Sunday, January 2, 2011

Tips for quilting with flannel fabric

I remember making a flannel quilt using 1/4 inch seams. It was beautiful until I washed it. Then it fell apart. I almost cried. Penny Hallgreen from gives some very good advice (including seam allowances) for working with flannel fabric:

Nothing warms on a cold day or night like flannel.

Flannel brings to mind our favorite childhood footed pajamas or night gown or a favorite old shirt. Flannel is a great fabric choice for quilting because of its warmth and its association with good memories.

If you have never quilted with flannel, there are a few tips worth knowing before your first flannel quilting project.

Flannel varies by manufacturer. Always wash and dry your flannel before starting your project. Use the warmest settings possible considering the color of your flannel fabric on both your washer and drier.

Some flannel shrinks as much as 5 percent. It’s best to preshrink your fabric instead of getting it all done then having it shrink. Finish the pre-preparation work by sizing your flannel fabric.

Flannel frays easily, which is great for rag quilt projects, but not so great for other quilt piecing projects. To accommodate the fray possibility, cut your pieces a little larger to allow for a bigger seam allowance.

For instance, instead of the typical one-quarter inch seam allowance, consider bumping the allowance up to one-half inch. Press your seams open when you piece with flannel, too.

If you are using flannel for backing of your quilt project, consider running around all the edges of the fabric with an overlock or serging stitch first. This will help prevent fraying around the edges of your backing

If you are using your machine to piece or quilt your flannel fabric projects, you will need to keep your machine clean. Flannel creates lots of fuzz that can build up on your machine.

Keep your small machine brush handy and keep the flannel dusted out as you work. You will also need to change your needle periodically for the same reasons. Plus, flannel tends to dull needles quickly.

Rag quilts plump up beautifully when flannel fabrics are used. To make snipping the fabric easier, use spring loaded snippers instead of traditional scissors.

The spring loaded snippers fit easily into the palm of your hand and use a motion more like squeezing a stapler than traditional scissor cutting.
If you have a reasonably large project to snip for ragging, regular scissors will make your hands cramp and ache quickly. Keep your snippers sharpened to avoid achy hands, too.
If you are working on a rag quilt project using flannel and are not happy with the amount of fraying you get after a washing and drying cycle, check the quilt to see if you have made enough snips in the seams.
Generally, the snips cut into the seams should be made at about every one-quarter inch. If your cuts are already spaced at quarter inch intervals, continue washing and drying the quilt until you get the desired fraying results.
The project will plump more with each cycle through the washer and drier.
Happy Quilting!
Penny Halgren
©2009-10, Penny Halgren
Penny is a quilter of more than 28 years who seeks to interest new quilters and provide them with the resources necessary to create beautiful quilts.
This article courtesy of You may freely reprint this article on your website or in your newsletter provided this courtesy notice and the author name and URL remain intact.
Thank you, Penny, for the great tips! And going back to my first flannel quilting adventures: I used regular scissors to snip the edges of my very first rag quilt. OUCH! Blisters galore. I now use the Fiskars Softouch Craft Snips. Much better.


  1. I bought a jelly roll and didnt realize that it is flannel. i cannot pre shrink because it is already in strips. How do I deal with seam allowences when my strip is already only 2.5 in? what seam allowences would I use for a rag quilt like this? what about a non rag quilt, is this possible?

    1. For a rag quilt, you need a 1/2 inch seam. You could get away with a little smaller than that, but a 1/4 inch seam is too small.
      If you are doing a regular quilt, you can do a 1/4 inch seam. Just make sure you use a very short stitch. If your stitch is too long, the fabric will unravel.
      I hope that helps!


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