufacturer, the selvage usually includes a color chart of all the colors used in the fabric (see below). I’ve always thought the color chart was a very considerate thing for fabric makers to include; it is such a help if we are wanting to mix and match other collections into the quilt.


Please note that the selvage is not intended to be a part of your quilt.

Sometimes I see some quilters, perhaps trying to be frugal, include selvage in their quilts in ways where they figure it will not be seen anyway. That may be the case, but remember: we are quilting for the life of the quilt. In quilting, it is possible to be (as the British say) “penny wise, and pound foolish,” a statement which simply means that sometimes saving pennies in the near term ends up costing you pounds (dollars) in the long term.

Below is a closeup of the selvage.

Selvage holes

Notice the tiny holes punched into the selvage of the fabric? Over time those tiny holes can effect the stability of the quilt. Thinking of the long term integrity of your quilt, do you really do not want to include the selvage in your quilt?

Moreover, the selvage is usually a different thread count than the main fabric and is likely to shrink more in the wash. Why go to so much time, care and expense to create a beautiful quilt only to let a shortcut risk the longevity of the quilt, and compromise its beauty as it wears over time?

So please, resist the temptation to include selvage in your quilt. And that goes for those tempted to include “selvedge” in their quilts as well. 😉

Precut Fabrics

Precut fabric is just that, fabric precut to certain sizes depending on which precut pack or roll you purchase… and they are FUN!

Precut fabrics are great for quilters of all quilting levels.

Not only are new precuts coming out all the time, but entirely new ways of precutting fabric are being introduced all the time as well. For example, as of this writing (1 February 2013), we are just starting to see “Mini Charm Packs.”

Because new things are always coming out, it is not possible for me to talk about all the kinds of precuts there are, so I’ll just discuss some of the most popular precuts.

By the way, precuts tend to have fun — and perhaps goofy — names, and each company varies on how many pieces of fabric are in a pack. Since Moda is one of my favorite fabric companies, I will use their terms and pack sizes.

Precut fabric types

Charm pack

Charm packs contain 42 squares.  Each square is 5″ x 5″

Jelly Roll

Contains 40 strips and comes in a big roll of fabric.  Each strip measures  2 1/2 ”  by 44″.

Fat Quarter Bundles

A fat quarter bundle includes one print of each in the collection.  Each fat quarter is 18″ by 22″ take a look at the link to see how a fat quarter is actually cut.  Fat Quarter

Fat Eighth

Includes one print of each in the collection.  Each fat eighth is 9″ by 22″.

Layer cake

A layer cake has 42 squares, with each square being 10″ x 10″.

Dessert Roll

Contains 20 strips of fabric.  Each strip is  5″ x 44″ strips.

Honey Buns

Contains 40 strips of fabric.  Each strip is 1.5″ x 44″.

In this post we talked about fabric by the bolt and some of the precuts, but we are by no means done discussing fabric. There are some important things you need to know that we will cover in part 3.

Now on to Tips for Beginning Quilters, Part 3.