Choosing Batting for a Quilt

Ever been overwhelmed by the variety of batting (or wadding) options available to quilt stores? This week for our Beginning Quilt-along (or How to Make a Quilt from Start to Finish), I’m going to talk about the different kinds of batting and how to choose batting for a quilt.

As always – feel free to weigh-in. I love when you do because I haven’t tried every product or technique. (I have updated this post in 2020.)

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.

How to choose batting for a quilt

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.

How to Choose Batting for a Quilt

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 going to be tied (typically by hand.)

Cotton Batting vs Polyester Batting for a Quilt

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 its own pros and cons.  (Wool and Silk are other options that are wonderful, but usually a lot pricier.)  Another recent option is batting made from Bamboo. 

  • 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.  Light and Breathable. 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.
  • Wool – 100% natural fiber, but it can shrink so if you buy it, make sure the label states if it’s been pre-shrunk. Resists folding and creasing and has great stitch-definition for showing off fancy machine quilting. It’s also beautiful to hand quilt through. Drawbacks: higher price and potential allergic reaction for some people.
  • Bamboo – ecco-friendly, natural fiber. (Typically blended with Cotton which makes it great for breathability.) I’ve made one quilt with Bamboo batting it the drape of that quilt is amazing, even for a quilt that is densely-machine-quilted.

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.

Lots of Quilt Batting options are available by the roll (or off the bolt) or pre-packaged individual sizes. Connecting Threads has a huge variety of batting choices and frequent sales. You can also find batting on Amazon.


Now let’s talk Quilt backs:

For this baby quilt 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.

Next in our Quilt Along Series:  we’ll talk about quilting – putting all the layers together. Once again there are lots of options.

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  • Reply
    Jan Hatchett
    October 19, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    Hooter Hider??? Gotta love it!

  • Reply
    The Tulip Patch
    October 19, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    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

    • Reply
      January 20, 2014 at 11:53 pm

      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

    • Reply
      January 24, 2014 at 7:43 am


  • Reply
    Lee Ann
    October 19, 2010 at 4:11 pm

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

  • Reply
    October 19, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    I wish I had half that to choose from, we just don&#39;t have that many options here.<br />Hooter Hider…now that&#39;s a great name, congratulations on being featured at Sew Mama Sew.

  • Reply
    October 19, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    I&#39;m still laughing. I thought this post was going to be about Halloween….bats….get it?!

  • Reply
    October 19, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    LOVE bamboo batting!! It&#39;s all I use. It&#39;s a little pricey but not too bad with a %40 coupon…plus the crib size is a generous 60×60.<br /><br />It quilts and washes nicely…<br /><br />Jennifer 🙂

  • Reply
    natasha | sohobutterfly
    October 19, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    I&#39;ve used the bamboo batting and I quite like it too. Surprisingly, it&#39;s cheaper than the cotton batting in our neck of the woods. I also like that it&#39;s eco-friendly.<br /><br />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

  • Reply
    October 19, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    Never sleek or sophisticated…that&#39;s what I like about you Amy, you&#39;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!!<br />orr20004@msn.com

  • Reply
    Crafty Mama
    October 19, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    Lol, love the hooter hider ☺<br />I only ever use warm and white, but am definitely interested in what other people use!

  • Reply
    October 19, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    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

  • Reply
    October 19, 2010 at 11:21 pm

    I use Quilters Dream 100% cotton. That&#39;s it. I like it. Prefer the Select loft, but can&#39;t always get it.<br /><br />I haven&#39;t tried bamboo because it&#39;s $$ and my 2 favorite stores (both locals) don&#39;t carry it.<br /><br />I&#39;m allergic to wool, so won&#39;t do wool, period, any percentage. Don&#39;t do polyesters (any percentage) either.<br /><br />I like my quilts 100%

  • Reply
    October 20, 2010 at 1:46 am

    Hi Amy!<br />I became a follower a while back just because of your &quot;hooter hider&quot; (GIGGLE). Bought my fabric and boning for mine a couple weeks and can&#39;t wait to make it!<br />Thanks for your awesome tutorial. I am really loving your blog :)<br />-Babs<br /><br />P.S. Congrats on the feature!

  • Reply
    Sew Create It - Jane
    October 20, 2010 at 3:30 am

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

  • Reply
    Blogless me
    October 20, 2010 at 4:04 am

    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 &quot;I&#39;ve gone completely batty!&quot; at:<br /><br />http://quiltersbattinguniversity.blogspot.com/<br /><br />I hope this helps!

  • Reply
    October 20, 2010 at 6:46 am

    I wish i could jump in to the photo of all that wadding, locally don&#39;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&#39;t get it lol<br />Hugs Janice

  • Reply
    Dresden Quilter
    October 20, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    I have used bamboo batting before and really like it.

