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. Batting also comes in blends that are organic (safe and recommended for baby quilts) or made from recycled fibers.
Polyester is a synthetic fiber. It produces a very high loft, and it doesn’t have to be quilted very close together. This makes a great choice for a baby quilt that will go through the washing machine many times.
Cotton is a natural fiber, and is a wonderful choice for the flatter, more traditional look. However, quilts with cotton batting need to be quilted or secured more closely (about every 4″ to 6″ with scrim or every 1″ to 2″ without scrim). For more info on scrim, see the see glossary, below.
Poly-cotton batting blends
These blends you the best of both cotton and polyester in one product. You may find an 80/20 (80% cotton, 20% polyester) blend, a 70/30 or a 60/40 poly-cotton blend of quilt batting, each of which has a different thickness or loft.
Wool batting is generally easy to work with and helps you make extra-warm quilts. A natural fiber, it gives your project great loft, it can easily be hand or machine quilted, and it provides maximum warmth without a lot of weight. It holds up well over time and it’s hand or machine washable. It is generally more expensive than cotton or polyester batting.
Silk can be expensive and isn’t available as widely as other types of batting. It is known to quilt up beautifully for those who have experience working with it.
Touted as a sustainable and “green” product, bamboo batting is breathable, durable, and quilts up similar to a cotton batting. It can be more expensive than cotton or polyester batting.
You might also think of loft as the “fluff-factor.” A wall hanging should have minimal fluff, while a snuggly baby quilt should have lots of fluff to comfort the little one. If you will be using the quilt as a throw or bed quilt, how warm do you want it to be?
When choosing batting loft, think about if you’ll be machine or hand quilting the piece, or tying it, and read the instructions on the package to see if it’s a good fit. If you want a very puffy quilt, choose batting with extra loft. However, extra loft batting can be very difficult to hand quilt (unless it is 100% polyester batting), so you will have to machine quilt or tie your project.
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.
Brand name is an important consideration for many quilters, and this can also impact the price. Each one has its pros and cons, and the best way to find out which you like best is to try the all out.
Warm & Natural battings are popular mong quilters who prefer a well-used look in their quilt. This batting gets a nice, crinkly, old-fashioned pucker after it’s washed.
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.”
There are also Pellon battings, which come in a wide variety of fiber content, with quilts that 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’re 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, check out 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 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 describes 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.
Our Favorite Battings
Find the batting you need, right here on Craftsy.