The first time I saw it in a fabric store, I couldn’t stop touching it. I had to know more about this luscious cloth and what it was called. Looking at the top of the cardboard bolt, I saw the material was a Kaffe Fassett fabric. It had a name that used a term I had never heard before. “What is shot cotton?” I wondered.
Over the years since, I’ve asked a lot more questions and done a lot of research. In this ultimate guide to sewing with shot cotton, I run down all of the things I’ve learned about this amazing type of cloth. Read on to get the skinny on what makes shot cotton such a unique, beautiful material to sew (and learn a few tips, too, for working with it).
Estimated reading time: 14 minutes
What Is Shot Cotton?
Shots are a type of two-color weave fabric created from threads dyed in small batches. It is known for its excellent drape, luster, and nubby texture—with minor bumps and ridges visible on the material’s tactile surface. Some of these color woven cloth options are smooth, and others feature a slubby or uneven finish that gives them a more homespun look.
It can be hard to find shots in the U.S. unless you’re shopping at a higher-end quilting cotton store. I’ve never found it carried in the fabric sections of big box craft stores, like JoAnn, Michaels, or Hobby Lobby.
FAQs About Shot Cotton
There is so much to know about this type of fabric, but not a lot online all in one place if you want to take a deep dive. That’s why I pulled together this FAQs round-up.
If I missed one of your questions, please drop me a line. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll check with one of my veteran sewing pals and amend the post with an answer.
How Did Shot Cottons Get Their Name?
The term shot comes from the way the fabric is made since the side-to-side (or crosswise) weft threads are “shot through” the lengthwise warp threads using distinctly different colors. This technique produces a finished fabric with a unique appearance when viewed from varying angles.
Though its threads are two different colors, a finished shot fabric appears as a solid third color with subtle depth. Some shot lines include stripes and ikat patterns.
Pro-tip: It’s easy to use shot fabric to make a lightweight summer scarf. Because of how it’s woven, creating a self-frindge on the edges as an eye-catching built-in embellishement takes only minutes.
When the edge of a shot cotton fabric unravels, you can see the two different colors that a weaver used to make the material. For example, mustard yellow cotton threads woven with cobalt blue ones might create a rich, gently variegated gray shot fabric.
Are There Other Types of “Shot” Fabrics Besides Cotton?
Yes, weavers use other fibers to make shot silks, shot linens, and even shot wools. India is the home of many different types of “shot” fabrics. Weavers in India have been using the two-color combinations for hundreds of years to make clothing. For example, one sari can require anywhere from five to nine yards of lightweight material, so its fabric is often silk shot cotton with a nice drape.
Do Shot Cottons Have a Wrong or Right Side?
No, shots do not have a wrong or right side. Because of how it is made, the fabric has beautiful, subtle shifts in color on both sides when it moves around and the light strikes it from different angles.
What Does Shot Cotton Fabric Feel Like?
As the quilting pros say, shots have a lovely “hand” or feel. What that means in ordinary people speak is that shot cotton has a soft, smooth feel to it, so it’s comfortable to wear or feel brush against your skin. I made a striped tunic out of shots from Kaffe Fassett’s line that I find myself drawn to each day when I open my closet and look for something to wear because it’s light, drapes nicely, and looks luxe.
Are Shot Cotton Fabrics Stretchy?
No, shot cottons are not necessarily a stretchy fabric like jersey, although some shot fabric options may have a tiny bit of give on the bias. They are a lot like most quilting cottons.
Generally speaking, the stretchiness of any fabric largely depends on the method used to make it and the type of fibers that are used.
Pro-tip: Shots aren’t truly a stretch fabric. This is why they aren’t a great choice if you are sewing a piece of clothing that requires a lot of stretch and flexibility. Basically, it could work for loose-fitting pants but you should skip it as a fabric option if you are sewing something like activewear or athletic gear.
What Is Shot Cotton Good For?
Even if you shouldn’t use shot cotton to sew a swimsuit, it is still a good choice for a lot of different types of sewing projects.
It’s got a lot of “pros” as a material. The biggest thing it has going for it is that it is a fabric that’s relatively durable and easy to care for. It’s definitely a low-maintenance fabric choice.
These characteristics are why it’s used for some types of clothing. In fact, you may even have a few wardrobe pieces made with shot fabric, like chambray, and not realize it.
What Are Some Drawbacks of Shot Cotton Fabrics?
