This is the beginning of a series entitled Choosing the Right Quilt Fabric. The purpose of this series is to help quilters make solid decisions when choosing their fabrics by being better educated about the quality of fabric available.
Know Your Thread Count
Is thread count of a quilt fabric important? To be able to answer that question you much first understand what thread count means. The term "thread count" refers to the number of threads woven together in a square inch. If you have 50 threads lengthwise (known as the warp) and 50 threads width wise (known as the weft) the total thread count per square inch is 100.
Quality quilting fabrics have higher thread counts--with the average being between 68 and 78 (weft and warp). Quilting fabrics in this range are thicker and more durable, shrink less, and sew better. A good quilting fabric has a thread count of approximately 60 x 60 square (thread count of 120 threads per square inch) or more. Finer quality fabrics with a higher thread count will feel softer and finer to the touch. They are smoother and will last longer.
It's not easy to find out the thread count of quilt fabric as not all quilt cotton manufacturers will reveal this magical number. You can, however, look at a quilting fabric and make a decision on it's quality on your own by examining the weave. Do the threads appear loosely woven? Can you pull the threads apart easily? Can you see your hand outline through a single layer of fabric? Does the fabric look thin? If these questions are answered with a "yes" then this is not a quality fabric and has a low thread count that will not produce a quality quilt that will stand up to use.The better quality quilt cotton manufacturers will have a higher thread count, but this means the fabric will cost more. The higher the thread count the higher the price. What does that means in terms of creating a top quality quilt? The higher quality, higher thread count cotton will yield a quilt that is much more durable, will not wrinkle as quickly, and is made to be used.
Two things to remember if you do find the thread count for your favorite quilt cotton manufacturer (and yes some are not afraid to let you know what it is):
1) Do not confuse quilt cotton thread counts with the thread count of cotton sheets.
2) Know that the higher the thread count the more pressure has to be put on a needle to penetrate the cotton when quilting. For machine quilting this is generally not an issue but when making a quilt that will be hand quilted this can matter.
Thread count is just one of many things to consider when purchasing cotton fabric for your next quilt project. The next article in this series, Choosing The Right Quilt Fabric, will be How to Identify Quality Quilt Fabric.