Best Patterns for Quilting Cotton

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Text above an image of quilting cotton samples reads The Best Sewing Patterns for Quilting Cotton

This post was updated on May 21, 2021.

Among some of the best patterns for quilting cotton are actual wearable garments. Wait, sewing clothes with quilting cotton?! Is that allowed???

Uh, yes! Yes! YES!

Quilting cotton isn’t usually what people consider for making clothes. It’s stiffer than typical garment fabric. And some people will try to tell you it won’t work.

They are wrong. Quilting cotton can absolutely be used for clothes.

It’s also great for non-clothing patterns, which I’ll get to!

Here is a stack of patterns I’ve made using quilting cotton and highly recommend, especially for beginners.

Why is quilting cotton good for these patterns? First of all, 100% cotton is wonderful in summer but also the rest of the year. It’s breathable. It’s natural. It’s biodegradable. It’s easy to wear, easy to iron (though you do HAVE to iron it), and hardy enough to last a long while. #30wearschallenge

The best combo of garment + quilting cotton is simple, structured garments. You’ll see from this list that while a more flowy fabric might have given the garment a different silhouette, the stiffness of the cotton works just as well.

The one big pitfall of working with quilting cotton is that it’s generally narrower than most garment fabrics. It comes in 45″ (115 cm) width normally, instead of the beefier 55-65″ (140-165 cm) width of other fabrics. This means you’ll have to buy more yardage.

But in the myriad of fun colors and patterns available, you can have much fun with it. Here are some great high-quality options from The Confident Stitch:

French Navy Orla Dress

Curly haired woman in a sleeveless handmade green dress smiling, the dress is a hack of the French Navy Olra and Cashmerette Upton both great patterns for quilting cotton.

I created this hacked version of the Orla dress for #AnOrlaAffair in July 2017. The Orla Dress doesn't come in my size, it tops out at a 97 cm (38") bust. But it's free, so you can't really gripe. It's a short-sleeved dress with waist darts in the bodice, a slightly raised waistline and gathered skirt.

Instead of grading out 10" to accommodate my boobies, I used another pattern made for bodacious ladies. I already owned the Cashmerette Upton when this challenge rolled around so I simply swapped in that bodice (eschewing the waistband on the Upton). A gathered skirt is nothing more than 2 rectangles sewn together. Insert a zipper and there you go.

I made this in green floral quilting cotton. Instead of lining it, I used another fat quarter of quilting cotton to make bias tape for the neckline and armholes. I also left it sleeveless because it was summer.

Cashmerette Upton Dress

By the same token, you could easily make the Cashmerette Upton in quilting cotton, too. In fact, the Cashmerette listing for it actually suggests upholstery fabric! So this pattern really lends itself to stiffer and structured fabrics.

There are two skirt options for the Upton. I personally think the box pleats look amazing, especially in stiff fabric. I especially love Jennifer's (@weboughtamanor) emerald green number in the Upton Party round-up post.

Sew Caroline Boardwalk Shorts

Woman in a white long sleeve hoodie and handmade shorts in green quilting cotton

My very first pair of shorts ever was the Boardwalk Shorts from Sew Caroline's book, Weekend Style. You do have to get the book as the pattern isn't available on her site as a separate pattern. But it was great for me as a newbie.

(Sorry for the tiny photo. Potentially better one on Instagram here.)

The shorts have an elastic paper bag waist (one where there is extra fabric above the belt, or in this case, the elastic) and a tie (that I left off) and two front pockets. I didn't even know how to correct for my crotch curve at the time and still find these shorts wearable!

As you can tell, I used the same green fabric from my Orla/Upton hack. Shorts are great in QC. Since you're usually wearing them in hot temps, being made in a breathable fabric is a darn good idea! Since quilting cotton tends to be stiffer than typical apparel fabric, it's perfect for bottom wear (like shorts!).

Closet Case Kalle Shirt

Curly haired woman leaning against a wall with a map of the USA wearing a handmade blue Closet Case Patterns Kalle cropped shirt made in designer quilting cotton

I'm sad that this Closet Case Patterns Kalle shirt doesn't work for me (it's just too cropped) because the designer quilting cotton I used is pretty cool!

Yes, there are high-end quilting cotton designs. This one is by Anna Maria Horner from her Field Study collection in the Fine Feathered Denim colorway. It's running at $25/yard on Etsy! I, luckily, got it for free from a friend's destash.

$25/yard! Yikes!!

Anyway. I'm not the only one who has made this pattern in quilting cotton. Maddie made hers in some Cotton + Steel QC, as did my Project Sew My Style cohort Claire (who happens to have her own list of QC patterns to try).

The pattern takes on a whole new look in a stiff fabric, which is kind of cool. I swear I saw a woman in the grocery store yesterday wearing one made up in flannel. There are so many options, and quilting cotton is just one of them.

Laela Jeyne Cosette Shirt

Curly haired woman with one hand behind her back and another on her hip smiling at the camera in a bright floral Laela Jeyne Cosette made in quilting cotton

Whenever I test patterns, I try to use the least expensive fabric available to me. Sometimes tests take more than 2 attempts to make a wearable garment, so you potentially use a lot of fabric (and therefore money).

