How to Choose the Right Quilt Batting

How-To-Choose-The-Right-Batting

This post is your one-stop-shop in finding aaaaall of the information you need to know about quilt batting. You may want to go ahead and tab it now. Oh and if you would like a sweet tutorial on how to baste a quilt, check out this post – it shows 3 different ways to baste your quilt sandwich. I'll wait....ready? Great! Let's jump in!

I’m the kind of person who goes to the toothpaste aisle of the grocery store and talks to myself for like 45 minutes, with varying degrees of hysteria. I mean, why are there so many different toothpaste options?! And what is the difference between plaque and tartar? And is there actual glitter in that one?

I feel like every toothpaste aisle needs a coach that will lead you to the perfect toothpaste for your individual dental needs. I also feel this way when picking out quilt batting. Or, I used to. But now, I’m here to be your quilt batting aisle coach, to make sure you never again become that paralyzed person talking to themselves in a craft store.​

A few months ago I went on a soul-searching, quilt batting journey. I packed a small backpack, waved goodbye to my husband and walked off into the distance with a single goal in mind, "Find the perfect batting or die trying."

Quilt-Batting

I'm happy to report that after my strenuous campaign into the cotton fields of Mississippi, through the sheep herds of New Zealand, and even deep into the bamboo forests of China, I'm back.  

Find-Perfect-Batting

(Technically those places came to me in nicely packaged batting bundles, but MENTALLY I was traveling to all of those places.)

Choose-Quilt-Batting

And now I'm back. With news.

Bamboo-Batting

How to Choose Quilt Batting: Materials

(Quick review for the newer crowd: What is Quilt Batting? Also known as wadding, quilt batting is a layer of material used to fill quilts, giving them warmth, thickness, and weight.)

Machine-Quilt-Tutorial

The biggest decision (and yes, I acknowledge that choosing how to finish off your quilt baby is a very big decision) comes down to material. Let’s highlight the four most common batting material choices, and what they’ve got going for them.


Cotton-Quilt-Batting

Although cotton has a number of different sub-options, it’s a great choice for most quilting projects. Things to look for: cotton seeds in the batting. These can actually stain fabric, so beware! Cotton can also bunch after washing unless quilting lines are pretty close together. Read the package instructions to double check how closely your stitching should be.

Like all things cotton, we’re used to cotton shrinking a little bit. When inside quilts, this produces a soft, crinkly effect on your quilt surface, which some people like for comfy bedspreads, and others hate on their quilts-on-display.​ 

The drape of a 100% cotton batting quilt is a bit stiff at first and needs lots of snuggles before loosening up.​


Poly Blend Batting

​(Pictured below is a free quilt pattern - click here!)

Quilt 1: 80/20 Hobbs Cotton Poly Blend

CottonPoly-Blend-Batting
Polyester-Batting

Allergies, anyone? A poly blend batting can be a great alternative to natural fibers if you’re on the sneezy side. Polyester blends also tend to cost less if you’re looking for a thrifty option. This type of batting is also easy to work with, and pretty low-maintenance. And warm. Yeah, 10 points for the poly blend! 

Unlike 100% cotton batting, poly blends don't change as much in size and drape after washing. Keep in mind that not all poly blends will feel the same because the ratio of cotton to poly varies anywhere from 80/20 to 60/40.


Wool-Batting

If it’s wool, you know it’s warm. It’s also veeeery fluffy and relatively easy to work with when quilting. Wool will never get fold lines or creases, even after months of being folded, which is pretty awesome for you quilters out there with stacks on stacks of quilts filling various corners of the living room.

The downside? Wool’s going to hit your wallet a little harder, and it has the tendency to beard.*

*Hold on. Beard?

You heard me right. But not the kind of beard you’re thinking of. Bearding, in the quilting world, is when fibers from the batting travel through the top of the quilt. It’s pretty common with wool batting, and basically looks like your quilt is growing a 5 o’clock shadow. So I guess it’s kind of a lot like the kind of beard you were thinking of.


Choose-Right-Batting
Modern-Quilt-Batting

Bamboo batting is the high-end batting option… for a reason. It’s soooo soft. It drapes soooo nicely. It dries quickly after washing, and doesn’t allow mold or mildew to form. It’s amazing. It’s also expensive. Bamboo batting is a great investment if you’re working on a gorgeous, heirloom, keep-it-forever type of quilt… or if you’re just flush with cash and like soft cuddly things.​

Hopefully this gives you a pretty good preview of what all these materials have to offer, and what pricing you can expect (polyester on the low end, cotton, then wool, then bamboo at the top.) The other component that is going to affect the cost is which brand you choose. Oh, you’re wondering if I have any opinions about that? Muhahahaha!

Of course I do!


How to Choose Quilt Batting: Brands

The material you use is a big divider when you’re looking at utility, but which brand you choose will have a legit affect on the longevity and overall quality of your quilt. I have a few brands I use regularly and recommend. Here are the three brands that get the Suzy Stamp of Approval:

Quilter's Dream​

During my long and grueling quest to find the perfect batting, I met a spiritual guide...through a dream. A Quilter's Dream. And what a wonderful dream it was!

