Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Quilt Week: Basics: Batting

Thank goodness for people who know more than me! LOL Kidding! EVERYONE knows more than me about this type of stuff. I'm a Jane-of-all-trades but not an expert on anything. I found this really awesome site that explains EVERYTHING you need to know about quilting. So you don't have to rummage through the site, I've transferred the info useful to us this week on here. BUT, please do go take a peek if you want to. It's a really neat site!

Batting is the gushy stuff that goes between your fabrics to make the quilt nice and warm and cozy!

Bonded batting vs. Needle-punched Batting

Commercially available battings are held together in one of two ways:
  • Bonded batting has the fibers bonded together by a glue-like bonding agent.
  • Needle-punched batting has the fibers mechanically felted together by punching them with lots and lots of needles. They are firmer and denser than bonded battings. Their density can also make them harder to hand quilt.
If you’re hand quilting, you may want to avoid needle-punched battings. If you want to avoid chemicals in your quilt, avoid bonded battings.

Cotton Quilt Batting

The most popular choice among serious quilters, cotton batting is soft, washable, and can accept very detailed quilting stitches. It is the batting of choice for quilts that will be entered in shows and competitions. Cost level: More expensive than polyester, less expensive than wool, bamboo, alpaca, or silk. Recommended quilting distance: varies by brand, up to 8”.


  • Breathable, cool, and comfortable to sleep under. Absorbs some moisture, but not as much as wool or alpaca.
  • Drapes well, keeps its shape after initial shrinkage.
  • Softens with age, washing, and use.
  • Good for machine quilting-its clinging quality helps keep the fabrics from shifting while you quilt, and minimizes the chance that you’ll quilt puckers into in the finished quilt.
  • Shrinks and wrinkles the first time you wash it, which makes cotton ideal if you want your quilt to have an antique, puckered look. Use a different batting if you prefer a sleek, modern look.


  • Needle-punched cotton batting isn’t desirable for hand quilting-it can be hard to push the needle through the dense mat of cotton fibers.
  • Conventionally grown cotton carries a heavy load of petroleum-based fertilizers, pesticides, and in some cases, bleaches. Choose organic cotton or bamboo batting if you want reduced environmental impact.

Cotton/Polyester Quilt Batting

Somewhat loftier than 100% cotton batting and more breathable than 100% polyester. Shrinks less than cotton batting. Cost Level: Similar to all-cotton batting. Recommended quilting distance: 2” – 4”


  • Combines the stability and easy handling of polyester with the breathability of cotton.


  • Petroleum-based polyester and conventional cotton are both environmentally unfriendly products.

Polyster Quilt Batting

The loftiest batting – it packs well and makes a lightweight, puffy, cozy quilt. Comes in a variety of weights and lofts. Cost level: Usually the least expensive batting option. Recommended quilting distance: Varies by brand.


  • Machine washable and dryable. Springs back to shape no matter how many times it’s washed.
  • Lighter than cotton batting.
  • Non-allergenic.


  • Doesn’t breathe like natural fibers do.
  • Polyester’s natural loftiness can make it hard to handle while machine quilting. If you have trouble with this, use a thinner batting or try tying the quilt instead.
  • Has a greater tendency to "beard" (work its way out through the weave of the fabric) than battings made from natural fibers.
  • A petroleum-based product, not renewable like organic cotton, wool, hemp, or bamboo.

Wool Quilt Batting

Light, warm, lofty, and resilient, wool regulates body temperature better than any other fiber, keeping you from getting too hot OR too cold while sleeping. Cost level: More expensive than cotton, polyester, or bamboo, less expensive than alpaca or silk. Recommended quilting distance: up to 4”.


  • Quilts like butter—a hand-quilter’s dream, and good for machine quilting too.
  • Recovers better from being compressed than any other fiber.
  • Keeps you warm even when wet. Wool can absorb a third of its own weight in moisture without feeling damp.
  • Naturally flame-resistant. This makes it an excellent choice for quilts for infants and children.


  • Can cause allergic reactions in some people.
  • Must be protected from moths.
  • Needs very careful washing and drying—will felt and shrink if agitated when you wash it. Never put a quilt with wool batting in the dryer—the heat and tumbling motion will ruin it.
Alpaca Quilt Batting
Extremely light and warm, alpaca is a very high-quality and expensive kind of wool that makes a quilt exceptionally warm for its weight. Available online from Pacafill battings in alpaca/cotton or alpaca/wool blends that are needle-punched and contain no binders or resins. Cost level: Expensive. Recommended quilting distance: up to 8”.


  • Extremely warm and lightweight. Alpaca fibers are smoother and less oily than sheep’s wool.
  • Hypoallergenic.Because it’s less oily than wool, alpaca seems not to cause the same allergic reactions.
  • Like wool, alpaca stays warm when wet, but alpaca doesn’t get the unpleasant “wet sheep” smell that goes with wet wool.


  • Needs very careful washing and drying—will felt and shrink if agitated when you wash it. Never put a quilt with alpaca batting in the dryer—the heat and tumbling motion will ruin it.
  • Must be protected from moths.

Silk Quilt Batting

Lightweight, thin, and supple, silk batting is favored by many quilters for making quilted garments. It’s available from Hobbs under the name Tuscany in a 90% silk/10% polyester resin-bonded blend. Mountain Mist’s Cotton Blossom batting is 95% cotton, 5% silk. Cost level: expensive. Recommended quilting distance: 3½”.


  • As warm as down, yet lighter weight.
  • Supple and more drapable than any other batting.


  • Shrinks more than other battings: about 5% on first washing.
  • Needs very careful handling when washed.

Bamboo Quilt Batting

Bamboo is an extremely fast-growing plant that needs no pesticides or fertilizers to grow, so is much more environmentally friendly than conventional cotton. The bamboo batting currently available from Fairfield is 50% organic cotton/50% bamboo. The company recommends it for machine quilting. Cost level: Expensive. Recommended quilting distance: up to 8”.


  • Producing bamboo batting uses many fewer toxic chemicals than conventional cotton or polyester.
  • Needlepunched, so it contains no glues or binders.
  • Breathable and cool, like cotton.
  • Naturally antibacterial.
  • Machine washable (estimated shrinkage 2-3%.)


  • Not as widely available as some other battings.
Branch Out and Be Creative!!

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