Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Batting and Backing 101

Originally posted at Make and Takes

Ever been overwhelmed by the variety of batting (or wadding) options available to quilt stores? This week for our Uber-beginning Quilt-along I'm going to talk about the different kinds of batting and which projects they are best for.  And, as always - feel free to weigh-in. I love when you do because I haven't tried every product or technique. For example, has anyone out there used the Bamboo batting? What did you think?

Basically the definition of a quilt is a blanket made of a top (front) and back with a layer of batting sandwiched in between and held together by some kind of stitching through all three layers. Today we are going to discuss choosing batting and backs.
There is a wide variety of quilt battings available on the market. Like everything else, the variety can get overwhelming so I’m going to break down some of the differences so that you can pick the batting best suited to the project you have in mind.
The two most relevant factors in choosing a batting are Loft and Fibers.
First off – Loft. This means how thick or thin your batting is.
  • Low Loft = thin and High Loft = thick.  Thin batting makes a thinner quilt (obviously) but it works much better for a running stitch whether done by hand or machine.  High Loft batts are best for a thicker comforter-type finish where the quilt is only going to be tied.
Fiber defines what the batting is made of.  The three most common types of quilt batting are Polyester, 100% Cotton, and Cotton/Poly Blend and each has it’s own pros and cons.  (Wool and Silk are other options that are wonderful, but usually a lot pricier, so we won’t discuss those here.) Another recent option is batting made from Bamboo. To be honest, I don’t know much about it yet. If you’ve used it or know more, please feel free to chime in!
  • Polyester - Less expensive, better for hand-quilting (low loft), doesn’t need to be quilted as closely together.  Tends to shift when not quilted closely and ‘beard’ (which means the polyester fibers migrate through the fabric to the outside of the quilt).
  • Cotton - Feels like a thick flannel.  Better option for machine quilting. Generally must be quilted closely. Washes better without pilling. Shrinks slightly. (This can be good or bad, depending on your personal preference. I personally like when the batting shrinks after the first wash because it softens the quilt and gives it more of a vintage appearance.)
  • Cotton blend (usually 80% cotton/20% polyester). Very similar to the cotton option, but is less-expensive and doesn’t shrink as much. Good for machine quilting.  This is what I use most often.
Batting can be purchased by individual size (you will need a “crib size” batt for this project), or big sewing stores will also let you buy it by the yard (get 1 ¼ yards).  Batting goes on sale often at the big box stores. I always stock up then – or use those 40% off coupons.  Save your batting scraps. It’s very easy to whip-stitch (largish) scraps together. Or you can use your scraps to make an easy table runner!
Size: you want your batting to be slightly larger than your quilt top (front) and slightly smaller than your quilt back. In other words the backing should be the biggest.
Now let’s talk backs. For this project you will need 1 ¼ yards of fabric for the back. This should be roughly 42″ square.
Most fabrics come 42-44″ wide which is perfect for baby or crib quilts.  For larger quilts you will need to piece your back – meaning you will need to sew yardage together. Some fabric companies do make fabrics that are 90″ (or more) wide if you don’t want to piece a back. A pieced back can be as simple as one seam, using the same fabric for the whole back or complex with multiple fabrics and seams. Just so long as it’s a few inches bigger on all sides than your front, you’re fine.  The reason a back needs to be bigger is because you’re usually quilting from the top of the quilt and the batting and backing can shift slightly underneath. The extra inches are your insurance policy that your back doesn’t suddenly become smaller than the front.
In other kind of fun news, have you been following Baby Shower-palooza over at Sew Mama Sew? Cuteness abounds.
I'm excited because my Nursing Cover (aka Hooter Hider) tutorial is included in their Mama & Baby Essentials Roundup! I'm a wee bit excited. Especially seeing the picture I made my 11-year-old daughter take quickly while we were supposed to be walking out the door to piano lessons. Behind the scenes around here is never very sleek or sophisticated.


