Is There A Right And Wrong Side To Quilting Fabric?

When I was a beginner quilter, I didn’t pay much attention to the type of fabric I bought. I was happy to find a color I liked, and didn’t care whether it was cotton, polyester, rayon, or some kind of blend.

I read an article, and learned that I should be buying cotton fabric, so the next bunch of fabric I bought was cotton. That went well. I could easily see the difference between quilting with cotton and sewing with polyester.

Then I read another article, and learned that if I bought the right kind of cotton fabric, I could use the back instead of the front, and get an interesting effect. In fact, the quilt teacher who wrote the article suggested using both the right side and the wrong side in the same quilt.

I haven’t tried that, yet….Maybe someday. The right quilt just hasn’t come along. But, the whole notion of looking at the back of fabric began to interest me, and I have discovered things that (I am sure) many experienced and observant quilters already knew. I just wish they had told me, so I didn’t have to figure it out myself.

Fabric is woven and then the color is printed onto what becomes the right side of the fabric.

Depending on several factors – the thread count, the dye, other finishes that are on the fabric, etc. – some of the dye may bleed through to the back of the fabric.

This fabric is printed on the front, and a small amount of the dye has bled through to the back, but it is mostly white on the back.Click on the picture for a larger image.
The fabric to the right has been dyed in a striped pattern. The threads are thinner, and the weave is looser (fewer threads per inch), and much of the red dye has bled through to the back.You can see that either or both sides of this fabric would easily be able to be used in a quilt without having someone think you had made an awful mistake.Click on the picture to see a larger image of the selvedge.
Homespun cotton quilting fabric is woven with thread that has already been dyed, so this fabric looks exactly the same on the front and back.Typically homespun cottons are plaid or stripes. This is because the thread is woven only in two directions – horizontal and vertical, making it impossible (with the current technology anyway) to create a unique design shape.Click on the picture to see a larger image of the selvedge.
Batiks are a type of specialty fabric which are very popular in quilting circles now, and are readily available in many quilt shops and online as well as being available in a wide variety of patterns, styles and colors.Because the fabric is dyed the various colors, and not printed, the color is the same on both the front and back. The only difference is that the pattern is reversed on the back.Years ago, when batiks began coming to the United States, we were happy to see fabrics in two colors – blue and white, or black and white were the first color choices. Now the color and pattern variety is amazing.Click on the picture to see a larger image.

By Penny Halgren of

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