As a beginner, stepping into the world of quilting is both exciting and overwhelming, especially when it comes to buying fabric. With so many options available, it’s essential to know how to shop for the best fabric for quilting. In this guide, I’ll break down 4 shopping options and the best quilting fabric to get at each so you can shop like a pro! Plus tip and tricks to make sure your quilting journey begins on the right thread!
It’s All About the Fabric
Today it’s all about the fabric! Learn what to buy and best place to buy it to make your first quilt or your 100th quilt. I’ve broken this into 4 types of shopping: fabric stores, quilt shops, craft stores and online shopping. Get educated on the different types of fabric and which ones get the best results when quilting and for ordering online. In order to make beautiful quilts, you need the high-quality fabrics. I’m going to show you where you need to shop and what you need to buy so it doesn’t leave your pocket book empty.
Best Fabric For Quilting – Fabric Basics
Let’s face it, quilting is an expensive hobby (for me it’s a passion) and the cost to make a quilt can add up fast! Fabric, batting, backing fabric, sewing machine, cotton thread, all those rulers, rotary cutter, blades and your precious time all add up. When you invest this much time and money into a craft, you need to work with the best materials you can afford. New quilters often need help on what to buy to make something, you will learn that here plus how to buy it.
There were so many mistakes I made when I taught myself how to sew and quilt, learn from my mistakes and save yourself time, money and disappointment with fabric choices and quantities.
Understanding Quilting Fabrics
Before you hit the stores, it’s always a good thing to familiarize yourself with the different types of fabrics commonly used in quilting:
Cotton: Cotton fabric is the most popular choice among quilters due to its durability, breathability, and ease of handling. When shopping for quilting cotton, look for high-quality, tightly woven fabric that’s easy to cut and sew.
Batik: Batik fabrics are handmade and dyed, giving them a unique and vibrant look. They are great for adding a pop of color and texture to your quilts.
Cotton Flannel: Perfect for cozy quilts, flannel fabrics are soft and warm. They are ideal for quilts meant for colder weather or baby quilts.
Linen: Linen fabrics provide a natural, rustic texture to quilts. They add a touch of elegance and sophistication to your projects.
Here are the most popular fabric manufacturers of the best quality fabrics: Moda Fabrics, Anna Maria Horner, Ruby Star Society, Kona Fabrics, Riley Blake Designs, Tula Pink, Kaffe Fassett Fabric and Robert Kauffman. The list goes on and on. All brands are the best quality cotton fabrics. For a full list of fabric manufacturers, check out Missouri Star Quilt Company’s complete list here.
Tips for Smart Fabric Shopping
Create a Shopping List: Plan your quilt design beforehand and make a list of the fabrics you need. This helps you stay focused and avoid impulsive purchases.
Check Fabric Quality: Feel the fabric to ensure it’s of good quality. Look for smooth, even texture and vibrant colors. Check for any flaws or defects.
Buy Extra: It’s always a good idea to buy a little extra fabric than you think you’ll need. This ensures you have room for errors and allows for flexibility in your design.
Mix and Match: Don’t be afraid to experiment with different fabric patterns, textures, and colors. Quilting allows for creativity, so mix and match to create a visually appealing quilt.
Where to Buy Quilting Fabric: Exploring Your Options
When it comes to buying fabric for quilting, you have several options:
Local Quilt Shops: These stores often have a wide variety of quilting fabrics and knowledgeable staff to assist you. Shopping locally also supports your community.
Online Retailers: Many online stores specialize in quilting fabrics. They offer a vast selection, often at competitive prices. Be sure to check reviews and return policies before making a purchase.
Fabric Stores: Large fabric retailers carry quilting fabrics along with other types of fabric. They may have sales and discounts, making it a budget-friendly option.
Craft Stores: Craft retailers carry quilter’s weight cotton fabric in low end fabric manufacturers. Best to buy border or quilt backing fabric here. Excellent place to get sewing notions, thread, zippers and batting while on sale.
Now let’s look at each individually and how to shop successfully and save in each store.
Best Fabric for Quilting – How to Shop in Fabric Stores
Find Local Fabric Stores
Local fabric stores are not craft stores like JoAnn’s. These are stores that only sell fabric and typically a small selection of some sewing notions. You may have to drive a little bit to get there but it will be worth it, trust me. My local fabric store is 30 minutes from my house, or an hour total drive time. Typically, I will only go there about 3 times a year and spend around $60 – $100 dollars. During certain times of the year, you get a $20 gift card when you buy $100. Not too shabby if you ask me. This is my best choice for all my sewing projects at the moment. With store-bought fabric, you can touch it and audition it with other fabrics for your project making this my go to shopping place for fabric quilting materials.
Know How The Store Is Laid Out
My local fabric store has the newest designer fabrics located near the front door and cutting counters.
