Will it quilt?
September 27, 2011 7:37 PM   Subscribe

How can I tell if vintage fabric (some lovely old printed tablecloths with no labels) is 100% cotton?

I'm hoping to use some old printed tablecloths to make a play mat/baby quilt. I know it's important to use 100% cotton (or other natural fiber) fabric when quilting—how can I make sure that these fabrics are? They feel and look like cotton to me, but I don't know how to determine so definitively.
posted by ocherdraco to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (5 answers total)
What about the burn test?
posted by HopperFan at 7:48 PM on September 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Perfect! One of the reasons I want to recycle these into quilts is that there are some stains on them (that, and I don't actually have a table the right size for them), which means that there are plenty of spots near the stains that I can use for testing. I also have an old ashtray to do the test in. Exactly what I needed.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:52 PM on September 27, 2011

This is just my personal opinion, but I say use the tablecloths even if they aren't 100% cotton. There are a ton of gorgeous vintage sheet projects out there. Most vintage sheets tend to be 50/50 cotton poly, and hopefully come worn enough that any pilling issues would have popped up already. Cotton/poly sheets can be a little more complicated to work with than quilting cottons, but that's as much about the weave as it is about the fiber. (Quilting cottons are designed to be very stiff and non-stretchy, for lack of a better word, which is why they often perform beautifully in quilts but don't drape anywhere near as well as other 100% cotton fabrics intended for clothing).

If your tablecloths do end up being partially poly, there's a ton of resources out there on sewing with vintage sheets -- the projects and tutorials at Oh Fransson would be a great place to start!
posted by pie ninja at 4:19 AM on September 28, 2011

Please let us know how your burn test works!
posted by pointystick at 6:28 AM on September 28, 2011

The burn test seems to indicate that these are cotton (and I've already started cutting and sewing, yay!) but I have to say, it felt a little like interpreting tea leaves to me. I think that I should have grabbed several fabric swatches whose content I knew already to use as controls so I could see how cotton actually burned before burning my test swatches to compare.

In any case, I'm pretty confident these are cotton, and am happily piecing away.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:41 PM on September 28, 2011

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