When I was testing the Laela Jeyne Cosette, I got some brightly colored clearance sale quilting cotton for the task.

And I loved it!

The crispness of the fabric makes this a bit more structured than it would have been in the recommended list of light and flowy fabrics (cotton lawn, crepe de chine, rayon challis, etc.). You can see from the product listing how it behaves in these fabrics. You'll also see yours truly flying the QC flag!

I especially like the front tie/flag thing. I'm going to have to remake it in the petal sleeve version soon.

New Look 6414

A woman with short black hair modeling New Look 6414 sewing pattern in floral quilting cotton, has her left hand on her hip and a big smile on her face

Remember that swing top I made for my mom recently? That was New Look 6414 also 100% quilting cotton. It also came from the discount table at Joann's, but it worked out nonetheless.

The blouse would definitely have more of a "swing" factor in lighter weight fabric. But it doesn't look odd in QC either. It still skims her body and doesn't look like a tent, like you might expect in a stiff fabric.

And it's such a cheery floral fabric. A perfect summer top in the perfect summer fabric.

McCalls 6044

Quilting cotton isn't just for women's clothing. Men can wear QC too!

Ryan's shirt from our first 1st anniversary, which I lovingly call his Mexico shirt, was made with quilting cotton.

Man leaning against a railing wearing a straw hat and button up short sleeved shirt

It's his "Mexico" shirt because I made it for our vacation in Cabo San Lucas. It's arid and hot on the tip of Baja California, so when we shopped for fabric, I told him to look for 100% cotton. Because of course he had to choose it himself!

Shirting fabrics were in woefully low supply at the store we went to, but this plain sand color fabric was found among the "premium" quilting fabric. Plain quilting fabrics can be hard to come by, but they are out there!

More Options for Quilting Cotton

Besides making quilts and clothing out of quilting cotton, some other awesome ideas are:

Bias Binding

I love using fat quarters (1/2 yard pieces of quilting cotton, usually sold at a discount) to make my own bias binding. This is especially cute as a contrast for finishing a garment. Here's the inside binding of my York Pinafore:

Pink bias binding on inside of a handmade pink denim York Pinafore pattern

Pocket Bags & Flaps

I especially love using colorful pieces of QC in pockets! As you can see here from my first pair of Lander shorts, I used a contrasting fabric for the pocket bags.

Woman's hand showing the inside of a pair of rust colored shorts

This is a particularly well-suited option for pockets in heavier bottom-weight fabric. Because it will be lighter in weight, the quilting cotton can be an inexpensive alternative to other lining fabrics and give you fun options with color and prints. See how Simone did it on her Chi-Town Chinos!

You can also do this on pocket flaps! Use the quilting cotton on the inside of the flap, so when it flips up, you get a little pop of color. You can see an example of this on the Chi-Town Chinos sewalong (scroll to the bottom).

Pops of Color

Speaking of color pops: the facing for yokes, shirt cuffs, button bands, and even shirt collars are a great place to use a contrast fabric. If the quilting cotton is about the same weight (or lighter weight) as the rest of the garment fabric, this is a great way to use up some scraps.

Peter Lappin does these pops of color really well. He doesn't necessarily use QC, but you can see what I mean by contrasting fabric on the collar stand in this post.


Assuming your finished garment will also be made in a stiffer fabric, a practice garment is perfect for QC. This is especially true of the ones in the clearance aisle of your local store. Sometimes it's even cheaper than actual muslin fabric!

Handmade Decor

This tutorial for fabric stars that Gillian translated is a perfect way to use up some quilting cotton. Especially scrap size fabric!

Example of a Scandinavian Star from quilting cottons

Machine Covers

For the longest time, I have been wanting to make covers for all my machines. Not just the three sewing machines, but the stuff in the kitchen too. Like the stand mixer, the dehydrator, and even the Vitamix blender. All of mine are red, and while that looks really cute in the kitchen, it does allow them to collect dust.

Quilting cotton is perfect for these projects. Especially since it's easily washable!

There are simple online tutorials for making all of these. Closet Case Patterns even has free patterns for sewing machines and sergers covers!

Purses and Bags

Lots, and I mean LOTS, of bag patterns can be made up in quilting cotton. You will need stiff interfacing for it, of course. But I'm actually working on a test of the Charlie Holster Bag in QC right now.

The SECOND thing I ever made (as opposed to the first) was a Patty Doo Susie zippered bag. The purple and yellow fabrics you see in the featured image at the top of this post are from that project! I even completely messed it up as seen here:

Face Masks

There are a TON of face mask options, especially right now. My favorites are the tie-back version from Made Everyday with Dana and this great little video for using a single piece of fabric AND adding a pocket.

It's very easy to combine these styles. But a simple Google search will turn up a ton of other versions. One might better fit your style!

Isn't sewing is fun!

What have you made from quilting cotton? Do you like working with it, or do you prefer a different fabric? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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Jun 24, 2022 6:25 pm

There are some great ideas here. Thanks for posting this.