How to Choose Quilt Batting
Have you ever found yourself in the batting aisle of the craft store, wondering how to choose quilt batting, bewildered by the number of options? Beyond the decision of cotton versus polyester, types of quilt batting include a breakdown by brand, size, fiber content, loft and more.
When choosing batting (or wadding, as it’s called in the U.K. and Australia) for quilting, it’s helpful to learn the basic lingo and also take cues from other quilters, who can recommend their favorite products.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when choosing quilt batting for your next project:
When you purchase batting, you can buy it prepackaged, in standard sizes for crib, twin, full, queen and king size quilts. Or, you can buy it off the bolt in your own custom size, which is a popular choice for longarm quilters or those who like to buy in larger quantities.
Amy at Diary of a Quilter shares lots of shopping tips in her informative post on quilt batting. “Batting goes on sale often at the big box stores,” she says. “I always stock up then, or use coupons.” She also recommends saving your large batting scraps, which you can whipstitch together to make a new piece of batting.
Most quilt batting can be described as cotton or polyester, although you may also choose wool batting, silk batting, bamboo batting or a poly-cotton blend. I like to use a cotton or poly-cotton batting for the majority of my quilting projects, as seen in my e-Reader case, pictured above. Batting also comes in blends that are organic (safe and recommended for baby quilts) or made from recycled fibers.
Quilting Assistant provides a helpful glossary of these basic types of batting. You can also get very specific, such as a 70/30 or 60/40 poly-cotton blend of quilt batting, each of which has a different thickness or loft.
At her blog Chasing Cottons, Becca discusses the pros and cons of each batting blend, as well as an explanation of low-loft (thinner) and high-loft (thicker) battings. When working with high-loft battings, the quilting lines will be more apparent and the quilt will “puff out” more. Low-loft battings are a good choice for a flatter finish, where you want to show off the piecing more than the actual quilting lines.
Photo via Sew Kind of Wonderful
As an example of how loft affects your quilting design, check out this example made by Jenny at Sew Kind of Wonderful. She used a double layer of Warm & Natural batting, and you can see how the high loft makes her straight-line quilting really pop. A single layer of low-loft batting would have a flatter look.
Photo via Love Bug Studios
Brand name is an important consideration for many quilters, and this can also impact the price. As a longarm quilter, Ebony of Love Bug Studios carries about 13 to 15 different types of batting, which she offers her customers. “They each have their pros and cons, and best ways to use them,” she says, “I carry everything, so my clients can choose based on what’s best for the quilt and their budget.”
Photo via Pikkeldylli Quilts
Cheri Hash of Pikkeldylli Quilts completed a recent quilt finish, pictured above, with Warm & Natural batting, which she says leads to a nice, crinkled finish after it’s washed. Fellow quilter Michelle Baker loves Warm & Natural brand battings. “I like how it gives the old-fashioned pucker when washed,” she says.
Quilter Lori Beth Peterson opts for the Dream Green brand, “because it’s recycled and easy to work with.” Jennie of Clover and Violet says, “I usually use Warm & White for quilts, because my mom and I bought a whole roll of it to split. For quilted projects, like mini quilts and mug rugs, I love to use fusible batting, because it stays in place when quilting, and helps keep small piecing from getting out of shape.”
I personally enjoy working with Pellon battings, which come in a wide variety of fiber content, and my quilts hold up nicely in the wash.
Batting choices for your machine
Professional longarm quilters often choose to buy their batting in rolls or bolts, due to the sheer number of projects they complete. If you are sending your quilt to a longarm quilter, you can often bring in your own batting if you have a specific type you’d like to use. Otherwise, you can likely purchase batting at cost from your quilter.
If you do most of your quilting on a domestic sewing machine, you might wrestle with your batting from time to time. The bulk of large batting cuts, combined with the thicker loft of some battings, can make it difficult to fit your basted quilt through the neck of your home sewing machine. If this is your problem, you might sign up for the class Quilting Big Projects on a Small Machine with Ann Petersen. In the class, Ann discusses practical ways to finish large quilts on your home machine, such as splitting your batting, quilting-as-you-go or adding borders to your quilt center.
Quick glossary of batting terms
- Some battings will specify what the desired quilting distance is between rows of quilting stitches. Use this info to your advantage when choosing the right batting for your project.
- Scrim is a term used to describe the light layer or grid of woven fibers added to some cotton battings. It acts as a stabilizer and helps to hold them together while quilting. If you use a cotton batting without scrim, this is when you’ll need to keep your quilting lines a short distance apart so the fibers don’t separate in the wash. Buy your batting with scrim, and you can keep your quilting lines a wider distance apart.
- Bonded quilt battings are made with a glue or bonding adhesive, which means the batting may get looser once the quilt is washed. This usually requires close quilting lines.
- Bearding is a term used to describe a batting with wispy fibers that eventually seep out of the quilt top. This shedding can be very annoying, and is a good reason to go with a high-quality quilt batting from the start.
- Fusible batting is great for small projects, and can be ironed to temporarily secure it into the middle of a quilt, which will save you time basting.