How to choose quilt batting

Quilt batting is the layer of padding or wadding that goes in between the quilt top and the backing fabric.  All three layers are held together by the quilting stitches.  You may not think that quilt batting is very important – after all you won’t see it – but the quilt batting actually has the most bearing on the finished feel of your quilt of any of the materials you put into it.

So, if batting is so important, how do we decide what to use?

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How to choose quilt batting:

First, you have to know what battings are available.  The most common choices, especially in New Zealand, are cotton, polyester, wool, or a blend of two of these materials.

Next, you have to be aware of the general properties of each type of batting.  Cotton usually has a little bit of shrink, it is flatter in loft (poofiness) and it grips well to cotton fabrics meaning there is less chance of it shifting and giving you puckers as you quilt.  However, cotton also takes and holds a crease – great for those wanting to mark with a Hera marker (a plastic tool that leaves a crease to follow) not so great for those wanting to fold up quilts tightly and send them off to quilt shows.

Polyester is usually the cheapest batting.  It is synthetic, meaning it won’t shrink and is ideal for allergy sufferers.  But it can be slippery and is the most likely to ‘beard’, which is when fibres from your batting poke through your quilt top and backing.  Depending on the batting, polyester can be a little stiffer when quilted densely, which can be great for wall hangings because it makes them hang nicely.  Polyester washes very well.

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Wool is soft and warm and doesn’t crease as much as cotton.  Although wool batting manufacturers often claim there won’t be much shrinkage, wool will shrink and felt together if it is subjected to ‘unsympathetic’ washing!  Wool batting quilts wonderfully for both hand and machine quilting and drapes nicely too, but tends to be more expensive than cotton or poly.

Blended battings use a mix of materials to make the most of the properties of each.  For example, many cotton and wool battings have a polyester scrim that the cotton or wool is ‘needle punched’ to to provide stability, and prevent stretching and bearding.

Once you know the properties of the different types of batting, it’s time to test them, use them and find which ones you like best.  You will discover that you have personal preferences that differ from other people’s, just like some people like mushrooms and some don’t.

Amy Ellis, from Amy’s Creative Side, recorded a podcast about the different types of quilt batting that she had used and what she thought of them.  Listen to the podcast here: http://amyscreativeside.com/2015/03/25/quiltcast-70-quilty-housekeeping/

Leah Day, from the free motion quilting project, has written a good blog post about how she was testing different battings and then keeping labelled samples in a binder.

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There are also some more unusual batting choices.  For a luxurious batting, you could try silk, but be prepared to pay.  There is also an eco friendly choice made of recycled plastic bottles.  See the blog post written by Adrianne, of On the Windy Side, about using this green batting: http://www.onthewindyside.co.nz/2015/06/drunk-on-blue-and-green.html

How about black battings for dark coloured fabrics?  This helps eliminate any white bearding on dark quilt tops.  There are lots of choices available – give some of the fancier ones a try.

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Hopefully this has given you some food for thought on how to choose a quilt batting.  Let us know in the comments what your favourite batting is and why.  We would love to hear from you!


Thanks to Amy Ellis, Leah Day, and Adrianne.

Charlotte

About

Charlotte has been quilting for more than 10 years, making both traditional quilts and art quilts and loving both processes. She teaches and writes about quilting to help introduce more people to this awesome craft. She lives in Northland on a boat with her husband, two children, a dog, a cat and two sewing machines – fabric and stitch are her escape! You can also find Charlotte's writings on her blog The Slightly Mad Quilt Lady

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