Shots are not a very common type of fabric, so they can be challenging to find here and may be more expensive than other fabrics. Additionally, some types of this fabric have an extra textured surface, making it annoying to sew with.
Also, unlike the Moda Bella Solids that come in just about every color imaginable, shot cottons are not typically available in a wide range of colors, making it sometimes hard to find the perfect shade for your project.
What Gives Some Shots an Iridescent Appearance?
Some shots do indeed have an iridescent look. This is created by how the light reflects off the top of the fabric. The small ridges on the fabric’s surface cause the light to refract in different directions. This gives shots their “dazzling” appearance.
How Thick Is Shot Cotton?
The thickness of shots may vary based on manufacturers. In general, they are typically considered lightweight or medium-weight materials. Shots tend to be thinner than other quilting fabrics, flannels, and wools, but they are thicker than common clothing materials like rayons, cotton gauzes, and chiffons. The texture of the shot cotton also makes it feel slightly coarse compared to smoother fabrics like silk or satin.
Are Shot Fabrics Eco-Friendly?
The production of shot cotton fabric is often quite intensive, requiring large quantities of water and heat to create the fine fibers used in the material. As such, shots aren’t considered an eco-friendly fabric choice.
How Are Shot Cottons Made?
Creating shot fabric begins with the raw cotton that’s sorted and cleaned to remove any impurities. Next, the cotton is placed in a large vat filled with hot water. Then the cotton is agitated until it becomes very fine fibers. The individual fibers are then stretched out and dried. This is done to create the thread used to make shot cotton.
Threads for striped shots are prepared in much the same way as they are for solid-colored shots. The difference comes with how they are woven. Rather than using a single color of thread, with striped shot cottons, two colors are used for the warp (with one of those two colors being the same color thread used for the weft)—or vice versa.
Are Shot Cottons Considered a Plain Weave Fabric?
Yes, shot cottons are a type of plain weave fabric, which means the threads, called “yarn” by weavers, are woven perpendicularly to make a pattern that, in a micro view, will look a lot like a checkerboard.
Is Chambray Considered a Type of Shot Cotton Fabric?
Yes, it is! Chambray is a denim-esque fabric woven with two different colored yarns for the warp (blue) and weft (white). I have a Lands End button-up dress-shirt dress made from plain-weave chambray fabric that looks like a long denim shirt, but has all of the wonderful wearability qualities that all shot cotton clothes have.
What Is Shot Cotton Commonly Used to Make?
Sure, shot cotton is commonly used for making quilts and household items, like blankets and pillows, but this highly versatile fabric—as mentioned earlier—can also be sewn into clothing items. Some of the types of clothes that you can create from shot cotton include:
What Are the Benefits of Wearing Clothes Made From Shot Fabric?
When it comes to what is shot cotton good for, the first thing that comes to mind is lightweight summer clothing—think cute sun dresses and loose-fitting slacks. You could even use it to sew your own Emily in Paris-style bucket hat if her embroidered hot pink Kangol option is out of your budget range.
The reason shot cotton works great for a lot of accessories and clothing is that it’s very soft, comfortable, and breathable. Shots also have a fuller drape and body.
Its hand is a bit more like rayon than quilting cotton so you may need to add interfacing if you’re sewing an item that requires more structure (e.g., necklines on a boat neck shirt or the collars on a blouse).
How Much Do Items Made With Shot Cottons Shrink When You Wash Them?
Shots typically shrink between 5–10% when washed. If you are planning to use shot cotton fabrics to make a new item of clothing, be sure to wash your fabric before cutting and sewing.
What Is the Best Way to Clean Items Sewn From Shots?
To avoid potential shrinkage or color bleeding, the best way to care for a project made from shot cotton fabric is to hand wash. If you choose to launder the item in your washing machine, I’d recommend using a gentle cycle setting with warm water but rinsing in cold.
You’ll also want to use a mild, bleach-free detergent to help protect the fabric’s texture and color. When air-drying or hang-drying isn’t possible, opt for low-heat tumble-dry since heat can damage (and possibly shrink) your fabric’s fibers.
Pro-tip: Consider adding a “color catcher” to your load when washing shot cottons to grab any excess dye that might be released by the fabric during the washing process.
Is Shot Cotton a Good Fabric Choice for Homemade Bias Tape?
You can use shots to make bias tape. Keep in mind, though, that it may not be the best fabric choice for this purpose. That’s because it can be more expensive and harder to find. Plus, its semi-stretchiness can make it harder to work with and manipulate. If you have some on hand and want to give it a try, consider giving a light spray of starch to your bias tape made from shot strips. This will make the fabric somewhat easier to work with.
