Facebook Email Pinterest Twitter Instagram Tiktok Icon YouTube Icon Headphones Icon Favorite Navigation Search Icon Forum Search Icon Main Search Icon Close Icon Video Play Icon Indicator Arrow Icon Close Icon Hamburger/Search Icon Plus Icon Arrow Down Icon Video Guide Icon Article Guide Icon Modal Close Icon Guide Search Icon

Conversational Threads

decorator fabrics for quilts?

AltonPM | Posted in Quilting and Home Decor on

I’m starting a quilt project and the most appropriate prints and patterns I’m finding are actually decorator fabrics (I’m looking for toiles, ticking, checks, etc. in red and sage shades).  I could probably select the entire design from the Waverly collection.  These are all 100% cotton and all say “dry-clean only” … has anyone actually tried using some for washable applications (like a quilt)?  I was thinking of prewashing a couple of the fabrics before cutting just to see if they would stand up to it.  Or am I being totally naive about this (I haven’t worked with home dec fabrics before)?

TIA! Pam







  1. MaryAnn | | #1

    Pam, try a swatch first.  Even though they are 100% cotton, washing the fabrics will change the hand and shrink them.  If you don't mind the softening of the fabric after it's washed and you preshrink all of them, they can be used.  Generally home dec fabrics are heavier in weight than those made for quilting, so consider that as well.  Depending on the size of your project, the overall weight of using decorator fabrics may make the quilt too heavy for sleeping. 

    Mary Ann, NoVA

  2. sueb | | #2

    once you wash the decorator fabric you'll find that it will lose it's sheen and crispness.   You can get some of the crispness back by using some spray starch but you won't be able to get that sheen back that a lot of the poly cotton decorator fabrics have.  Once you prewash them uou should be able to use them in a quilt just as you would a regular cotton quilting fabric. 

    good luck !



  3. stitchmd | | #3

    Sue and Maduff gave you great advice. All I can add is you need to use fabrics that are fairly consistent in weight in your quilt, so it's dec all the way or none. If you try to mix your results will be uneven and when the quilt is washed there will be too much stress on the lighter fabrics. You might get away with underlining or interfacing them, but it's a risk.

    Another consideration is what size pieces you use, obviously a thicker fabric will only work for larger pieces, no one inch triangles in this quilt. I suggest making up some small sections first to experiment with scale before you commit to the overall design and cut stuff up.

    I've used home dec for other projects and like it for its sturdiness. Personally I don't care for the crisp and shiny look in drapes and usually wash those too for a softer effect.

    1. AltonPM | | #4

      Thanks for the great advice everyone - you brought up some excellent points.  I should have been a bit more specific about the quilt - I'm definitely planning to use fairly large pieces in a patchwork-type design (probably just square/rectangle pieces). 

      I've never thought about the sheen factor - but I do like the softer look for our house (cottage or farmhouse style).

      If anyone has anything to add, please feel free!


      1. anneelsberry | | #5

        I've made a couple throw quilts out of decorator fabric. One thing to watch for is that decorator fabric may be more loosely woven than you're used to with quilting fabrics and will fray a bit more. I usually use larger seem allowances than 1/4 inch.

      2. Teaf5 | | #15

        I love decorator fabrics not only for duvet covers (prewashed, of course), for tablecloths, and for aprons.   I made 8 apron/chef's hat sets for the holidays a couple of years ago, using a wide assortment of decorator fabrics and found only one fabric that didn't look good after washing--a moire satin.  A lot of stores sell shorter lengths at great discounts, and a patchwork is perfect for those pieces.

  4. CTI | | #6

    What a nice gathering place. It will be months at the least before I explore everything here.


    Last I heard, many manufacturers are slapping the Dry Clean Only label on to avoid lawsuits or something. Almost everything that isn’t embellished or made from pure wool can handle water, which I think is in most “dry” cleaning solutions.


    The advice you've received is right on in my experience (lots of it trying to mix and match fabrics--nono), and I’d reemphasize making a mockup using a small strip of each and putting it through the washer and dryer. It’s my guess that they won’t all shrink or ravel at the same rate, which ultimately would make me inclined to wash the whole lot before cutting and sewing. Face it, it costs a bunch to wash a quilt, and more to dry clean it, so better to have it washable.


    As for weight, I love it, even if it’s rarely cold enough to have much of a cover. You might want to consider making a lightweight quilt “base” and attaching your quilt (the equivalent of a potential wall hanging) to it using buttons, frogs, or something so you can clean the base and quilt separately

    1. sarahkayla | | #7

      this sounds like your basic old fashioned Quilt Cover, or in today's lingo a duvet cover.  

      The summer befor I was born my mother had the job of being camp mother in a jewish summer camp in rural New England.  A local native americal woman would do  the camp's laundry. During the winter months she made quilts.

      my mother comissioned her to make two duvet covers for my european born grandparents. My mother wanted  a pieced top and bottom sewn together  "like a pillowcase" The woman was puzzled - yes, my mother would pay for piecing both the top and the bottom - what my mother was doing was combining the european bedding tradition she grew up with with the american quilting tradition.

      I own one of those pieced quilt covers... the other was stolen in a move. I loved looking at all of the different 40's and 50's era fabrics.. eventuially I will take the two pieced tops apart to make into duvet covers for my three kids...

      sarah in nyc

      1. CTI | | #8

        Fascinating, thank you.