Quilter’s Dream batting is everything batting should be; consisting of high quality materials with soft and silky fibers. Quilter’s Dream offers cotton, poly blends, wool, bamboo, and even an earth-friendly option made out of recycled plastic bottles! I love all of the options, and I love that I know I can count on all of them being well-made.​

Pellon

For those who like to shop online or only have access to big craft shops – this stuff is very easy to come by. I've tried all of the big box store brands, and Pellon is where I keep coming back.

Pellon also offers all four major batting material options, and is a standard go-to batting brand for a lot of beginners and experienced quilters alike. I would recommend Pellon for both machine and hand quilting, Pellon’s cotton batting is also ultra-clean, so you won’t have to worry about those pesky cotton seeds I mentioned earlier. (And trust me, there are few things as frustrating as finishing a quilt only to notice that you can see a 1/4" black dot UNDERNEATH your white fabric. It looks like a terrible stain you can't scrub out.)

Hobbs​

Hobbs is another well-known, top-quality brand that pretty much offers every different kind of batting option out there. Many quilters I know are all about Hobbs Heirloom wool when they go the wool route, and though it’s on the more expensive side, it’s so reliable, and drapes really well.​


But What's the Right Quilt Batting: One Quilter's Opinion

When choosing the best quilt batting for your project, there are a few other things to keep in mind:

Cotton-Quilt-Batting

Go for “white” over “natural.” Now, this may be a more personal preference, but I always go for white batting because of the darker flecks found in “natural” cotton. Sometimes, these flecks can show through light-colored fabric, and with the crazy amount of white I use in my quilts, I have a strict “No Flecks Allowed” policy.

Know the Skinny on Scrim. Some batting comes with “scrim,” which is a thin layer of stabilizer that gives your batting some strength, and keeps fibers from escaping and creating that dreaded beard. If you decide to go with a batting with scrim, it’s best to face it toward the back of your project.​ (You'll be able to feel the difference.)

Don't Get Too Lofty. One other term you should know when checking out batting is “loft.” Loft basically refers to how thick or fluffy your batting is, with lower loft being thinner. Low loft batting is great for a flatter finish, where you want to show off your piecing more than your quilting lines (though if you are hand quilting, choose low loft no matter how amazing your stitches are… it’s just easier.) Go for higher loft if you want a nice, puffy quilt with very visible quilting lines.​ However, keep in mind that if you get a high-loft batting it can look a bit dated – member those puffy Care Bear quilts from the 80s?


Sometimes, it takes some experimentation to really get the hang of choosing batting (anyone have some weird batting results they want to share??) but know that you’re not alone! Next time you’re having a panic attack in the batting aisle, hit me up 🙂

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38 thoughts on “How to Choose the Right Quilt Batting

  1. Veronika says:

    I’ve only used cotton and poly-cotton but I was surprised when I used the poly cotton that the quilting had to be a lot closer. I like being able to do loose quilting sometimes! And also now I feel like I can only use bamboo batting forever…hmmm…

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      Tutti girl, you missed nothing. I was very sneaky and intentional about not sharing a favorite. The truth is, sometimes it’s nice to switch it up! My favorite brands will probably remain Quilter’s Dream and Pellon, but within those brands, I will hop around among all of the options.

  2. margiestither says:

    very informative. I usually use a cotton 80/20 with scrim as that only needs quilting every 10″ and the quilting part is so very hard for me to do. Having to quilt so close is not the way forward for me! I did do a charity quilt a couple of weeks ago batting and backing provided along with the flimsy and that was a polyester one, I found that better to work with than I thought it wold be

  3. Steffe says:

    Great post! I’ve only ever used 100% cotton, but the bamboo sounds really really nice! I think I want to do my next quilt on a longarm and I’ve seen some people do two layers of batting to get the quilting to really “pop”. Have you ever done this? I’m tempted… but I don’t want to ruin it! Lol

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      I have never done that, but I doubt it would ruin the quilt. It may make it really stiff, but eventually, it would loosen up. If you haven’t tried wool batting yet, I suggest trying that before double layering. Good luck!

      • Danielle says:

        I love Quilters Dream Wool Batting ❤️ It is warm in the winter but also so lightweight and cool for summer…My go to batting!!

        Good job describing each type of batting Suzy! After working in a quilt shop for years it’s still the one isle that people definitely struggle in😉

  4. Rhyo says:

    Choosing batting is such a weird mystery to me, so thank you for this! I always tend to like my quilts to be as drapey and floppy and non-stiff as possible. Do you find cotton of poly-cotton to be more drapey/less stiff? I’ll have to give bamboo batting a try sometime… that sounds awesome!

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      I have found cotton poly blends to have a floppier drape straight off the sewing machine. 100% cotton batting is a bit stiffer and needs to either be washed or used a lot before it’s drape mimics the cotton poly.

  5. Katie says:

    I have a weird batting story… I finished a quilt recently that I started over ten years ago when I was young and had no idea I was using too many colours. When I found the top and got to finishing it, I really didn’t want to put any more money into it. So for batting I used polar fleece! Not even one piece! I sewed two different colors together! So now the whole quilt is weird, the top that I made when I was young and silly, and the finishing when I was older and still silly.

