What Do You Do With…Flannel?

Fall and colder weather will soon be upon us, and flannel is the perfect fabric to turn to for the warmest, coziest quilts! While flannel is a fairly common and well-known substrate, there’s still a lot of confusion and lack of knowledge about what flannel is and what projects are best. Here’s what you may not know about flannel, and how we love to use it in our sewing!

As a note, in this article we’re talking strictly about cotton flannel– wool flannel is popularly used for blankets, coats, and apparel, but is uncommon in the quilting world.

What is Flannel?

A common misconception about flannel is that it’s always plaid– this is not true. While the woven nature of flannel lends itself well to plaid patterns, it comes in all prints and colors! The most commonly found flannels are made from woven cotton fabric, not unlike standard quilting cotton. What sets it apart is a somewhat looser weave, sometimes with slightly thicker thread, and during the finishing process the fabric is brushed by a large, bristled roller to create flannel’s signature softness and nap (nap is the “fuzziness” of the fabric’s surface.) Flannel is also sometimes called brushed cotton or brushed twill, with “twill” referring to a different weave structure; Cotton+Steel has used this in several collections.

What Makes it Special

Flannel is beloved for its warmth and softness, offering good heat retention while wicking moisture away from the skin. Since it’s usually 100% cotton or a cotton blend, it’s easy to wash and dry (more on that later) and only gets softer the more you use it and “break it in.” You’ll often see flannel in store bought garments and bedding, such as shirts, pajamas and bed sheets.

What Can I Make From Flannel?

In addition to the aforementioned shirts and pajamas, flannel makes wonderful QUILTS!  Use all flannel prints for the warmest, coziest quilt ever, and you can also mix most cotton flannels with your quilting cotton stash to make fun multi textured quilts. Because of the slightly looser weave, we recommend choosing quilt patterns using larger pieces (5″ or 6″ squares or half square triangles are less likely to stretch out than tiny triangles or hexagons.)

Batting for quilts made from flannel can be cotton, acrylic, wool, or a blend– almost anything goes! Wool is a fantastic insulator and makes flannel quilts ultra warm for winter. For the quilting of flannel quilts, try to keep the pattern more “open” and not too dense, as that can make flannel quilts feel stiff and heavy.

Tips for Sewing and Caring for Flannel

-Always wash and dry flannel fabrics before sewing– they have a tendency to shrink. Wash in your machine with warm water and mild detergent, and dry on medium or low.

-When ironing flannel, you want to avoid stretching the looser weave. Use a spritz of Flatter or Best Press, and don’t move the iron back and forth– just press down firmly, lift the iron, and press down on the next area.

-Use a nice sharp new needle in your sewing machine.

-Cotton thread is best for flannel, since it will wear and shrink at the same rate as the fabric.

Shop all the flannels we have in stock by clicking here.

You can check out a great article by Seamwork for more information on sewing garments from flannel!