count the folds on a bolt of fabric
[ Quilting Tips ]

Tips for Shopping for Quilt Fabric

Are you ready to start a new project or is your favorite shop having a sale? No matter the reason, I have some guidelines for the next time you are shopping for quilt fabric.

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Tips for your next fabric-shopping trip

1. Make a list

Never go grocery shopping on an empty stomach, and never walk into a quilt store in a whim! Both situations can lead to alot of unplanned, possibly regrettable, purchases.  To avoid buyer’s remorse, plan ahead. Are you in the middle of making a quilt and can’t imagine needing any more fabric? Great!  Now is the perfect time to take stock of your fabric stash. Are you running low on certain colors of fabric?  Do you have plenty of thread in neutral colors for piecing?  Write those items down now…the notes app on your phone was made for this kind of thing.Checklist of quilt projects

2. Bring along a sample

While it is a little cumbersome to carry a full quilt top, you can manage to take a small strip of fabric or even a completed quilt block.  Having the actual fabric in hand is ideal when you are trying to match colors or decide on borders or backing for a quilt.

Audition fabric choices together


3. Look at the selvage

If you are trying to match a certain colorway of fabric, check the selvage for the manufacturer, artist, and title of the fabric line. Sometimes the SKU/item number are printed on the edge of the fabric which makes it much easier to find. With this information on hand, you could call the shop to check availability, or order online.

Color dots on selvage

“Spoonflower FQ”by jenniferworthen is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Let’s say you find a fun, multi-color print and you want to add some other fabrics to make a basic patchwork quilt. The colored dots on the selvage of the print are a great starting point for finding coordinating colors.  And with the popularity of using selvage pieces in the quilt itself, some of these “color dots” have become collector’s items themselves!  I’ve seen leaves, cats, birds and a bunch of other cute images on the selvage.

4. How much should I buy?

Every quilter faces the dilemma of how much to buy off the bolt.  When you have a pattern, you are generally safe buying the amounts listed. I am always a fan of stash enhancement, so I tend to add an eighth to a quarter of a yard to my purchase when I am shopping for quilt fabric.  If I am planning to use the fabric for sashing or borders, I will buy two yards. And if I need backing, I will buy at least 4 yards. (Calculating yardage for quilt backs is a topic for another day!)

Bonus tip – Counting folds

count the folds on a bolt of fabric

Two folds of fabric on the bolt equals one yard!  Count the folds on one side of the bolt, divide by two, and you have total for the amount of fabric left on the bolt.  This is a *rough* estimate only, but it helps for a quick judgement of yardage on a bolt that is running low.


What are your rules when shopping for quilt fabric? Please share your personal guidelines in the comments or send me an email. I love to hear from readers!


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Longarm Quilter, Pattern Designer, Teacher


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