Almost anything goes when choosing quilt fabrics but it is important to make sure all fabrics used will work together pleasingly and complement each other. Throughout time, the fabrics used for quilt making have changed as the science of textiles has evolved.
There is archaeological evidence that the ancient Egyptians made quilts so the quilt fabrics they had available were undoubtedly quite different from those available today. Even though those ancient Egyptian quilts were likely to be made of linen and cotton, those fabrics from antiquity probably bear little resemblance to the linens and cottons milled today.
One of the most luxurious quilt fabrics available both today and in days long gone is silk, used first in the Orient, where silk making began. Once Europe discovered Oriental silk, its import to the Western world was so lucrative that the roads it traveled from continent to continent are still known as the silk trade routes.
Damask, brocade, chintz, and velvet have all proven to be highly valued quilt fabrics, used long ago as well as today. There was a time when the incorporation of either of these fabrics into a quilt identified the quilt’s point of origin but today’s textile industry makes them universally, making point of origin impossible to identify.
In the early United States and even well into the 20th century, mills and granaries packaged their products in cotton bags that often featured designs suitable for clothing and quilting. These feed sacks often became the only quilt fabrics available in rural areas and for the pioneers exploring new frontiers.
Today’s synthetic quilt fabrics are made from fibers unimaginable to the earliest quilt makers but they are popular to today’s quilter for any number of reasons. Modern textile manufacturing processes make fabrics much more durable and colorfast than in earlier times and they can often produce fabrics that mimic old favorites at a fraction of the cost.
There are no hard and fast rules as to which fabrics make the best quilt fabrics but a little forethought will surely produce more pleasing results. Save the finer fabrics for quilts designed for display or decoration only. Use the less expensive and more durable fabrics for everyday use.