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."
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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.
(Technically those places came to me in nicely packaged batting bundles, but MENTALLY I was traveling to all of those places.)
And now I'm back. With news.
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.)
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.
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.
(Pictured below is a free quilt pattern - click here!)
Quilt 1: 80/20 Hobbs Cotton Poly Blend
Quilt 2: 60/40 Pellon Cotton Poly Blend
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.
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.
The best way to avoid bearding from your wool batting is to use a sharp needle (probably fresh from the package) when quilting and piece your quilt top with tightly woven fabric. If your fabric is a loose weave or a low thread count, the wool can easily travel through it once the quilt has been washed.
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:
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.
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 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:
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 🙂