Don’t start there, instead, go find the discount section usually in the back or far sides of the store. You will know it’s the discount section because the fabric is laying on top of each other in stacks, discount signs will be posted. Start shopping there!
The discount section in my local fabric store has shelves with fabric not on the bolt (the cardboard center). The fabrics are all stacked and you need to sift through the stacks to find what you like.
Have a Plan Before You Go!
Never go to a fabric store without a quilt project in mind. It’s a great idea to know the color scheme you want to use too. My patchwork quilt usually has at least 3 to 4 fabrics (2 prints, 1 low volume and 1 background). This is the minimum amount of fabric types you will generally need for any quilting project: quilt, table runner, placemats and potholders. Scrappier projects tend to have lots of prints mixed with low volume fabric to give it contrast. Try to use fabric scraps for scrappy projects.
Shop Discount Racks To Build Up Your Stash
If you are new to quilting and don’t have a lot of fabric, an excellent choice are the discount sections. It’s a great place to bulk up your stash inexpensively. I buy one yard of discount fabric and it’s only $3.98/yard compared to around $14.99/yard for the new designer fabrics. One yard is the perfect amount in my humble opinion and can often be used in multiple projects. Know your budget and spend accordingly.
Also, if you are looking for backing fabric or border fabric, take your quilt top with you to the store. Fold it up and put it in a bag, then pull it out and audition the fabric next to your quilt top. Extra wide fabric is the easiest for backing fabric because most times you don’t need to sew two pieces together in order for it to cover your quilt top. Extra wide fabric has it’s own section and tends to be small or limited. The discount racks also have wide fabric so make sure you check it out.
Best Fabric for Quilting – How to Shop in Quilt Shops
Quilt Shops Are Disappearing
It’s a sad thing when you can’t find a local quilt shop. Quilt shops are different from fabric and craft stores, they have pre cuts that you can see in person. Quilt shops also have quilting books, magazines and most offer sewing classes too. These shops are famous for having quilt a longs or community based quilting projects with fabric bundle kits and patterns you can purchase. Great quilt shops feel like a community and a safe place you can go to ask questions and get advice.
Civil war reproduction prints are very hard to find and I’ve found that quilt shops or online stores are the best places to find these. These prints are warmer or darker in color, lots of browns, deep reds, blues and the like. TQC uses them a lot but no longer sells much of that fabric. Amazon doesn’t have high quality options, at least I haven’t found any. I’m still on the hunt for this fabric, please leave a comment if you know where to shop for these fabrics. Thanks!
Quilt shops tend to be more expensive, they don’t have discounted fabric sections and not a lot of coupons. What they do have are expert quilters who are willing to mentor and teach you in person. My area of California does not have any quilt shops, they have all closed their brick and mortar stores opting to sell fewer items online. Once great quilt shop is Temecula Quilt Company, check them out. They specialize in civil war reproduction fabric which is hard to find and have a ton of unique and stunning quilt patterns.
Best Fabric for Quilting – How to Shop in Craft Shops
Shop Sales at Craft Stores
Craft stores are king for getting items on sale, like Joann’s. Best place to buy border or quilt backing fabric here. I usually get extra wide quilt backing on sale here if they have a neutral color that will work, typically a dark gray does the job. Excellent place to get sewing notions, thread, zippers and batting while on sale.
Excellent selection of quilting magazine, patterns, interfacing, all sewing notions and quilt books. Their book section is large and usually has items already on sale. You can get so much inspiration from quilt books.
Make sure you download the app if your craft store offers one and sign up to get notification when they have sales. My craft store offers 40% off one regular price item or fabric at least once a month. Cheaper than buying backing fabric at the fabric store or online.
Best Fabric for Quilting – How to Shop Online
Shop Online for Pre Cuts
If you don’t have a local quilt shop, or if you do but their prices are high, buy precuts online. This is the only way I buy them for their selection and prices. Precuts include jelly roll (fabric strips), charm packs, layer cakes, fat quarters and half yard bundles. Here are online stores that I have personally used and was very happy with the fabric received.
My Favorite Online Retailers
Fat Quarter Shop – Large selection of pre cuts and fabric by the yard. Tons of patterns and YouTube tutorials with lots of clever sewing notions you can use when quilting. Paper piecing for those difficult blocks and so much more. She has lots of layer cake patterns and quilt books for sale too.
Missouri Star Quilt Company – Who doesn’t love Jenny from MSQC. So down to earth and her YouTube video tutorials along with her family are the best. Learned so much from watching her and then jumping over to her online store to buy items. AND, if you didn’t already know, you can send your finished quilt top to them to machine quilt for you on their long arm machine. You can check out their machine quilting services here.
