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 which quilting projects they are best for. 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 2019.)
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.
- 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.
- 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.