  1. I finally decided to look at the prepackaged batting at Hobby Lobby the other day. I thought it would be more expensive, but I found this stuff called Mountain Mist Cream Rose that is 100 percent cotton (unlike Warm and Natural...total false advertising I think) and it ended up being 4.99/yd with the coupon. I am going to try it...it's thinner but we live in Houston so that might not be a bad thing for me. I don't know why I wouldn't even allow myself to look at the prepackaged batting before...I hope I don't spend hours ironing wrinkles in my batting.

    1. Actually, in order to go into my longarm quilting business, I had to send in batting samples to the State Laboratory in Reynoldsburg, Ohio and have them test the batting that I intended to use. Warm & Natural came back as "blended cotton", their blended product Warm Blend came back at 54% cotton and 46% polyester (the pkg. states it's 50/50), the Warm & White came back listed as "blended cotton", the Warm Soft & Bright came back listed as "polyester fiber", and Warm Bond (my favorite for the longarm) came back as "blended fiber" with 54% cotton and 46% polyester. I also had them check Quilter's Dream Wool, Silk, Blend, Puff, Poly (in select loft), Angel, Green (their recycled green batting), black polyester and cotton (in select loft), and I also had them test Hobbs batting - but only in black. Everything pretty much came back as it stated on the label.

  2. Yes! I get overwhelmed with all the batting options out there. Thank you for the link to your article!

  3. I wish I had half that to choose from, we just don't have that many options here.
    Hooter Hider...now that's a great name, congratulations on being featured at Sew Mama Sew.

  4. I'm still laughing. I thought this post was going to be about Halloween....bats....get it?!

  5. LOVE bamboo batting!! It's all I use. It's a little pricey but not too bad with a %40 coupon...plus the crib size is a generous 60x60.

    It quilts and washes nicely...

    Jennifer :)

  6. I've used the bamboo batting and I quite like it too. Surprisingly, it's cheaper than the cotton batting in our neck of the woods. I also like that it's eco-friendly.

    Question for you (or others): Do you ever double up the batting? Hubby wants an extra-warm quilt for winter snoozes on the couch and I was thinking of doubling up on a low-loft batting to keep the quilt snugglier... Or maybe add a piece of flannel between my batting and backing fabric...?? Any tips/thoughts? Muchly appreciated!

  7. Never sleek or sophisticated...that's what I like about you Amy, you're just an average everyday person (with loads of quilting greatness:) just like a lot of us!(the everyday part not the quilting greatness:) I love your blog and check in every morning with my coffee. Thanks for sharing what you do with all of us!!

  8. Lol, love the hooter hider ☺
    I only ever use warm and white, but am definitely interested in what other people use!

  9. I have used bamboo batting and it is very lovely to quilt, both for hand quilting and for machine quilting. My only complaint with bamboo (and it is not much of a complaint) is that it does beard a little. This can be somewhat annoying when working with a dark background fabric. But by no means is the bearding a deal breaker. I also use wool and 100% cotton. If I use cotton, I love Quilters Dream batting. The quality is outstanding. I tend to use a very thin batting, as I often hand quilt. I like the look and feel of thin battings.

  10. I use Quilters Dream 100% cotton. That's it. I like it. Prefer the Select loft, but can't always get it.

    I haven't tried bamboo because it's $$ and my 2 favorite stores (both locals) don't carry it.

    I'm allergic to wool, so won't do wool, period, any percentage. Don't do polyesters (any percentage) either.

    I like my quilts 100% cotton through and through :)

  11. Hi Amy!
    I became a follower a while back just because of your "hooter hider" (GIGGLE). Bought my fabric and boning for mine a couple weeks and can't wait to make it!
    Thanks for your awesome tutorial. I am really loving your blog :)

    P.S. Congrats on the feature!

  12. Batting is a mine field. I recently tried a bamboo and cotton blend batting and that was lovely to work with.

  13. There is a blog of a very brave lady that has set herself the task of systematically comparing different battings. It seems a lot of work, but it makes for some useful reading. You can visit her blog appropriately called "I've gone completely batty!" at:


    I hope this helps!

  14. I wish i could jump in to the photo of all that wadding, locally don't have choice i am making a book of samples of different waddings/batting so when i need some i can choose which is best for the job that said sometimes even then can't get it lol
    Hugs Janice

  15. I have used bamboo batting before and really like it.

  16. I use Hobbs 80/20 because it's the least expensive for me. But I think I'd prefer 100% cotton. A local quilter told me that bamboo is warmer that cotton.