Riley Blake Designs – Everyone loves Lori Holt fabric, this is her fabric manufacturer so they have most of her fabric lines until they get discontinued. Amazon also sells a ton of Lori Holt fabric pre cuts. If you still can’t find the fabric, search Etsy to see if someone is selling those discontinued lines there but it will cost you more.
Tula Pink – Bright, bold and whimsical fabrics in all color palettes. Tula is amazing and quirky and thinks out of the box. Not everyone’s cup of tea but if you like this style, you must check her out. I made my first king size quilt with 4 – 5″ charm packs and it was so colorful and magical.
How To Shop On Amazon
Amazon – If I can’t find fabric in the fabric store, I come here next. Bought a ton of precuts here and it’s fast and easy. Never on sale either by the way. Here’s a pro tip for finding fabric on Amazon. Go to one of the sites mentioned above and find the item you want. Copy the name of the item and paste it into the search bar on the Amazon site. You can usually get it a little less if you are a prime member and it generally arrives faster than online retail shops. Please note that fabric on Amazon will take longer to deliver and is never next day unless it’s solid color that’s in a local warehouse. It still will arrive faster than the other online stores, about 2-3 weeks lead time but changes depending on season and demand.
Best Fabric for Quilting – BEGINNER QUILTING SUPPLIES
Here are some quilting supplies that are great for quilters that I use and highly recommend. For more info, check out Quilting Supplies for Beginners (Best Tools To Start).
- Rotary Mat Cutting Mat (Self-Healing Mat)
- 28 mm Rotary Cutter
- 28 mm Rotary Cutter Replacement Blades
- 45 mm Rotary Cutter with Sharp Blade (start with this one)
- 45 mm Rotary Cutter Replacement Blades (start with this one)
- 60 mm Rotary Cutter
- 60 mm Rotary Cutter Replacement Blades
- 5″ x 20″ Quilting Straight Line Ruler
- 4.5″ Quilting Square Ruler for half square triangles
- 12.5″ Quilting Square Ruler for quilt blocks
- Cut Resistant Gloves
- Sewing Pins
- Sewing Thread
- Universal Sewing Needles
- Cotton Batting
- Sewing Machine Beginner (see my about me page for more info on sewing machines for beginners to the one I use today)
This post contains affiliate links, which means I make a small commission at no extra cost to you. See my full disclosure here.
SEW NIKKI RESOURCES – HOW TO’S AND FREE PATTERNS
- Charms Square On Point Quilt Pattern & Tutorial
- Learn How To Quilt: Beginner Quilting Guide
- Table Runner DIY – Simple Quilted Table Runner
- How to Make Heat Proof Recycled Denim Potholders
- Chevron Quilt Pattern – Make Easy Placemats Two Ways
- How to Bind a Quilt – Easy Single Fold Binding
- The ABC Baby Quilt Sewing Pattern (Free, Easy)
- How to Sandwich A Quilt Step-By-Step Tutorial
- How Wide To Cut Quilt Binding & Make Easy Strips
- Easy Quilt Patterns – How To Make Charm Square Quilt
- How to Machine Quilt With Walking Foot For Beginners
- How to Sew a Quilt Together – Quilting for Beginners
- Mini Quilt Patterns, TQC “July” Postcard Pattern Review
- Quilting Supplies for Beginners (Best Tools to Start)
- How To Cut Fabric For Quilting (Easy and Accurate)
- How to Make Stunningly Beautiful Log Cabin Quilt Block
- Quilting Tips For Beginners (10 Essential Tips)
- How To Make Quilt With Sashing and Cornerstones
- Quilt Blocks, The Nonsense Table Topper Review
- How To Be Successful and Spend Less – New Quilter Tips
- Quilt Patterns, “Positive Effect” Pattern Review
- How To Join Quilt Binding Ends, Beginner Series
ABOUT SEW NIKKI
If this is your first time stopping by, welcome! My name is Nikki. I’m a weekend quilter, have a super small sewing space and taught myself how to sew and quilt by watching YouTube videos! My blog has How-To’s, Free Patterns and Pattern Reviews. Read more about me here.
So unleash your creativity! Armed with this knowledge, you’re ready to venture into the world of fabric shopping and can shop like a pro. Remember, quilting is not just about creating cozy blankets; it’s about expressing your creativity and passion through colors, patterns, and stitches. Enjoy the process, and don’t hesitate to ask for advice from experienced quilters – the quilting community is incredibly supportive and welcoming.
The best thing about buying quilt fabric is that you have options. Sewing quilts is personal, so buy the best choice for you and your sewing project. It will be a work of art because you made it yourself!
There is nothing sweeter to me than a handmade quilt. I’m all about granny chic home decor but that’s just me. In the end, the perfect fabric is the one you can afford. So happy quilting my friend, and may your quilts be as unique and beautiful as you are!
Sew, quilt, crochet and repeat!