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Choosing the Right Materials When Beginning Quilting

Aug 17, 2007
To begin with, I want to say something as trite as it is important and that is, "Use the very best materials that you can afford for any and all handwork." Extravagance is never smart, but good quilt materials are not expensive. It's the sleazy ones, unreliable dyes and starched cloth that prove expensive in the end.

Wash goods is gauged by the number of threads per square inch, "68-72" is a fair grade of percale, "80 square" is excellent, the weight we usually use and some of the very fine imported ginghams run to "120 square."

A firm weave is imperative where one is cutting small triangles and diamonds where part of each block must be bias. Imagine trying to fit bias sides of rayon crepe or voile onto squares and you can see how totally unfitted such scraps are for quilt making. Coarse linens, crash weight cretonne and pongee unless deeply seamed ravel out too easily to be suitable. Romper cloth and any others that border onto ticking texture are too close weave and heavy to quilt well. Cheap ginghams will shrink enough to pucker in a quilt top. So to the firm weave must be added soft texture. "Beauty shine" is a permanent luster satin of finest quality, which we recommend for excellent results. The finest materials certainly do make the loveliest quilts.

The dye problem is mastered with a reasonable amount of care as "vat dyes" are usual in even very inexpensive goods. "Commercially fast" the dealer will say, which means with any reasonable care they will not run. Very few manufacturers will absolutely guarantee color, and where they do replace, they have told us it was often a case of sub-standard black thread which had spotted with washing. Quilts are naturally difficult things to launder. A wisp of silk undies may be in, out, and dry in next to no time, but a quilt with cotton filler, top and lining all stitched plumply together goes in for no such speedy procedure. When it gets wet it stays that way long enough to try colors to their limits. We have had quilt colors, yellows and reds "bleed" into the white and in subsequent tubbings clear again to white. For the "priceless" quilts we suggest the French dry-cleaning establishments.

There is a long list of woven cloths advertised from 1715 on, "Demities," "Fustians," "Muslings," "Cambricks," different sorts of "Duck," "Lawn," "Searsucker," "Pealong" the ancestor of longcloth and Nankeen who begat "Blue Denim"! All of these and many more found their way into patchwork but the dearest and most suitable of all was calico. An author, who treats this history in full, writes that "the mainstay of the patch worker was from 1700 to 1775 callicoe, from 1775 to 1825 calicoe, and from 1825 to 1875 calico!"

The great majority of quilts are usually made of wash cotton materials, although silks are sometimes used in such patterns as Log Cabin, Grandmother's Fan, or the Friendship Ring, where one's friends are called upon to help furnish beautiful bits to make the patterns as variegated as possible. Woolens, even good parts of worn garments are excellent for the heavy type of coverlet, and such designs as Steps to the Altar, or Grandmother's Cross are suitable. Woolens are so apt to be dull, "practical" colors, that it is imperative to have some certain unit of red, bright green, orange or such in each block.

While cotton broadcloth, percales, or fine gingham, the calico prints and such, are used with muslin for wash quilts, many women maintain that soft satin really makes the most gorgeous quilt of all. When the time comes to quilt you will know why we stress soft materials and why lustrous satin which catches light on every little silk-like puff between quilting designs is so beloved.
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