If you’ve only sewn with quilting cottons, we’re here to tell you that voile is an excellent place to start a new romance. Unlike leather or velvet, voile is fairly similar to quilting cotton, so you can focus on learning just a few key differences.
What is Voile?
Voile is a lightweight, somewhat sheer fabric. People like to point out that “voile” in French means “veil,” which should give you an idea. It’s typically 100 percent cotton, though sometimes you’ll find a cotton-polyester blend. It has a higher thread count and tighter weave than quilting cotton, giving it an almost slippery feel.
Voile is definitely more expensive than quilting cotton. On the flip side, the WOF is greater. Where quilting cottons are between 42″ and 44″ wide, voiles are 55″ wide. So you do get more per yard, if you feel the need to justify the expense. (You’re welcome.)
If you’re looking for a summer-weight quilt, voile is a dream. It’s seasonably light, and has a lovely hand to it—nice and drapey. It’s often described as “buttery” or “silky,” and we like things that are buttery and silky.
Its fineness makes voile an extremely good substrate for densely seamed pieces, like string quilts. And the lack of bulk also makes it a great option for leave-in foundation-pieced quilts. We might not recommend voile for rough-and-tumble quilts, like, say, a toddler quilt, but for an English paper-pieced hexie quilt, like Parisian Posies? OMG, yes!
In fact, Felicia Brenoe, who designed Parisian Posies, joined Sara Gallegos on the set of “Fons & Porter’s Love of Quilting” to teach English paper piecing. Watching Felicia hand stitch the voile is just mesmerizing.
In general, you approach working with voile just like you would quilting cotton: Same threads for piecing and topstitching, same heat setting on your iron, same tools for cutting and marking.
What are the differences, then?
Voile tends to shrink slightly less than quilting cottons. Pre-wash a sample to see how your particular fabric reacts.
All that buttery, luscious silkiness means voile can be a bit slippery, so we recommend pinning more often. Speaking of pins, voile responds well to a finer point. That silkiness is the result of a tighter weave, and you don’t want to leave holes in the fabric (though it held up great to our poking and prodding). If you want to play with finer, sharper needles in your machine, too, go for it. The voile will like that. In fact, don’t go any larger than a universal needle.
The flimsiness of such a lightweight fabric can be counteracted with some spray starch. If you want to give it even more crispness, you could try a very lightweight interfacing. That might sacrifice the drapiness of the voile, but if you’re mixing-and-matching voile with quilting cottons (scrap quilts!!!), that should do the trick to make it play well with its stiffer neighbors.
If you’re in love with the drapiness (it’s so dreamy… Sigh), preserve it by partnering the top with a softer batting, like bamboo or even silk.
Voile is so easy to use, the only real challenge is how to pronounce it. Voy-el, rhymes with oil? Vwal, rhymes with mall? Both are correct; it’s just a matter of how French-y you want to sound.
Is it any coincidence that “voile” is an anagram of “I love”? OK, well… probably. But you WILL love it!
It’s time to try out the lusciousness of voile!