Can You Use Shot Cottons for Fabric Appliques?
Yes, you can use shots for appliques. Since applique work requires a lot of handling, spray-starch your yardage twice (once on both sides) to give the fabric some extra body.
What Is the Best Way to Cut Shot Cotton?
With shots, you need to pay attention to their grain. Since it is made from threads of different colors, you need to cut it as a napped fabric. Cut all pattern pieces trimmed out with the fabric going the same direction. This is super important. Why? Because shot material has a different look at varying angles because of how it’s woven.
This is especially important if you are sewing a garment. Cutting your pattern pieces willy-nilly may leave you with a finished item that appears like it was constructed from two similar—yet not quite the same—fabrics. Like other cotton fabrics, the best way to cut shot cotton is with a sharp rotary cutter and a self-healing cutting mat. A rotary cutter with a sharp blade will give you a clean, even cut.
How Should You Sew Shot Cotton?
You can sew it by hand, but I prefer to sew shots on my sewing machine. Make sure to have a fresh, sharp needle and use a walking foot to feed the fabric evenly. These steps will help you avoid unintentional gathers and other problems when sewing shot cotton.
What Is the Best Way to Press Shot Cotton?
The best way to press shots is with a cool iron and a pressing cloth. A pressing cloth helps protect the fabric from the heat of the iron, which is essential when working with this type of fabric. When pressing shot cotton, use a cool iron and take extra care not to scorch the fabric. Additionally, it is best to use a pressing cloth when working with this delicate material.
Where Can You Buy Shot Cottons?
Shots are not commonly available fabrics, but—as mentioned before—you can purchase them from nicer local quilting shops and specialty online fabric retailers. Last week, I got a few yards of Kaffe Fassett striped shot fabric. They carry lots of options at True Cotton Co., my favorite quilting shop in Indianapolis.
What Is Shot Cotton’s Price? How Much Does It Usually Cost?
The cost of shots varies based on quality/thread-weight and markup, but you can expect to pay as little as $10 to $15 per yard for solids. For high-quality, imported striped shot fabrics, you might pay as much as $40 per yard. Creating yarn-dyed fabrics, like shot cotton, takes a long time. This is because its weaving process is more labor-intensive, requiring extra money and effort from fabric mills to ensure no defects appear.
My favorites happen to fall in the more budget-friendly price range. They come from the aforementioned Kaffe Fassett (as well as Pepper Cory). However, this is only because I haven’t yet had a reason to splurge on more costly shot yardage. If you’re considering investing in some fancier shot options, I’ve only heard good things about fabrics in the Kofu Shima Momen line. They are made using traditional Japanese weaving and dyeing methods.
What Is Shot Cotton’s Difference From a Tsumugi Fabric?
Tsumugi fabrics are typically far more “nubby” looking than shot cottons. They also tend to be far more expensive than shots. Some sewists consider tsumugi fabrics to have a more luxurious feel and appearance than shot cotton fabrics, too. Alternatively, shot fabrics reign as a more durable choice. They are better suited than tsumugi fabrics for projects that will get a lot of wear and tear.
What Is the Difference Between Shot Cotton and Regular Quilting Cotton?
The main difference is in how the fibers are woven together. As mentioned above, shot cotton is made by weaving two colors of cotton together. This gives it a unique textured appearance and a slightly heavier feel than regular quilting cotton.
In comparison, regular cotton is typically made from one color of cotton fiber. It generally is smoother and less textured than shots. Additionally, traditional quilting cotton fabrics are more widely available and produced in larger quantities. Overall, the choice between regular cotton and shot cotton often comes down to personal preference and which type of fabric best suits your needs and budget.
Sewing With Shot Cotton Fabrics
I hope this post helped you get a better idea of what is shot cotton and how to use it with your sewing projects. Its beauty and versatility are two of the main reasons it’s one of my favorite fabrics to work with. Because I love it so much, you might be seeing a few shot cotton fabric projects coming soon as posts. I just can’t seem to stay away from the stuff.
Whatever your purpose, shot cotton can be an excellent fabric choice when you sew. There’s just no comparison. It has a great texture, unique appearance, and great durability. Consider it for your next project, whether you’re making a cute shirt, baby quilt, bathroom drapes, or even a pillow for your guest bed.
With shot cotton under your needle, you can pretty much do it all!