A Different Kind of Cheater Cloth

One of the things I enjoy most about quilting is taking all kinds of unwanted supplies and turning them into something useful.

You may be familiar with “cheater cloth”, a name for fabric that is printed to look as though small patches of different fabrics had been pieced together.

"Cheater cloth."

“Cheater cloth.”

Recently I was given large scraps of pre-quilted fabric, that struck me as a different kind of cheater cloth.   One side was a solid-colored fabric of some kind (it felt like a cotton/polyester blend), the other side was a thin nylon netting, and in between was a layer of very thin polyester batting.  It was all held together with rows of machine stitching.

Pre-quilted fabrics.

Pre-quilted fabrics.

I thought it would be great to use in the little lap quilts we make for the Veterans’ Administration hospital.  For one thing, it would be nice to save the costs of batting and backing, and for another, I thought that those pre-sewn lines would save me marking any quilting lines.  I thought I would make a couple of tops and baste them to the pre-quilted fabrics, flip them over, quilt from the back, and get amazingly precise (especially for me) diamonds.

I had fun making the tops from squares of various autumn colors, but then I realized that if I didn’t get the tops lined up perfectly with the existing lines on the backs of the fabrics, my quilting lines could easily be aligned in unpleasant ways on the front – off enough so they didn’t look either straight or intentionally wonky.  So for the first one, which had the red back, I worked from the top side as usual, and quilted large concentric squares with a walking foot.

With the white-backed one, I could hold it up to the light and see through it, and see that the squares lined up well with the pre-sewn lines.  So for that one, I quilted along the lines on the back.  And since the batting was already attached to the backing, I didn’t have to worry about it shifting, so I just quilted three rows apart.

fall quilts

Fall lap quilts. The border fabric, dark brown floral, and brown sashing were all donated fabrics.

Once I had the quilts put together and bound, it struck me that I really should have tested how those pre-quilted fabrics would do in the laundry, before I started sewing them!  I hand-washed them and the red fabric bled quite a bit.  I tumble-dried them and they came out fine.  Nothing shrunk unevenly, and the pre-quilted fabrics felt pretty nice after washing and drying.

Looking online, I see that fabrics like this are available for about $10 a yard.  Of course they don’t have the same human touch that individually quilted fabrics do, but I think I could use them again on occasion for quick lap quilts.