With all the heat we have been seeing around the country, it may seem a little premature to be talking about plaid flannel or even cotton plaid. But, the weather will get cooler and those flannel PJ’s, quilts and throws will be looking pretty cozy soon. Even in the south there are times when flannel feels awfully good. Flannel backing on a cotton top quilt makes your quilt feel so nice and snugly when curled up on a couch with hot chocolate and a good book or movie. Flannel quilts give your home a country cottage feel and it doesn’t matter if your decor is modern, sleek or country. Flannel also makes nice rag quilts and you don’t need batting in between the top and backing unless you live in the frozen north of Greenland or even Northern Canada where temps average 20 or 30 below.
Flannel does need special handling and if you don’t know these things, a beautiful quilt, that you put a lot of work, heart, and soul into, can end up looking awful over time. The most important part of working with Flannel is the prep work. It’s vital to not only pre-wash, but also machine dry and starch, because Flannel shrinks significantly.
Flannel comes in two types. One is the printed type where the design is only printed on one side. This flannel is great for kids’ PJ’s or anything where the back side of the fabric won’t be seen. Your better quality flannel is the same on both sides because it’s woven, not printed, and has the brushed feel on both sides. This is good for PJ’s, robes, and throws with no backing, etc. When possible, always use the better flannel because the one that is only printed on one side can have a tendency to go off grain and create other problems for you.
When purchasing fabric, be sure to buy at least 1/2 yard more then the pattern calls for. Remember, it shrinks, A LOT.. If matching plaids, I would suggest buying a whole yard more. The extra expense will be worth it. When you get the fabric home, wash it and machine dry it so it will shrink. If the project is really crucial, you might want to wash and dry it twice to be sure all the shrinkage is complete..
When sewing any pattern, it is suggested you use at least a 1/2″ seam allowance.When possible use a serger machine to get a nice finished seam. If you don’t have a serger then you can sew a regular seam and then sew a zig zag stitch on the edges, or use an over cast stitch if your machine has one. I would suggest using a little fray check on the edges of a zig zag or overcast stitch. Other options for clothing are a flat-feld seam or a french seam. Either one will give you that nice tailored finish.
When you are quilting, you want to use a very generous 1/4″ seam or more, so you don’t have threads peeking through. Remember, it frays a lot so with deeper seams. adjust pattern measurements for quilt blocks.
Once you have done all the prep work, and you have cut your fabric, it’s time to take it to the machine. The recommended needle size is a Universal 100-16. If you are sewing on a thin flannel you can get away with a 90-14. You will always get longer wear with a 100-16 because flannel is very hard on needles. It is recommend that you use a 3.0 mm stitch, because of the thickness of the flannel, instead of the standard 2.5 mm. It will also help to reduce your thread tension just a little. Test out your seams on scrap fabric to know the best settings for your machine. Machines like the Brother Dream Machine have an auto thickness setting that you can turn on and machine does the magic.
You want to pin a lot, to keep fabric from shifting. If you still find the flannel is wobbling, then you should use a walking foot which will grab your top and bottom layers of the seam, and keep it sewing smoothly. If you have any curves, such as in clothes, it is recommended that you “stay stitch” the curve so it doesn’t stretch.
Thread. It is best if you use a polyester thread, even if the flannel is all cotton. Poly has more give than cotton and will handle the weight of the flannel better.
I hope this helps you to make working with flannel much easier. If you have any questions or tips that you found, I would love to hear from you. Even though I live in Florida, I want to make a quilt made of flannel just to have something cozy to fall asleep on the couch with on those days it’s not cold enough to put on the heat.
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Until next time …… Happy sewing!
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