Quilting Fabric Howto :: Beginners Workshop #3


Free Online Quilting Course for Beginners ~
Class #3 : Tips for Beginners on Choosing Fabrics for Quilts

By Janeen van Niekerk.

quilting fabric

How to Choose Quilting Fabric

quilting fabrics shopWhen you are just starting out with quilting, the selection of fabrics can sometimes be very overwhelming

The objective of today’s quilting class is to take the overwhelming-factor out of fabric choices. What remains is the fun of finding perfect fabric for your quilt. 

Let’s begin with talking about what fabric is. I’ll explain the features of fabric and what that means for you making quilts.

What is Fabric

How to choose quilting fabrics - Free illustrated quilt making workshopGrains

Fabric is woven material. In a rectangular piece of fabric you will see threads that run from the top to the bottom. These threads are the lengthwise grain.  The fabric will also have threads that run horizontally.  Those threads are the crosswise grain. From corner to corner diagonally that would be called the bias grain. The lengthwise and crosswise grain is straight and not very stretchy, but the bias grain is very stretchy. 


On both sides of a roll, the edge of the roll of fabric is called the selvedge edge.  It is that nice finished edge that keeps the fabric from unraveling.  On the selvedge edge you will see information printed about the designer of the fabric and the manufacturer.

Rolls & Bolts

The WOF (width of fabric) refers to how wide the fabric is.  Fabric can come in a lot of different widths. When buying it’s wise to ask the staff how wide the fabric is before cutting so that they can help with calculating how much more or less fabric you will need. Some fabrics come on a huge roll and others are folded and wound onto a board (This board is called a bolt).

Explore Stores
Buying Quilting Fabric Online

I would recommend that you only visit two or three fabric stores at first to get yourself adjusted to the tidal wave that is fabric. It also helps to chat with the staff and ask them questions about the fabrics. Online stores are also a great place to find a wide range of prints and you can always chat with the owner via e-mail for advice or help with matching fabrics.

quilt fabric

Online Stores carry both quilting fabric and quilting tools. For great prices, typically.

Buying Quilting Fabric Locally

Smaller local quilt shops prices for fabrics can sometimes be a little more, but you will find some great fabrics that are good quality quilting fabrics there. Larger, factory-type fabric stores usually cater for all types of sewing and not only quilting.

When buying fabric, ask the price per yard or meter before they cut it so that you don’t have a stroke when asked to pay an enormous price at the check-out till.

“Beginner Quilters, Buy Cotton Fabrics.”

When starting out you need to buy cotton fabrics. They come in plain colors or prints.  Cotton fabrics usually make the best quilt because they are durable, heavier and strong. Cottons make really great looking quilts.

Mixing and Matching Cotton Fabrics for Quilts

quilt_fabric_to_buyIf you buy a plain fabric and a print fabric to put into the same quilt, you need them to be the same fabric weight for easier sewing or you could have a fabric war going on under the foot of your machine.

(See these fabrics on the left in the photo? The fabrics in the middle are not the same weight as the one on top, so don’t mix-match these.)

Once your skill improves and your taste develops, you can start to look at other fabrics to make quilts with.

Pre-cut Designer Fabrics

When making your selection, you will see that fabric does not only come on the ‘bolt’ or ‘roll’, but also ‘pre-cut’. Pre-cuts are pieces of fabric that have been measured and cut to a specific size. The cuts are usually grouped by designer into a co-ordinated bundle. The label on the pre-cut will give you all the information about the designer, manufacturer and the name of the collection of fabrics.

The most common pre-cuts are: 

Another form of a pre-cut :

Quilting Fabric in Yards vs Meters

You might live in a country where fabric is sold in meters or half meters. I have found that a yard is very close to a meter, so I will buy a meter and have a bit left over.  But, if you want to be precise:  1 yard = exactly 0.9144 meters.

Getting a  ‘lil’ bit Extra Fabric

Your pattern should tell you how much fabric to buy. You could get a little extra for those pesky mistakes a person makes and besides anything left over could be put into your “stash” for another project. If you’re not sure, just ask. The staff at the fabric shops are usually very helpful and full of little tips on how to get things done.

Now the fun bit: Choosing the Quilting Fabric YOU Want

Choosing your fabric is entirely up to you. It’s a bridge we all have to cross. The choices are endless….

But, … in the end it boils down to what color you had in mind. Say that fabric color is red. So, start with a red fabric.  Then add another fabric in different color/pattern that goes well with your initial red fabric. And, maybe get a coordinating plain fabric as well.

You don’t need your quilting fabrics all to match, or all be the same print. There is no rule about this. If you like it, then that’s what you get.

Let’s Start Making Something: a Mini Quilt – Project #1

OK. Time for some practice.  That was enough information about the ins/outs of fabric. It is now time to get our hands dirty. We will be making a few quilting projects together this year during the course of this program of quilting for beginners.

A Mini Quilt: It can be a quilted breakfast placemat or decorative table mat quilt.

As a start I’ve decided that we need something simple but also looks good. The mini quilts that we are going to get started with are really easy. Mini quilts can be put together quickly. We’ll be sewing in straight lines.  Your cutting will be simple and easy to do. This should be stress-free! This is a beginner quilt with a simple block to put together. We’ll give it just a quick twist so that your simple block will turn interesting. I’ll show you.

Supplies for your Mini Quilt

This week we will look for our fabrics, so I’ve included the mini quilt design so that you can begin thinking of how you would like yours to look.

See what a lovely pattern you could create with just 3 fabric choices:

beautiful free quilt pattern
Quilting Supplies Needed
  • 3 Different Fabrics – You will need a light color, a medium color and a matching darker color.
      To make this quilt you will need to Buy:  


  • Thread to sew with that matches everything – I use beige thread on all my blocks unless it’s really all dark fabric then I choose something that will go with it and I don’t have to change threads all the time.
  • A Cutting mat, a quilting ruler
    , and a rotary cutter (or you can just use your scissors and a ruler) – takes longer but also works.
  • A Sewing Machine

    For NOW you only need to go out there and check out what is available to you in quilt shops and other fabric stores. Make your choice in fabrics according to what colors you want your mini quilt/ table mat to be and then next time we will discuss the pattern and the cutting of our fabrics.

‘Til next time,


how to make a quilt



Want to begin sewing quilts with me?

Join our free online quilting workshops, which you can take at your leisure, any time you want.

how to make a quilt


Free Quilting Patterns & Tutorials & Classes in this quilting course by Janeen van Niekerk:


About Quilting Instructor Janeen van Niekerk

how to make a quilt patterns janeen van niekerkOur latest news of quilt making instructor Janeen van Niekerk is that she has just launched a brand new paper piecing magazine.


Quilt artist Janeen van Niekerk is an avid quilter. In particular, she’s an accomplished paper piecing designer. She does it all with a passion.


Janeen’s prolific range of hand-made quilts (she takes commissions for personalized, stylish portrait quilts), as well as her unique quilt patterns (think quilts featuring safari animals and trees, or kids toys) are inspired by her environs; she lives in sunny Pretoria in South Africa, with her husband and kids.

Janeen van Niekerk (spelled by some as Janine van Niekerk).

Or,… continue your journey with Quilting patterns, tutorials and ideas  featured here at FineCraftGuild.com (beyond Janeen’s quilting course).

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