How to Sew and Quilt with Wovens

How to Sew and Quilt with Wovens


Hand quilted New Moon Quilt made with Warp and Weft Heriloom wovens from Ruby Star Society and Moda Bella fabrics

Can I use wovens for quilting? What even are wovens anyway? Aren't all quilting cottons woven? 

Well, yes they are! But 'wovens', as they are popularly known, are fabrics where simple repeating patterns are woven in rather than printed in the top which can bring a lovely depth to your quilts. You might also see it sold as Dobby or Tabby cloth. For instance, Fableism Supply Co's Sprout Wovens have a little 'x' woven into them. You can see that in this fabric, which uses two different yarn dyed threads, the 'x' is a different colour on either side of the fabric. Although there is technically a 'right' and 'wrong' side to the fabric it can be difficult to tell sometimes and it doesn't really matter anyway so long as you are happy with your quilt!


 a red fabric with a small woven x


What are wovens made from?

They can be pure cotton but are also sometimes linen or a linen/cotton or bamboo mix and usually have a looser weave than standard quilting cottons. It's this  looser weave that gives them their lovely softness and drape but that also often gives them a bad rep for fraying!


So do you have do anything differently when quilting with wovens?

I love sewing with wovens and I can't say that I ever really do anything different with them but if you are having difficulty with fraying or stretching then here is my in depth list of tips to try. 


I'm not a pre-washer - ever! Unless I'm mixing my substrates. Different fibres can shrink in the wash at different rates so it's good to get that part out of the way before you start sewing.

One advantage, however, of pre-washing your wovens is that when they shrink a little in the wash the weave will become a fractionally tighter. It's totally up to preference but remember to always overlock (serge) or zigzag stich around the edge of your fabric before you do. If you don't - it's not pretty!


Again, I'm not a starcher as to me it's one extra step to do. but there are many quilters who are big fans as it will help to stabilise your fabric and help prevent stretching while cutting or sewing. If you're only starching once then do it before you cut although some quilters also starch as they press too.


Make sure your rotary cutter has a sharp blade (as always!). Hacking away with a blunt blade will cause your edge to be less than neat and encourage fraying. I also advise avoiding cutting on the bias because of the extra stretch but sometimes it can't be helped.


a selection of multi coloured woven quilting cotton fabrics


Seam allowance

Since wovens have a tendency to fray - although I've found that some, like Sprout Wovens, don't fray any more than some solid fabric rages I have encountered - you can try using a wider seam allowance. You could increase it to 3/8'' or even 1/2''. 
But plan ahead! Remember that quilting patterns are written assuming a 1/4'' seam allowance so you will need take that into account when calculating your fabric requirements and cutting your pieces before hand.

 Stitch length

Shortening your stitch length to 1.5-1.8 will help discourage any threads from working loose. 


You want to handle them as little as possible to avoid stretching them out of shape or encouraging them to fray. If you are finding they do fray you could consider overlocking your seam allowances after each piecing step. This will mean you can only press to the side so you will need to check this works with your plan.

When you do need to handle them wovens respond well to a gentle touch, no pushing or pulling them. Let your sewing machine do the work for you to avoid stretching them out of shape.

And resist the urge to pull off any loose threads! Snip any that you see neatly instead. 


curved quilt blocks made with woven quilting cottons



Press even more carefully than usual as once hot fabrics can stretch more. Pressing is just an up and down motion with the iron rather than a smoothing out motion.

 Before you Quilt

If your quilting won't be finished for a while I recommend machine sewing a victory lap at 1/8'' around your quilt top before you start where it will be hidden under your binding once you have finished.


Some wovens can be heavier than standard cottons, for instance Essex Linens, and this can create more pull on those seams. If you are machine quilting then quilting more densely can help reduce strain on your seams, especially if you quilt across them. 

Wovens are a dream to hand quilt and I don't really have any different advice for hand quilting other than make sure you savour it!


Like washing all quilts, I recommend washing on a gentle cycle and drying flat.


 a selection of woven cotton fabrics in soft earthy colours


That is a fairly comprehensive list but if you feel at all nervous but if you feel at all nervous you could try practising on a smaller project like a quilted cushion before trying a whole quilt.

So what kind of patterns are good for wovens?

Any quilt pattern is just fine. Wovens are especially good for applique or patterns with curves like the New Moon Quilt and I recommend simple patterns like the Tor Quilt with few pieces if you want to build your confidence.

Currently my favrourite wovens are Sprout Wovens from Fableism Supply Co but there are many others such as Essex Linens from Robert Kaufman or Homemade Homespuns from Moda.



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