      2. User avater
        ehBeth | | #9

        That is a marvellous idea! Two quilt tops - top and bottom of a duvet cover.  I already use duvet covers as transitional bedding - when it's too cool for just a sheet, and too warm for a full duvet.  That could be one more level. The ability to clean the quilt tops vs. a full quilt would also be a plus.   Definitely something to think about. Thank you for sharing it.

  5. lynrob | | #10

    I saw Mary Lou Rankin from Park Bench Patterns speak at the sewing expo in Worcester this past spring on using home dec in clothing. She had lots of samples of home dec fabric in clothing that were very nice. Not every home dec fabric is appropriate, but her mantra was to preshrink and prewash all the fabrics you wish to use as well as considering the weight and drape. This washing, It softens the fabric and allows you to wash the finish garment instead of doing the dry cleaning routine. Her recommendation was to use a gentle soap (not detergent like most of the stuff on the grocery shelf). And to dry it gently to knock out the wrinkles. She also said if the first washing doesn't soften it enough, do it again. I think that is the gist of it.....Hope this helps your project.....i think it should look great. I was thinking about doing a crazy quilt approach using home dec and the decorative stitches on my new machine.

  6. JoanofPa | | #11


    I spoke with a saleswoman for Waverly.  I was concerned about washability since it said specifically DRY CLEAN only.  She said "oh you can wash it but we suggest drycleaning since washing will take off the finish"  I did not understand finish but she said it had nothing to do with the fabric print, so I have made a circular table cover and wash it about once a year with no problem.  The fabric has only softened a bit.

    Hope this helps in some way



    1. Alexandra | | #12

      I have oodles of home dec scraps, what to do but make a quilt.  The sheen will be gone with the first washing, it's heavy, but I like heavy bedding.  I've just finished the piecing and found that the turn of cloth took up much more fabric than I expected and so it came out smaller than planned and row to row didn't meet quite spot on.  The backing is quilter's cotton, now I just need to find a long arm quilter to get it quilted. *G*  I did not prewash as I wanted the crinkled, shrivelled look.  Edited to say, I've had it quilted in a sort of feathered pattern and it is on the bed and is wonderful.

      Edited 2/18/2007 12:56 pm by Alexandra

      1. rodezzy | | #13

        I know this is a late post, but I was reading posts in my down time.

        I have a quilt that I've done in home dec fabric.  I have never finished it.  I've only pieced it in two halves.  I plan to make the backing of fleeced.  Less quilting to be done.  I dread the quilting part.  Love the piecing.


  7. Crazy K | | #14

    I made a duvet cover from decorator fabric....both sides for reversible effect.  I pre-washed it and it softened some but not horribly.  Still a very handsome piece of fabric.  O.K......here's the clincher.........it's too heavy to use for sleeping except during the coldest of cold weather here in the upper midwest.  Two layers of that heavy stuff combined with the insert of down is just too much........it's beautiful to look at however.  I sometimes put it on the bed for looks and then remove it for sleeping.

    Hope this helps answer some of your questions.  I have also made curtains......just simple shirr on kind of dec. fabric and pre-washed it and it was fine......and remained fine when I laundered them later.

    Crazy K

  8. HisChildBeth | | #16

    I am a beginner quilter and haven't worked with fabric in 30 years, but I got brave.  I didn't have a fabric "stash" and decided that I would go to the mill outlet where the decorators buy their fabrics.  Not all are seconds, and they have a huge Waverly collection.  They have a lot of piece ends from bolts.  I found 2 decorator, Waverly, 100% cotton, pieces that I loved.  One of the pieces is a darling pink base with black silhouette French poodles and the other is a white base with different color pastel rings.  Now these are really wide 90+ inches so I only bought a yard of each on sale for about $10 a yard.  They are much heavier even than really good quilting fabric.  I simply threw the piece in the washer with a dribble of regular detergent and washed it on cold/cold, delicate for 28 minutes.  I didn't want to spin it to death is why I picked delicate.  Then I dried it on medium heat for about 30 minutes.  There was some shrinkage, but not a lot.  There was a lot of fraying.  If you are worried about that you could use fray check glue on the cut edges before washing.  I trimed the long strings and ironed the fabric with the straight of the grain and they came out wonderful.  Really easy to iron.  I plan on using them as backing for a quilted pillow, wall handing, table runner, etc.  With my Baby Lock, I could even piece with them since it automatically adjusts for different fabrics as you move across from one fabric to another.

    I'll post again when I have actually tried using it in a project.


    1. MaryinColorado | | #17

      Before washing new fabric, you can prevent fraying either by cutting each corner off or serging the edges.  Sounds like you found a great deal on some fun fabric!  Enjoy your projects!  Mary

      1. HisChildBeth | | #18

        You make a diagonal clip on each corner and it won't fray?  WOW!  That's cool.

        I still haven't figured out what a serger does except make those very fancy overcast hems on store bought dresses and skirts.  I know there is a lot more cool stuff you can do or people wouldn't be into sergers, but right now I'm overwhelmed with working with fabric and sewing a straight line :-)


This post is archived.

Threads Insider

Get instant access to hundreds of videos, tutorials, projects, and more.

Start Your Free Trial

Already an Insider? Log in

Conversational Threads

Recent Posts and Replies

  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |

Threads Insider Exclusives

View All
View All


Shop the Store

View All
View More