Quilting with Flannel

Flannel makes wonderful, warm, cozy quilts, or just the backing for a quilt. It has a few unique properties, though,and there are some things you should be aware of before beginning a project with flannel.

Buy good quality, thick, well woven flannels in 100% cotton. Thinner flannels wear out too fast, or may fall apart completely when washed, and synthetics or blends will pill badly.

Flannel has a looser weave than most cottons, and is better suited to square shapes than triangles or bias shapes.

Use a larger seam allowance (3/8" instead of 1/4"). If your quilt will be washed or get regular use (i.e., isn't purely decorative) you will get better wear this way.

Use starch on the fabric before you cut. Use a medium-heavy liquid starch in your washing machine, or spray starch as you iron the prewashed fabric. Advantages are that it stabilizes the fabric, makes the pieces stick together slightly so you pin less or not at all, and it makes the fuzzy flannel easier to mark.

Flannel can shrink a lot. Be sure to wash and dry it twice (on hot in the dryer!) before you begin.

Pre-wash flannel on the gentlest machine cycle you can. It frays a lot and might just dissolve if you're too rough with it.

Dyes seem to be less colorfast in flannel than other cottons. Try Retayne in the first wash to ensure the color stays where it's supposed to.

I've found that you can do shapes other than squares if you foundation piece; I've had the best luck paper piecing onto freezer paper, which controls the stretch and "springiness". (Susan)

To help prevent the seams from fraying - if you press all seams to one side instead of open the square or section is complete, top stitch each seam. The topstitch takes 1/2 the pull off of the main seam. Also serging all seam allowances is a good option, especially for a quilt that is going to be washed a lot. it will help prevent that "inside" fraying - these seam could also be topstitched to reduce bulk. (Cheryl & Pat)

Cindy Thury Smith sent me a wonderful article on working with flannel.

Do you have a tip for working with flannel?

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