Due to the nature of the material, flannel fabric for quilting can be a bit challenging unless you take certain precautions before you begin.
Allow for Flannel Fabric Shrinking & Fraying
Although we don’t typically recommend washing fabric before using, it can be helpful when using flannel. Put the material in a lingerie bag (to reduce fraying) and machine-wash in hot water on the gentle cycle. Then throw the flannel fabric in the dryer at high heat, but remove it while it's still slightly damp and lay it out on a flat surface, pressing it down with your hands to minimize wrinkles. If you iron, make it a quick press so you don't overheat and stretch the material.
If you purchase flannel fabric by the yard, allow about 20% extra for shrinkage (about a quarter of a yard). Flannel also frays, so it's wise to be generous with your seam allowances.
Tips for Sewing Flannel Fabric
The charming qualities of flannel quilt fabric are also the ones that present challenges for sewing. Its thicker, softer properties make cutting flannel tricky. Make sure to use very sharp scissors or a 2-inch diameter rotary cutter blade. Splurge on a new machine needle that's 80/12 or 90/14 for ease of stitching. Finally, when you're quilting with flannel, use a walking foot on your machine and keep the stitch lengths a little longer than you'd use for lightweight quilting cotton because flannel stretches.