  • Reply
    Layne Bushell
    October 20, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    I use Hobbs 80/20 because it&#39;s the least expensive for me. But I think I&#39;d prefer 100% cotton. A local quilter told me that bamboo is warmer that cotton. <br /><br />If you want a thin bat and warm, try wool.<br /><br />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

  • Reply
    Quilter Kathy
    October 21, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    I did try the bamboo batting and liked how it quilted, but haven&#39;t washed it yet, so don&#39;t know if I&#39;m totally sold on it!

  • Reply
    January 30, 2011 at 4:20 am

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

  • Reply
    March 9, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    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?

  • Reply
    amy smart
    March 10, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    That is a great question! Honestly, I don&#39;t know enough about it to give a knowledgeable answer. Thanks for bringing it up! Anyone have any insights on fusible batting?

  • Reply
    March 27, 2011 at 7:38 am

    I&#39;ve used the bamboo batting that iron&#39;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 🙂

  • Reply
    The Family of Three
    August 27, 2011 at 10:01 am

    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 &quot;why&quot; these things make a difference. Very helpful tutorial! I also made your nursing cover for my soon to come baby! Thank you!

  • Reply
    November 4, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    The fusible batting I&#39;ve used was awesome. I&#39;ve only used it once (the last quilt I made) but I will definitely use it again.

  • Reply
    December 21, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    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

  • Reply
    February 8, 2012 at 11:30 pm

    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&#39;m making. Even ebay is a good way to do this if you don&#39;t want to get a used piece of fabric

  • Reply
    March 19, 2012 at 8:41 am

    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&#39;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

    • Reply
      amy smart
      March 19, 2012 at 12:38 pm

      Katie – thanks so much for sharing your experience!

  • Reply
    Maggie Herbert
    November 3, 2012 at 5:30 am

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

  • Reply
    February 3, 2013 at 9:07 am

    thanks for share<a href="http://www.justdetective.com/&quot; title="徵信社" rel="nofollow">.</a><a href="http://www.cool007.org/&quot; title="徵信" rel="nofollow">.</a><br />

  • Reply
    Sandy Bandt
    January 20, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    I wish you had discussed wool, bamboo and silk battings as well. There&#39;s nothing new here.

  • Reply
    February 13, 2014 at 3:23 am

    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&#39;t shrink at all so it doesn&#39;t crinkle

  • Reply
    Steve Coren
    August 10, 2014 at 11:58 am

    Check this unique article that they created http://www.rosemonttextiles.com/weldable-webbing/

  • Reply
    October 29, 2014 at 10:54 pm

    Hi there, <br />I am a first time quilter-sewer and I was wondering if someone could help me out… <br />When I&#39;m putting this batting stuff in my quilt, am I supposed to sew through the&#39;back&#39; cover, the batting and then &#39;front&#39; cover? I get that I join my squares and everything, but once that is done is this the next step? Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

  • Reply
    Joseph Main
    November 14, 2014 at 1:18 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Reply
    Joseph Main
    November 14, 2014 at 1:24 am

    Good to know this thanks! I love <a href="http://www.fiberpartner.com/products/fibers/bicomponent-polyester-fibers/&quot; rel="nofollow">Low Melt Fiber</a> which is commonly used as a binder fiber! Polyester have always proved to be the best in producing fibers materials. We get our all fibers from Fiberpartner Aps a worldwide supplier of staple fibers, yarns &amp; plastics etc. If you anytime need

  • Reply
    Mindy Kshywonis
    January 6, 2015 at 7:44 am

    How do I handle the huge 10 quilt size bags. Do you cut off pieces or unroll under long arm and nibble away at it?<br />

  • Reply
    Rebecca Grace
    January 17, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    Amy, I love it that 90% of the time when I google with a quilting related question, up pops a tutorial on your blog! 🙂 Question for you — have you ever used any of the black quiltings? Any recommendations? I have an &quot;Amish Baby&quot; quilt with deep, saturated solids and a Moda Bella Solids black background, and I think a black batting is a good idea to prevent white fibers bearding

  • Reply
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  • Reply
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    […] with the flower theme of many of the prints I used in the quilt top. As well, I will be using cotton batting because it is a thin batting so it is less bulky and easier to use for machine quilting. Cotton […]

  • Reply
    April 16, 2015 at 8:11 am

    My grandmother used to order her batting via mail. I remember how thick the quilts used to be until washed several times over the years. I don’t see that type of batting sold in stores. Where can I find a thick poly/cotton blend batting? My grandmother hand tied her quilts.

    • Reply
      Amy Smart
      April 16, 2015 at 10:04 am

      I don’t buy the think batting, so I’m not on the lookout for it very much. My best suggestion would be the big chain stores – and asking them if they don’t have it in stock. You could check their online sites as well as they might have it there if it’s not in stock in the actual store. Good luck!