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      That sounds weirdly AWESOME! Originally, quiltmakers would use all sorts of random materials to fill their quilts. I’d say that you were just getting in touch with your inner quilt historian. 🙂

  6. Sally says:

    I have used both Hobbs and Quilters’ Dream wool batting and would rate them excellent.
    I have used the Hobbs Silk/poly blend-lovely -and the QD bamboo, sooo soft, both
    a bit expensive. I make bed quilts and mostly use Quilters’ Dream Select, a mid loft all cotton
    batting. As I longarm quilt for others I get pretty much everything to work on. I dont’ like
    the high lofts on a longarm – I’m sure is fine for a tied super puffy look.

  7. barbara esposito says:

    Great info – Thanks so much for the post! Did I miss the Warm and Natural? Did you not include it because it is not top quality?

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      I would put Warm & Natural in the same category as Pellon in terms of availability and price. Personally, I think Pellon is better quality and never has those terrible dark flecks that drive me bananas.

  8. Lydia says:

    This is super helpful – and might get me to try a bamboo or wool in the future. On a similar note, what are your thoughts on spray basting? I had always pin basted until a couple weeks ago, when I tried spray basting. Long story short, it did not go well, even after I watched PLENTY of youtube tutorials. Any advice?

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      I’ve spray basted in the past and have found pin basting to be the better option. Here are my reasons: 1. Spray basting was making a mess in my house. No matter how neat I was, that sticky spray would get on my floors, walls, and furniture. yuck. 2. That stuff is expensive! Pins are a one-time investment. 3. Safety pins don’t shift. When I spray basted anything larger than a baby quilt, my quilt sandwich would shift and get all out of wack.

  9. Jennifer says:

    How about silk batting? I’ve recently seen some of it and it is beautiful but where would it fall in your list?

  10. Jean says:

    Thank you Suzy! Great job wandering the batty world! I concur with QD and Hobbs, though I’ve never used the Pellon. – Jean

  11. Sarah says:

    I usually use 80/20 because it doesn’t stretch or get misshapen like cotton can tend to. But another dreamy option is silk! Silk batting in a lawn or voile quilt is like the lightest, drapieat quilt ever.

  12. Peggy says:

    Regarding loft, when I started Quilting 20 years ago I remember 1/4 inch loft was desirable and easily available. Recently I was shopping for batting in brick and mortar stores and a majority of batting was 1/8 inch loft. What happened? I longarm quilts, the 1/8 is too thin, a piece of flannel would do as well. The experience left me disappointed and a little bit frustrated. Am I alone?

  13. Lori Matsui says:

    I tried the Quilters dream wool and it started bearding heavily as soon as I started quilting it. Is there a way to minimize the bearding? In your experience which one beards the least of the wool batting?

  14. Jerilea says:

    Hi, my husband and I are in the process of house hunting for the perfect acreage. My big dream is to raise alpacas and make quilt batting from their fleece. Were we live right now there is a place that will process alpaca fiber (75% alpaca, 25% wool) into batting for an astonishingly reasonable price. In your pilgrimage of finding batting…did you come across alpaca fiber batting? Any thoughts on that type of batting? My understanding is that it is lighter, warmer, and contains less lanolin than wool and easy to quilt/work with.

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      I’ve tried it, and messed it completely up. Typically fusible batting is only activated by steam – which means that I was on my hands and knees trying to steam iron a quilt while it was on the floor. The process was miserable, not to mention that I bunched up both the backing and the quilt top. In the end, I ripped all of the layers apart and pin basted it. I’d be curious to hear a success story about fusible batting…

  15. Elisa Alegria says:

    Very useful info. Thanks! Do you have a recommendation on what kind of batting to use for tablecloths or placemats, since they have to be washed more frequently? I once heard someone that said she used flannel as batting, but I thought flannel shrinked a lot. Thank you for your advise.

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      Great question! Flannel won’t be any sturdier than 100% cotton batting, however it will be a lot thinner. I have used both 100% cotton and cotton poly blend batting in placemats and table runners and years later they are still in great condition. If you don’t want the crinkle affect, pre-wash your fabric before making your placemats. That was the one thing I didn’t do that I wish I did.

      Oh! And one more thing you may want to consider – I used a heavy-weight home dec fabric on the back of my placemats to give them a bit more heft and make them sturdier. I think that helped a lot. Good luck!

  16. Teri says:

    Good post altho, none of this information is new. One thing I didn’t see mentioned about cotton batting: if you are making a wall hanging/art quilt, do NOT use cotton. It has a “memory” meaning that, once your work is folded, it will retain fold lines unless and until the item is steamed (and sometimes, even after steaming). So, unless you can assure the piece will be rolled and not folded, stick to wool, poly or some blend.

  17. Louise says:

    I just discovered your blog and I’m finding all sorts of useful information. Thanks! I was happy you mentioned the poly/blend option to remind me that even though I always brush off the idea of something synthetic, I really should use a poly for my niece who is an allergy sufferer. Piecing her a birthday quilt today but if it makes her eyes water then a lifetime heirloom is just going to be a waste 🙈. Good call!

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