Quilt Batting

Quilt batting is used as the middle layer in a quilt. Batting provides insulation and warmth, and also gives the quilt a three dimensional appearance when it is quilted or tied. There are several types of batting available and the decision battingneeds to be taken considering the use the quilt will receive when finished, the type of look that is desired, the type quilting that is planned for the quilt top. Price can also be a consideration as well as allergies to certain fibers. Batting can be purchased in rolls in the most common quilt sizes and also by the yard. As a general rule, the thinner the batting, the easiest it is to quilt.

Batting can be made from natural and artificial fibers or a combination of both. There are advantages and disadvantages to every type of batting. Batting made from natural fiber includes cotton, wool, silk and the most recent introduction to the batting world, bamboo fibers. Synthetic fiber batting is made from spun plastic fibers. The fibers in both types can be held together by several methods: they can be bonded together either by heat or resin, it can be needle-punched or it can be held together by a thin layer of stabilizer called scrim.

Polyester Batting

The most economical choice among batting is polyester. Polyester batting is easy to wash and dry and lightweight. It makes it a good choice for baby quilts. Polyester batting is available in different lofts (loft being the thickness of the battingbatting). It is available in different lofts, from the thinnest at about 3 ounces, to the thickest at about 12. Polyester batting is easy to quilt by hand, since the fibers are generally loosely bonded (unless held together by needle punching, which creates a denser batting). It can be quilted in lines further apart than other fibers. Polyester batting is ideal for tied quilts. The newest polyester battings are made from microfibers, which allows for more fiber per pound, giving the batting a better draping quality and more breathability than traditional polyester.

Several specialty type battings are made from polyester fibers, such as thermal batting, specially treated to be insulating and perfect for projects such as potholders or placemats. Fusible batting is also made from polyester. It is ideal for small projects, and it requires no basting, as it can be temporarily fused to the top and backing with a warm iron. Black batting, made for quilts that primarily use dark fabrics is generally made from polyester.
Batting made from polyester does not shrink, thus when the quilt is washed, there is no puckering.

The major drawback of polyester is “bearding”, that is, the tendency of the polyester fibers to migrate with the quilting thread and show on the quilt top, giving the top a fuzzy appearance.

Cotton Batting

Perhaps the most popular among quilters, cotton and cotton blend battings are breathable, offers good drape and it is durable. Cotton batting lends itself to a traditional look, since it shrinks up to three to five percent when washed, giving quilts an antique appearance -although if shrinkage is not desired, it can be pre-washed according to manufacturer instructions-.

Cotton batting is washable and it can be dried in a dryer. It is available in different lofts and different weights. It is ideal for hand and machine quilting. Depending on the type of bonding used in the manufacture of this type of battingbatting, cotton might require closer quilting between lines than polyester does. Newer cotton batting types allow less surface quilting than traditional ones, in which the fibers are simply held together by a light layer of starch. If using this type of batting, when the quilt is washed for the first time, if not quilted close enough, the batting will bunch up.
There is a range of prices in cotton batting, but generally it is more expensive than polyester.

Cotton-polyester blends offer the best of both types. The percentages range between 70/80% cotton and 20/30% polyester. They do shrink, though less than 100% cotton batting and generally, they are easier to needle when quilting by hand, and also handle well when quilting on a sewing machine.

Wool Batting

The most durable type of batting, wool batting is the perfect insulator, as wool is extra warm but breathable. The major drawback against wool batting is the high price. Another drawback is the washing/drying process, as it wool batting can felt up if washed improperly. Also, quilts that contain wool batting have to be stored carefully because of possible damage by moths. Wool batting is very resistant to creasing when quilts are stored folded up.
The medium loft of wool batting allows for the quilting lines to show up beautifully, and it allows both hand and machine quilting.

An important consideration when choosing this batting is some people is allergic to wool.

Bamboo and Blends

Bamboo fibers are used in combination with cotton to produce a new type of batting. It is more expensive than battingcotton. The major advantage is that is drapes very well and it is soft. Bamboo fibers are very strong, but batting made from this fiber is easy to quilt both by hand and machine.

Silk and Blends

The most expensive of all battings, silk is normally used exclusively for quilted garments, more so if the garment is made from silk fabric. It is very easy to quilt, but it tends to beard. It can only be dry-cleaned or washed by hand and it must lay flat to dry. When washed, it can shrink up to five percent. There are several silk blend battings (silk blended with cotton or polyester or a combination of both) that make this type of batting easier to wash and more resistant to shrinkage.


For more information on quilting for beginners please click here!


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