Calico, Cotton and Fabric Choices

calico fabric2Calico is a plain weave cotton fabric printed with a small all-over print on one side. Calico originated in Kozhikode (also known as Calicut), in India, during the 11th century.

Calico fabrics are the staple ingredient in quilts due to the 100% cotton content and the vast varieties of prints and colors available. Why is 100% cotton the favored fabric for quilting? Most quilters agreed that cotton is easier to sew, press, mark and hand quilt.

Pat Sloan, in I Can’t Believe I’m Quilting: Beginners Complete Guide, advises:

“Choose good quality medium-weight 100% cotton fabrics. Avoid fabrics that are loosely woven or stretchy. Cotton fabrics are easy to sew and seam allowances will stay flat when pressed.”

Most quilting books recommend choosing your fabrics for your quilts with the following criteria:

  • Quality of Fabric
  • Color Selection (Hue)
  • Intensity
  • Color Schemes and Fabric Combinations (monochromatic, analogous, and complimentary)
  • Fabric Themes
  • Nature Schemes
  • Fabric Design: Choose a variety of small, medium and large scale printscalico farbric1

When the women and young girls created their friendship square blocks for Doris’ Christmas gift in 1934, they didn’t have the luxury of choosing their fabrics for hue, intensity or theme.  They used what was available. Most families had scrap bags and families and friends swapped with each other. Calico fabrics, even small pieces, were valued and treasured over feed and flour sacks.

Feed and flour sacks were the foundation fabric for many projects during these years. Dishtowels, aprons, dresses and even quilts were crafted from this readily available fabric. My mother (born in Missouri in 1936) shared a story of how excited she was to get some ‘real’ underwear and not have to wear bloomers made from feed sacks anymore.

Small calico pieces from the scrap bag were a good use for appliqué quilt patterns, such as the Sunbonnet Sue and Overall Bill’s used in this set. Be it scraps or larger pieces, calico fabrics had a place in everyday life in 1934.



  1. sweetbeariesblogposts

    Really pretty quilts. Nice to see what people doing the A to Z challenge are passionate about.

    • Thanks Julia. You’re right; so many varied interests that are A to Zing.

  2. I have just recieved a free gift of Calico that I am really excited to use, I have been wanting to do some quilting for the longest, still learning but will go for it. Thanks for sharing, looking forward to reading more of your posts. Amanda
    Amanda – Realityarts-Creativity
    Art Blog

    • Thanks for stopping by Amanda. Good luck in your venture quilting, It’s so much fun!
      Have a great day!

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