By Rita Latour
Nothing comforts me on a cold night more than a flannel quilt. The flannel designs and patterns available now are so much more vibrant than ever before. Fabric manufacturers are showing flannel in a variety of pre-cuts and panels as well as yardage. Truly, it’s like going to the candy store and not knowing which candy to put in the bag!
However, if you are not familiar with flannel, here are some tips and tricks for using it. Always buy more than the pattern indicates. It is 100 percent cotton, but the process of making flannel causes a nap. Nap means that the fibers run in one direction so when you are cutting your pieces, you want to ensure that you cut all pieces in the same direction. This requires extra fabric. Not doing this will cause the fabrics to appear to be different colors when the light hits them.
Always pre-shrink flannel. There are two reasons for doing this. The first is that flannel can shrink up to 3 percent and pre-shrinking before cutting can reduce the shrinkage 1 ½-2 percent. The second reason is that flannel ravels a lot and produces a lot of lint. This step will help eliminate some of the lint. When working with flannel, clean your machine and bobbin area frequently. Be sure to pre-shrink the backing fabric too! Also, use a 100/16 needle or an 80/14. Flannel can quickly dull a needle, so be prepared and change the needle when needed.
Choose a pattern that has larger blocks. Avoid small pieces and triangles. Flannel does have a natural “give” to it and can stretch. Handle it gently! Using a good spray starch or “Best Press” before you cut will help curb the stretch as you cut. It will also make it easier to sew your pieces together. Spray your fabric with a heavy hand and then press (lift the iron, do not move it back and forth) it dry. Now you are ready to cut your pieces. This is where using pre-cut fabrics like layer cakes or charm packs can be a time saver and make it easier to spray starch.
Some of my favorite patterns for flannel quilts are Turning Twenty or Thimbleberries Fireside Flannel Quilts. These patterns have larger pieces and will give you the cozy and scrappy look that you want in a flannel quilt. This also may be a good time to try using a panel and just adding borders.
Finally, before you quilt, stay stitch around the outside 1/8”. This will lock your stitches and will secure the edges and prevent stretching. Quilting on flannel provides texture and definition and it really showcases the stitch pattern.
With a little planning and a few preparations, you can make a beautiful, cozy, and snuggly quilt to use at the bonfire/weenie roast or just to wrap up in while watching a movie!
I’m a resident in Central Illinois and welcome your comments. Please let me know if there is a quilting topic you would like to talk about. Contact me at [email protected].