How To · Quilt Making · Tips

How To Give Quilting Fabrics a Worn Appearance

Fabrics with a worn appearance have been highly desired by consumers and fashionistas alike for over a decade now, and it doesn’t look like the trend is going away any time soon. When you’re in need of some worn fabrics for your next quilting project there are a number of approaches you can take. Today I’d like to discuss a few of my favorite techniques that I use in my own quilting projects.

It’s important to keep in mind that the amount of wear that you desire can vary greatly from project to project, so you’ll have to gauge this when you embark on your very own journey. Before I get on rambling, let’s jump into some of the better ways you can incorporate worn fabric into your quilting.

It May Seem Obvious, But…

If you have an assortment of heavily used clothing that you’ve been saving for a project of a future day, then this can be an absolute goldmine. Torn jeans, heavily worn flannels, and well-loved corduroys can be a great source of linens for your upcoming project. If you can’t come up with your own there are still a few options you can work with.

First, try reaching out to some of your friends who are also quilting hobbyists or professionals. They may have some worn fabrics on hand that they are willing to part with for a reasonable price – or, if you’re lucky, completely free. It’s always good to get help from a friend when you can, and this is why it’s important to always help others when they are in need as well.

If this turns up empty, your next best bet is to check out used clothing centers such as the Salvation Army and Goodwill. The benefit of these outlets is that you might have a better selection of fabrics to choose from. You’ll have to pay a bit of money which may seem annoying when compared to free fabrics, but it won’t be too bad.

What About Making Your Own?

There are any number of reasons why you might want to make your own pre-worn fabrics instead. By going this route you’ll have full control of the fabrics being used – including the materials, the thickness, the colors, the patterns, the whole nine yards. You’ll also have the peace of mind that the fabric you’re using will not have been worn by anyone else, which is almost a must if you’re selling the end product to someone else. You’ll have to pay significantly more in most cases, but most likely it’s going to be worth it.

The main thing you’ll need to do once you’ve chosen your fabrics is to simulate wear and tear. Conceptually you can think about the different ways that clothes would wear out simply from natural use.

One of the primary mechanisms of wear is actually a result of washing and drying the linens in washing and drying machines. You can start with this to get a very light wear, but to get a more aggressive wear it will take a lot of cycles. You’re better off taking more aggressive matters actions to speed up the process.

One great way of doing so is to make use of a pressure washer. This will simulate the conditions of a washing machine cycle, but can be made much more aggressive. To start, lay your fabric out on a firm and rough surface, such as concrete, and make sure that it is thoroughly anchored down. The pressure washer will be exerting a lot of force. Then, fill your pressure washer reservoir with a compatible detergent in similar strength as to what you would use in the washing machine. Then you can start spraying the fabric with the pressure washer and taking a look at the results you get. Start with a more gentle nozzle, and if you need more wear when you are done you can move up to the more aggressive nozzles. Don’t start out too strong because once the fabric has too much wear, you can’t go back. If you don’t have a pressure washer, it may be best to borrow one from a friend as they can be a bit pricey. If you want to buy one anyway, you can check out any number of websites to find the best electric power washer for the job.

Another option would be to get the fabric damp and tightly wrap it around a sports ball, such as a soccer ball or a basketball. Then you can bounce these off of similarly hard and rough surfaces until you get the desired amount of wear and tear. There are chemical techniques you can use as well, but if you can get the desired amount of wear and tear from physical techniques, it will result in a longer lasting product.

These are just a few of the ways you can get worn fabric for your next quilting job. Try them out and see how they work for you!