A Material Difference: Quilting with Satin

When it Comes to Quilting With Satin…

Don’t avoid it anymore! Working with satin isn’t a common choice for a quilt, but with some encouragement, adding a bit of satin fabric to your quilt sure does add a lovely touch of intrigue.

I was a sewist long before I became interested in quilting. I know from making garments, like my wedding dress and a lot of princess costumes, quilting with satin isn’t likely the easiest of fabrics for quilting. In fact, my experience tells me that satin is called a specialty fabric because it is especially difficult to work with. My advice is to make sure you have a bag of tricks to pull from before you even try quilting with satin fabric—unless you are just into misery. However… if you give in to satin’s wonderfully soft and luxurious look and feel … it can add immeasurable beauty to a memorable quilt.

The basic qualities of a satin fabric give you a heads-up that certain techniques may be required to sew with it. The way it drapes in your hand immediately tells you it’s likely to move around while you are stitching. If you’ve sewn fabrics with a flat gleaming surface before (silk, for instance) you know that satin’s shiny look is also a big warning sign. Satin is hard to manage while you are stitching, it’s going to slip around, and permanent holes will likely appear when you need to rip out threads from unintentional stitching. So, why bother? Because… it is incredibly beautiful in a quilt.

I recently made a color option for Charisma Horton’s Twinkle Twinkle design, featured in the January/February issue of McCall’s Quilting magazine. I haven’t used satin in awhile so the experience became a startling refresher.

Twinkle Twinkle color option, quilt designed by Charisma Horton, McCall’s Quilting January/February 2019. Fabric: Another Point of View for Windham Fabrics and assorted satins from Tricia’s fabric collection.

I did remember I needed to take special care, so I asked office mate Lori Baker for some advice. Lori is the Editor of Love of Quilting and in charge of The Quilting Company’s project acquisitions, and general all-around guru of machine quilting. She has a wealth of knowledge about using a broad range of substrate fabrics, like working with satin. (Lori worked for Pfaff for many years as an educator, and while there made a number of fabulous designer gowns, made of silk or satin.) Along with pulling from my experience and perusing the web for tricks from other quilters, I picked her brain about quilting with satin to give you a checklist of tips for this article.

Selecting Satin Fabric

Satin is delicate, luscious to look at and wonderful to feel–soft and shiny. No doubt it is one of the fabrics of royalty.

Lori’s advice:

  • You’ll find satin, like silk, can have a smooth surface, or contain slubs like silk dupioni. Pay attention to the hand and drapability. Keep in mind what you want your final product to look like. Do you want to see the texture? Will it add interest to the design? What about the purpose of the quilt? Will it be used daily, or occasionally? Displayed on the bed or a wall, or just worn down by love?
  • Watch for thread pulls. If someone has cut your yardage from the bolt there is always a chance you’ll find pulled threads. You could consider this an attractive bit of texture, or you might find that it will only be the start of the fabric’s breakdown.

Cutting and preparing satin fabric before piecing

  • Avoid ironing satin if at all possible; avoid applying steam from the iron. The heat from the iron and water can cause the satin to discolor. If you need to iron the fabric, press from the backside of the fabric and use a lower heat setting.
  • I used a fusible lightweight interfacing, Shades Textile Soft Fuse for the Twinkle Twinkle color option. I fused it to the back of my fabric before I cut out the patches. Not only did it help to stabilize the fabric for cutting, it also helped keep it from slipping when I sewed the cotton and satin patches together.
  • Satin is slippery so if you don’t interface the back for a quilting project you can lay the satin on a non-slip surface to hold it in place. As an alternative, place a cotton sheet over the top of your cutting board before cutting (be careful not to cut the sheet).
  • Use sharp scissors, or a rotary cutter with a new blade, to cut satin fabric. Sharp cutting tools will prevent the edges of the fabric from fraying and reduce the fabric’s threads from pulling as you cut out your patches.
  • Note that the shine of satin means you need to be careful to cut all the patches in one direction if it matters to your quilt project.

Piecing and Quilting Satin

Needles, thread, and pins. Oh my! You have to pay attention to using these for the best results and to have the best experience quilting with satin fabric. For my cover option, I mixed a cotton fabric and satin, finding that the cotton and interface-backed satin worked well together to for easier stitching. Here are some more tips to help you piece and add quilting to your quilt.

  • Use a fine point sewing machine needle. I took Lori’s suggestion and used a 70/10 needle for my color option. To prevent snags and thread pulls, start with a new machine needle and change it often when quilting with satin.
  • Use an extra fine cotton or covered polyester thread.
  • Use a stitch length of 10-15 stitches per inch.
  • Use lots of pins to hold fabrics together, one to two inches apart. They help stabilize the fabric while you stitch. Satin snags easily so use fine pins, placed inside the seam allowance to prevent holes in the “showable” side of the fabric. Be careful not to use cheap pins or regular sewing pins.
  • Make markings on the wrong side of the fabric. Enough said.
  • Satin feeds through your sewing machine at a different rate than cotton fabric does. To ease stitching, sew slowly.
  • I highly recommend practicing on a scrap of satin, with interfacing if you are using it, before you start sewing the final quilt satin. Try all of the above tips and adjust as you need to; your sewing machine and sewing style can also influence your success quilting with satin.

Not convinced working with a glam fabric is for you?

Need some ideas for incorporating satin into your quilts? We’re posting a video on our Quilting Company Facebook page on Thursday, 1/16 to tell you more about working with satin and other substrate fabrics. We’ll embed the video here, as well, once it’s available. Make sure to tune in on Facebook or visit us again on the blog to see how we work with glam in our quilts!

Take a closer look at the glam in McCall’s Quilting, the January/February 2019 issue. We chose the storyline of glamor because the first of the year is notable for being the award season in the music and movie business. So, we decided to add some glam to quilts. I promise you will find some award-winning quilts in this issue. Here is a sampling…


Twinkle Twinkle, designed by Charisma Horton. Fabric: Marblehead collection by Paintbrush Studios for Fabri-Quilt

Golden Galaxy, designed by Karen Ackva. Fabric: Color Sphere and Precious Metals collection by Kanvas for Benartex Fabrics

McCall’s Quilting January/February 2019

McCall’s Quilting, the Glam Issue, January/February 2019

Happy Quilting!






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