Flannel Season

Learn more about flannel fabrics

Written by
Victoria Caldwell
Published on
October 29, 2021 4:39:00 PM PDT October 29, 2021 4:39:00 PM PDTth, October 29, 2021 4:39:00 PM PDT

It’s fall here in Kentucky. The leaves have started to change colors and the air is just a little bit cold in the morning. At the grocery store and in restaurants, there are pumpkins and “pumpkin spice” everywhere. As I see it, by the end of October it's officially Flannel Season.

Is Flannel Season something I just made up? Yeah, but it makes sense. Flannel shirts are everywhere, and soon I’ll break out the cuddly flannel sheets for my bed. Customers come in looking for flannel, too. Some are sewing shirts or pajamas and others are planning quilts.

I made a flannel quilt a few years ago, and even in just a few years, it seems like there are more and more options available. Traditionally, we think of flannel and plaid as going hand-in-hand but there are a lot more options besides plaid. Flannel is a woven fabric and the flannels we carry are 100% cotton. When you think about flannel, your first recollection is probably how it feels when you touch it. It’s soft and comforting and will keep you warm. It gets even softer with washing and wear.

The softness comes from the process of running a fine metal brush over the fabric to raise the fibers from the loosely spun fibers that are woven together. This “fluffy” feel is why it seems like everyone wants to come in and “pet” the flannel fabrics more than the other cotton prints.

Mr H. (Rowland Hancock, founder of our store) told me that some of the flannels we carry are woven on looms that used to make very high-end wool fabrics, which helps produce a softer and more luxurious finish. The Robert Kaufman “Mammoth Flannels” come in a variety of plaid designs with both traditional and bolder color combinations. Free Spirit recently reissued the “Holiday Homies” collection by Tula Pink on flannels. Studio E has some really fun designs available. Moda regularly carries flannel collections, several of the Dear Stella Jax and Moonscape colors are available in flannel, and there are some in Timeless Treasures as well... they’re all over our store!

[Gridded flannel used as design walls, Kaffe Fassett workshop at Hancock's of Paducah in October 2017]

Flannel also works hard in helping make other quilts when used in a design wall. Attach flannel directly to your wall, or wrap it around a piece of foam insulation board you can pin into. This helps keep your fabric pieces and blocks off the floor and makes it easier to take a step back and look at the design. Gridded flannel prints with a neutral color background are available to help with lining things up.

The soft feel of flannel also makes the material very popular for baby quilts. I think most quilters would rather see their gifts used and appreciated rather than stored away, and the cotton flannels we carry are easily machine washed--an important feature for baby quilts! Windham’s Cubby Bear flannels have some great child-friendly designs (and are available at a great price). Flannel can also be used in place of batting, although I’m sure that would give the quilt a much heavier feel.

[Progress on Victoria's flannel quilt, 2018]

From my experience making a flannel quilt (using Kansas Troubles fabric from Moda), it creates more fuzz than sewing with standard cotton fabric. Every time I changed my bobbin I had to clean out the lint, and it was all over my table. I’ve heard that the lint problem is a lot worse with cheaper quality fabrics, be sure to stick with quality brands! The fabric cut smoothly with my trusty Olfa rotary cutter and a ruler. The fabric is definitely a little thicker, so I wasn’t cutting many layers at a time, and pressing took a little longer. I used 50wt Aurifil thread for piecing, and I think I used a 70/10 needle. The little bit of the fuzz from the flannel hid my piecing stitches well. I asked a friend to do the quilting on her long-arm since it was a big quilt, and the leaf design in a cream thread added a nice touch to complement the pattern. This quilt is a little heavier than other quilts I’ve made at the same size.

[Completed quilt with recipient, my aunt]

I haven’t made another flannel quilt... yet. I absolutely would though! I keep seeing beautiful flannels in the store (and petting them) and thinking about what I could make with them.