The most common fabric to make quilts in is cotton, by far. It's the fabric traditionally used, and if you go to the fabric store and head over to the quilting section you will only see rows of cotton and cotton. Cotton is light and fun and there are endless choices in terms of design, however it's not the only fabric you can use when it comes to quilting, in fact there are several other options to consider.
When I first started thinking of quilts I was intrigued by the concept of linen, mainly because it's a fabric that I love above all else. I hadn't seen any quilts made in linen, but I figured why not? So when creating my French Country quilt I used natural linen as the base, and then I combined it with thicker cotton fabrics from the home décor and utility section (like this awesome blue ticking). I did this mainly because the 100% linen selection at my fabric store was pitiful, so I had to mix it up with some other prints and colors in order to get the look I was going for, and the thicker cotton fabrics better matched the weight of the linen. I really appreciated the thicker feel of this quilt and the integration of linen, and I have more quilts in the works that will be made solely in linen. I think it's a great alternative to thin cotton fabrics; the end result is much more rustic and rumpled which is a look and feel that's easy to love!
For my next quilt, I really wanted create something super warm and soft. Cotton (and linen) can sometimes feel cold against the skin and I wanted to make a quilt that almost felt like wrapping yourself in a favorite sweater; immediate softness in other words. This time I decided to go for flannel. When you look for flannel quilts inspiration, the thing that mostly come up is baby quilts. And flannel for baby quilts certainly makes sense – so soft and cuddly. Really, the reasons why flannel is perfect for baby quilts were the exact same reasons why I wanted to make one in flannel for us grown-ups.
At the fabric store the flannel selection is divided in two sections mainly: baby fabrics in pastels and cartoon patterns and then plaid fabrics. And since I wasn't going for a baby theme here, I guess it's a good thing that I absolutely adore plaids! Does it get any better than rich colors and bold combinations? I started thinking that it would be interesting to combine these various plaids, perhaps next to a few lighter baby-flannel stripes and dots as well as solids, to create a darker, more masculine quilt. This quilt would fit right in on the Scottish highlands, or in a Ralph Lauren catalog or even in a rustic cabin in the woods.
I went for 6x6 inch squares (which translates into 5x5 inch squares with 1/2 inch seam allowance), and I decided to highlight the stitching by sewing two seams, one on each side of the piecing stitch to give it more definition, when quilting all the layers together. To not go for a stitch in the ditch seam (which is when you quilt by running a line of stitches in the channel where the fabrics are pieced together, which creates more of an invisible look), definitely takes a lot longer, but it adds another visual element which I think is nice. I used a 100% cotton batting, however if you really wanted additional warmth then wool batting would be a nice option (I haven't tried wool batting yet, but I hear it's nice). I decided to go for a plaid flannel fabric for the backing as well to carry the feeling of warmth and softness throughout and the result is the most cuddly, warm and comfortable blanket you can imagine.
So, while the world of cotton is varied and fun and interesting, I think it's a good idea to also look outside the normal choices in order to find something that works for you and your home; like thicker cotton, or linen or maybe even flannel. This quilt turned out ideal for cold days and nights, a real winter quilt in other words. My only issue is that I've only made one, and you really need one in every room especially if you live in a cold house without insulation like we do!
Also read: Quilts & Appreciating Traditional Gender Roles & The Making of the Cottage Quilt & What Equipment Do You Need To Start Quilting?