  • Reply
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  • Reply
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  • Reply
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    […] quilt top with batting and backing and baste together. Quilt as desired. I pieced my back using prints from the […]

  • Reply
    November 20, 2015 at 5:46 am

    I have lots of pieces of polyester batting that had been trimmed from previous projects. Is there any easy way to connect these pieces so I can use them in small quilts (20″ x 27″ blankets for preemies) — the hospital only wants the filling to be polyester. Handsewing the pieces is difficult — what about glue????

    • Reply
      Amy Smart
      November 20, 2015 at 12:30 pm

      Pellon makes fusible seam tape – you use it to piece batting together – it’s super slick! http://amzn.to/1S9o2C9 I’m sure you can find it at places like JoAnn fabrics as well.

  • Reply
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    […] In the first quilt class I ever took I was told that the best, longest-lasting quilts are made from all the same material. So if you are using 100% cotton fabric for your top, use 100% cotton for your thread and for your batting (or at the very least another non-synthetic material like silk, wool or bamboo.) Mixing natural fibers with synthetic fibers can cause all kinds of problems down the road. And your quilt will only last as long as the least durable product it is made from. An illustration of this is shrinkage. Say you make your top out of 100% cotton fabric, you use a polyester thread and an 80/20 poly/cotton blend for your batting. All three of these materials are going to shrink at different levels, which is bad. After a washing or two your quilt will become misshapen and it will wear out unevenly. I know some people who swear by polyester threads, but I just don’t use them. The idea of using all the same material to build a quilt makes too much sense to me. If you want more information about batting check out Amy Smart’s post on the subject. […]

  • Reply
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    April 15, 2016 at 10:02 pm

    […] more information on finishing a quilt, go to these tutorials on Choosing Batting, Quilting, and Binding a Quilt. My quilt was machine quilted by Melissa from Sew Shabby […]

  • Reply
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  • Reply
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  • Reply
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    January 16, 2017 at 1:33 pm

    […] This week we are going to discuss two important parts of finishing a quilt with very helpful and informative tutorials by Kati Spencer of From the Blue Chair. First, basting the layers (quilt top, batting, and back) together in preparation for quilting. Kati has some great tips – I learned something new! If you are looking for information about what kind of Batting to use for your quilt, I’ve shared some information on quilt batting here. […]

  • Reply
    How to Finish and Bind a Quilt - Diary of a Quilter - a quilt blog
    January 31, 2017 at 8:06 pm

    […] because they soften up a lot and have a more antiqued, crinkly look. If you’ve used cotton batting they are likely to shrink slightly more. (I don’t machine-wash hand quilted quilts as […]

  • Reply
    Sandra Hlll
    April 24, 2017 at 5:44 pm

    I am making T shirt quilt for my granddaughter and my first.
    I want fusible batting, but my squares are 15×15″
    Want low loft, what is the best fusible batting I can use.

    • Reply
      Amy Smart
      April 25, 2017 at 11:32 am

      I’ve never made a T-shirt quilt, but I’ve heard people say they used Hobbs Cotton Heirloom fusible? One thing to consider is the printing on the t-shirts. Depending on what paint was used, it could melt with the iron set too hot (which is needed for the fusing part). Having never made one myself, I’m definitely not an expert – I would search more sites with t-shirt quilt experience. Good luck!

  • Reply
    February 27, 2018 at 9:37 am

    Any input on quilting very thick batting..1 1/2″ …and not on a square quilt.they are rather lima bean shaped. Machine quilting on my Pfaff ends up a mess and the batting does not agree with my large embroidery hoops…keeps slipping off…..HELP if you can please!

    • Reply
      February 27, 2018 at 12:11 pm

      Thick batting is ideally made for tied quilts. I think it would be really difficult to quilt with a machine – especially a traditional sewing machine. My best recommendation would be using a thinner batting made for machine quilting.

  • Reply
    February 27, 2018 at 12:19 pm

    you are right – it is very difficult. What i am trying to do is for saddle pads and the ladies like them ‘puffy’ for more padding under the saddle. have to think out of the box I guess.

  • Reply
    Connie Rogers
    April 8, 2019 at 10:29 pm

    My favorite batting is Bamboo. It is very durable over time and use and makes for a truly lively finished quilt.

    • Reply
      April 9, 2019 at 9:33 am

      I LOVE Bamboo batting! It has the most beautiful drape!

  • Reply
    gerald salvatore martire
    August 13, 2019 at 12:06 pm

    I am new to quilting and still learning . can you piece batting?

    • Reply
      August 14, 2019 at 6:06 pm

      Great question – Yes! You can piece it together using a zigzag stitch on your sewing machine, or using fusible batting tape: https://amzn.to/2TvIIMG

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