Fabrics 101: Quilter's Cotton
101: Embroidering on
If you're like a lot of
embroiderers, you may not have given embroidering on
quilter's cotton any special consideration. After
all, it's just "regular" fabric, right? Not so fast.
Quilter's cotton is a soft and lightweight fabric,
made to be cut, pressed, and sewn easily, as well as
cozy to the touch. You can get great results
embroidering on it - as always, your embroidery will
look the best if you get to know your fabric first.
Choosing Your Materials
Quilting is so popular these
days, the quilter's cotton section of your local
fabric store probably needs its own zip code. Not
all these fabrics are created equal. Feel the fabric
with your hands and hold it up to the light to see
how flimsy or hefty it is. The more stable the
fabric, the better it will stand up to embroidery.
Part of the fun of quilter's
cottons is all the fun shades and prints that are
available. As with any embroidery project, if you
choose a printed fabric, make sure it will
complement the design, not compete or clash. There
are lots of subtle "textured" prints that would make
a fine backdrop for embroidery - don't be afraid to
If you can, spring for Kona
cotton. This fabric has a higher thread count than
average quilter's cottons, giving it more body. It
might be a bit more expensive than others, but it
will yield better results for embroidery because
it's more stable.
No matter what fabric you
choose, pre-shrink it thoroughly. The challenge with
quilter's cotton is to avoid puckering - you don't
want to embroider a perfect quilt only to have it
shrink and pucker in the wash.
DESIGN: Choose designs
that are small and light enough that the quilter's
cotton can support them properly. Lightweight
designs like redwork and toile are always a good
bet, but you don't have to be limited to these!
We've found that filled designs up to about 6"
across can stitch out well on quilter's cotton. For
this example, we chose one of the
Art Nouveau Floral Squares, with a mix of open
areas and heavier filled stitching.
Use a 75/11 sharp needle to get a
Always use a cutaway stabilizer.
For lighter designs such as redwork or toile, a very
light stabilizer such as Sulky Soft
'n Sheer or
Floriani No Show Mesh is a good choice. For heavier,
filled designs, use a medium weight cutaway
Since quilter's cotton is
fairly thin, you may be worried about cutaway
stabilizer showing through the finished project. If
this is an issue, try leaving the stabilizer on
the back of the entire quilt block. This will make
the quilt a little stiffer than it would be
otherwise, but it's an effective way to eliminate
show-through. Pick your priorities.
We don't recommend using
tear-away stabilizer with quilter's cotton. Tear-away
stabilizer is meant to come apart easily so that you
can tear it - so it will also gradually fall apart
with everyday wash and wear. As this happens, you
can get little "lumps" of stabilizer under the
fabric. Since quilter's cotton is so thin, any
broken-down stabilizer will be visible through the
top. To keep your embroidery looking smooth in the
long run, use cutaway stabilizer.
Embroidering on Quilter's Cotton
Spray your stabilizer generously with spray
adhesive (I use Gunold KK100), then smooth the
fabric on top. Hoop the two layers together as
tightly as possible. Using spray adhesive is
especially important here because it will help
you hoop the layers together tightly. Firm
hooping, along with a well-chosen stabilizer,
will help avoid puckering.
Either cut away the stabilizer close to the
design, or leave it so the stabilizer covers the
entire back of the quilt block. Leaving the
stabilizer is an option if you're worried a cut
edge will show through the thin fabric, but it
will make the fabric slightly stiffer.
Here's an example of
a design with heavier filled areas stitched on
quilter's cotton. Quality fabric, sturdy
stabilizer, and tight hooping are the keys to
lighter designs such as redwork, use a
lightweight cutaway stabilizer for a natural,
Stitching tips for quilter's cotton:
sharp needle; an embroidery needle
may also be used
designs of low to medium complexity