Education Sampler Sew-A-Long

Sampler Quilt Shopping

It is time to do your Sampler quilt shopping! Be sure you take the tool list with you from the previous post /sampler-quilt-a-long/. Take advantage of any sales and coupons at your local fabric stores to purchase fabric for this sampler! It is recommended to read this post to the end, so you have a firm understanding of fabric value when choosing dark, med dark, and light, how to calculate backing fabric, and prewashing your fabric. I apologize for the length of this post, but it is all important.


There are as many types of thread as there are opinions on what brand/weight/content of thread you should use.   All-purpose thread is fine, especially for your first quilts.   Neutral thread color works well regardless of the color of the fabric when piecing.  Neutral colors are whites, off whites, cream, light grays, ecru.

Fabric to Buy When Sampler Quilt Shopping

100% cotton fabrics are recommended.  You will be purchasing five different fabrics. I chose a set of five fabrics for all twelve blocks. If this is your first or one of the first quilts you have made, I suggest you do the same. There will be plenty of time to go scrappy on other quilts!

A reminder that all 100% cotton fabric is NOT created equal.  Rely on your sense of touch to help select quilt worthy fabric.  Steer away from loose weave fabrics and on the opposite end, tightly woven fabrics like bed sheets.  Shop around, compare prices, use coupons, buy online.

Don’t be shy about asking employees to point you in the right direction to the fabrics you should be auditioning for your quilt. They can show you batiks and what is considered a small geometric design. Directional fabric prints all objects are positioned the same direction across the width of the fabric. When you view the print from the ends of the fabric you see there is a definite direction. Non-directional fabric on the other hand has a pattern you look at from every direction and it looks the same – all over the place!

At the Cutting Table

These are the measurements to give the person at the cutting table. It is important for you to read the part of this post on prewashing fabric.

  • Fabric #1:  1/2 yd dark fabric -print, batik, small geometric design (block

  • Fabric #2:  1/4 yd medium dark fabric – small non-directional design, tone on tone, batik (in blocks)
  • Fabric #3:  1 yd light fabric – tone on tone, solid, non-busy pattern (blocks and inner border)
  • Fabric #4:  1/2 yd light to medium fabric – non-directional design print, batik, geometric (blocks, cornerstones)
  • Fabric #5: 1 yd solid fabric will be the sashing and outer border. The color should complement other fabrics, but not match.  The purpose of this fabric as sashing is to show off blocks, not distract from them.  As the outer border, it will act as a frame of everything and should not demand attention but help focus on blocks. Value will depend on what you feel would work best with your block fabrics.

Shopping and Choosing Fabric for the Sampler Quilt

Choosing fabrics can often be the most difficult part for many quilters.  One approach is to find a fabric you really like.  Next pick 8 to 10 other fabrics you think will all go together.  Don’t worry about the sashing and outer borders yet.   Stack your choice bolts on top of one another dark to light.  I make the stack on top of bolts standing upright or balanced on my cart.  Step back several feet, take a color picture of them and then switch to a gray scale and take a picture.  Gray scale will clearly show lights, darks, and mediums! Restack per the gray scale photo.  In this quilt top, all fabrics will be right next to each other in at least one or more blocks. Start eliminating those you decide really don’t work that well until you end up with four fabrics to represent fabrics 1-4 above. 

Sample Fabrics

The four sample fabrics above are placed to show dark to light value.

Samples of my selections and some potential sashes and outer borders may help you when trying to decide value.

I also wanted to audition sashing and outer border fabric.  Which would you pick?  The dark solid will be subtle and frame each block so that block stands on its own.  Keep in mind the inner border will be the light background floral.


The center photo shows the backing fabric chosen.

A busy pattern/print for backing fabric hides any less than perfect quilting.  The quilting on a solid fabric is all there is for the eye to see.  Purchasing the backing fabric does not have to be at the same time as you purchase the piecing fabrics. You may want to make the quilt larger by adding more or wider borders.  Just the opposite, you could opt to not put on borders and/or skip the sashing. These decisions will alter the amount of fabric required for the back.

How to Calculate Backing Fabric Needed

Wondering how to calculate backing fabric needed for your Sampler quilt? Going on the average fabric width of 44″ if your quilt top is 36″ wide or less it will fit width wise on the fabric. You will simply add 8″ to the length of your quilt top, divide that number by 36 to establish how many yards you will need.

If your quilt is wider than 36″ and less than 80″, you will require 2 times the length plus16″. However, if the length is less than 80 and the width is less than the length, less yardage will be needed. Figure it the same as above except measure the top width and add 8″ then divide by 36″. The yardage required is 2 times the number previously calculated.

Either way you will have a seam in the back. Determine if more fabric is needed to match the prints at the seam. An all-over busy print would not require matching like a plaid or stripe or specific repeat.

Don’t forget the batting while Sampler quilt shopping!


You will need to purchase batting to be at least 8″ more than the width and 8″ more than the length of your quilt top. 80/20 cotton/polyester blend is a nice weight and does not require as close quilting stitches as some other battings.

Binding – Nothing to Buy Sampler Quilt Shopping

There should be sufficient backing fabric left to bind the quilt.

Prewashing Fabric – Yes! No! Maybe?

While Samper quilt shopping the fabric was purchased. Now you must weigh the pros and cons of prewashing. Should you?  I don’t.  Many quilters do.  Some do sometimes.  It is easier to get crisp cuts, therefore piecing is more accurate if I don’t prewash.  If you prewash, you should wash all fabric going into the quilt, including the backing. Add a dye catcher or two to the washer just in case the fabrics release some dye. You can find dye catchers in most market laundry aisles.  I recommend you use spray starch when ironing to put the body back into the fabric before cutting.  Remove wrinkles by ironing before cutting to not get any distortion in the pieces.  To keep your ironed fabric from getting fold creases, roll your fabric lightly.  I’ve heard if you have a pool noodle they are great to roll the fabric around.  I just roll them loosely without a center.

Cotton batting will shrink so you could prewash it if you prewash the fabric. 

These links reference previous posts and the next post in this Sampler quilt-a-long.

Sampler Quilt-A-Long – the introduction to the quilt-a-long

Cutting – Post #3 in this Series

Quilting Vocabulary – reference

Email me with any questions at I check my emails a few times throughout the day and will respond as soon as possible.

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