Cotton Lawn ~ a Q & A with Jen Kingwell

Jen Kingwell’s Lawn Star.

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It’s one of the beautiful quilts in her book Jen From One Block.  The fabrics are a mix of Jen’s gorgeous Moving On Lawns, Lollies and Behind the Scenes.

Have you ever sewn with cotton lawn?  In addition to Jen’s lawns, Moda also has the Regent Street Lawns.

A great many sewists and quilters are interested in experimenting with cotton lawn for quilts, clothing and accessories but aren’t sure if there is anything special they need to know beforehand.

Other than a few small adjustments to make with thread and sewing-machine needles, sewing with cotton lawns is just like sewing with any regular quilting-weight cotton.

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Jen’s My Small World – a mix of quilting cottons and cotton lawns.

Just ask Jen Kingwell.  She’s our resident “lawn expert”, having used cotton lawns in her quilts for many years.

Why do you like using lawns in your quilts?

I’ve always enjoyed stitching with lawns and they mix beautifully with traditional patchwork weight cottons. I especially love them as backings.  The winters are cold where we live so we sleep with duvets and use my quilts purely for decoration.  But in the summer, we use our quilts all the time.  A cotton lawn quilt with a lightweight cotton batting – or wadding – and a beautiful lawn backing is the perfect weight.

Where you excited that Moving On will be on cotton lawn?

I was super-excited to have this range printed on lawn and I have so enjoyed sewing with them. The shirts Jane Stewart sewed for Richard and the tops she made for me are divine, and so lovely to wear. I had people stop me at market and compliment me on my top not knowing it was made from my range. That was a real thrill.  (Richard also enjoyed the women who kept touching him to feel the softness of his shirt.)

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Do you have any tips for sewing with lawn?

Don’t be afraid of it – just try it! Use it as you would any cotton you’d use for quilting.  Stitch with it, quilt it and launder it as you would any quilt, lawn wears very well.  It’s also so lovely to hand-quilt, it’s like stitching through butter.

It’s also perfect for apparel – shirts, blouses, dresses and such.  It has a softer drape than traditional cottons but still has all the advantages of a natural fiber in being breathable and light… you know, for all we “hot” ladies out there.

You’ve often said that you like using lawns for quilt backings.  In addition to how easily it quilts, is there any other reason for that?

The weight of the lawn.  It’s light and feels so beautifully soft.  When my girls were little, I had backed a quilt with a Liberty of London lawn and they all wanted to sleep under that quilt because they loved the feel of the silky fabric on their skin.
Is there anything you do differently when quilting a quilt that has a lawn backing?

No, I just treat the lawns just as I would any other cotton fabric.  It’s really that easy.

Thank you, Jen!

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Moving On Lawns are in shops now.

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This beautiful Smitten quilt was made by Mickey and April of Sweetwater Cotton Shop.  The Smitten pattern is by Lucy Kingwell for Amitie Textiles.

Here’s what else you need to know about cotton lawns.

What is cotton lawn?  In simple terms, it’s a high-thread-count plain weave cloth made with fine, combed or carded threads that result in a silky, smooth feel.  It is a lightweight, sometimes semi-transparent fabric that can be dyed or printed.

The fine texture and smoothness of the fabric means that finely-detailed prints have a clarity and precision that might be lost on regular quilting-weight cottons.

Pre-washing. As it is with any cotton fabric that will be used for garments and apparel that will be laundered, pre-washing is recommended.  For patchwork, do what you usually do whether you’re using only lawns or mixing them with regular quilting cottons.

If you pre-wash, you’ll notice that the first washing affects lawns less than it does regular quilting cottons.  The lawns shrink and fray a bit less due to the high thread-count.  Also note that most shrinkage will come in the width, not in the length.

Since many of us here press with steam – large amounts of it – we often “prep” the fabrics with a light starch or sizing.  Doing so gives the fabric a little more body and helps alleviate any shrinkage that might result from the use of steam.

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This Regent Street Lawn 2016 scrappy pillow was machine quilted with 50 wt. Aurifil thread.

Thread.  The very fine weight of the fabric means that a fine thread is recommended for piecing – 50 wt. Aurifil, a 60 wt. Presencia or a 50 wt. DMC Embroidery thread.

Needle.  The finer thread and fabric require a finer needle – no more than a 75/11 for sewing with just lawns.  An 80/12 will work if you’re mixing lawns with quilting cottons but a Sharp or Micro-tex is recommended as it will pierce the tight weave of the lawn more easily.

Quilting.  Jen hand-quilts her cotton lawn quilts with Aurifil Mako 12 – an 12 wt. thread.  Machine-quilting can be done with a 28 wt. or 40 wt. thread depending on personal preference.

Batting.  If a lightweight quilt is the desired end-result, a lightweight batting – or wadding – like Hobbs Heirloom.

Finally, Cotton lawns aren’t for everyone.  They’re for anyone looking for something different – a new experiment in sewing.  The unbelievable softness, light weight and wearability of lawn makes it a wonderful choice for clothing, quilts and accessories.

As a little boy named Mikey was once told… try it, you’ll like it.

Happy Tuesday!

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5 comments on “Cotton Lawn ~ a Q & A with Jen Kingwell

  1. Katie D says:

    Wow, perfect timing, as my new Regent Street Lawns (2015 version) are in the laundry right now, and I was wondering what I might do with this beautiful fabric. I’ve sewn soft flowy skirts and dresses with lawn, and I want to try lawn in quilts, but I’m not feeling confident about that since I’m a newbie quilter. Thanks for the helpful and inspiring post- I will give lawn a try in a quilt top, and certainly I’ll try it for soft quilt backs. I’ll have to check out Jen Kingwell’s book and her lawns, too. I’m looking forward to the 2016 Regent Street lawns, which I hadn’t seen yet, and they look great in the scrappy pillow.

  2. I love sewing with lawn and am thrilled Moda are making them!

  3. Barb says:

    I too have been curious about using lawns. Thanks for the info, not as intimidated as I was to try them in quilting!

  4. Darlene. JOYNER says:

    I have never used cotton lawn but will make a point of finding a local shop that has it

  5. Karen Rowland says:

    I just finished a quilt and backed it with an older lawn that I had. I was hesitant at first and asked for opinions in a quilt FB group I ‘m in on whether I should use it as a backing. Most said “don’t”. Well, I did, and I love the feel of the quilt–so soft. The quilt is for my granddaughter for Christmas and the lawn was from a favorite aunt that passed recently. It’s good to know I have nothing to worry about.

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