    If you want a thin bat and warm, try wool.

    I also learned years ago that warm and natural keeps has the natural cotton seeds in the bat. These seeds contain oils. So she suggested to never use the warm and natural because over time the oils will damage your quilt. Don't know the accuracy of that statement, but it made sense to me.

  17. I did try the bamboo batting and liked how it quilted, but haven't washed it yet, so don't know if I'm totally sold on it!

  18. HI again AMy,
    I am so lazy... Just found some info on battings right here on your blog. Think I got the answer... Sorry wasting your time.

  19. my quilt store recommends the fuseable poly/cotten blend but after reading many quilting blogs I have never seen anyone mention the fuseable batting. It seems so much easier than pinning or spraying, is there a reason not to use it?

  20. That is a great question! Honestly, I don't know enough about it to give a knowledgeable answer. Thanks for bringing it up! Anyone have any insights on fusible batting?

  21. I've used the bamboo batting that iron's on. I was a bit skeptical to use it at first but after the quilt was washed it looks great and is nice and soft. I have to say I use it every night as I am always cold. I actually get hot under it. The bamboo is definitely the warmest quilt I have. I will use it again in my next quilt project :)

  22. Thank you so much for posting this about batting. I wonder every time I look at this isle, which is best and why. I love that you described "why" these things make a difference. Very helpful tutorial! I also made your nursing cover for my soon to come baby! Thank you!

  23. The fusible batting I've used was awesome. I've only used it once (the last quilt I made) but I will definitely use it again.

  24. stumbled upon your blog while searching for reviews on a particular batting. I exclusively hand quilt and fusible batting is absolutely horrible for the job! The warmth of your hand applied to the batting is actually enough to stick the fabric to areas while you are quilting causing small puckers....also while hand quilting with a hoop a little movement in the layers is essential to really getting a quilt to quilt flat the fusing creates too much of a stick to allow the repositioning necessary, but not enough to prevent it in the first place...plus it's a bit harder to needle.

    imho if you're hand quilting run from a fusible.

  25. I like to find flat bedsheets at thift stores (good condition, clean, not wearing thin, high thread count, fun pattern, or plain white) for $2 as my backing, instead of 4.99$ a yard or more, and having to piece it together. I just get one size bigger than the bedsize of the quilt I'm making. Even ebay is a good way to do this if you don't want to get a used piece of fabric

  26. I have used fusible batting in a baby quilt, and it is a nightmare! It make the quilt very stiff, and doesnt allow movement in the layers, creating puckers that aren't pretty. Also, it comes undone over time, meaning; as you quilt, the more you move it around, the faster the layers separate making quilting even more difficult! It is also very difficult to roll or wad on the right side of the needle.

    Needless to say, stick to spray basting. It is a little more expensive, and involves a little more work, but the finished quilt it worth it!

    1. Katie - thanks so much for sharing your experience!

  27. I adore bamboo batting for both hand and machine quilting the quilts are awesome , lovely finish.

  28. I wish you had discussed wool, bamboo and silk battings as well. There's nothing new here.

  29. When I started quilting polyester was all the rage. It is easy to hand quilt, warm, light and cheap. It beards through dark fabric but I would still consider it for a utility quilt of denim, suiting, or courdoroy,. Cotton poly blends, with and without scrim came next, but I have found a lot of variability in drape and the amount it shrinks. Poly doesn't shrink at all so it doesn't crinkle up like cotton does.
    Next 100% cotton and wool made a resurgence and I really like both. I am happy with warm and natural, warm and white, and washable wool. I like dream cotton the best. I even like the poly version from the dream company. I have used bamboo and find it very soft, and like it for lap or baby quilts due to its price.
    Silk is very light and expensive, I would recommend keeping it for quilted bags or clothing. There are silk blend battings I have not tried.
    I have tried several cheap poly and poly lend battings from Joann's over the years that I have not liked. I've never been disappointed with something from my local quilt shop.


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