Last week, on the Suzy Quilts Patterns Facebook Group (yes, I hope you read that like the episode recap narrator of your favorite TV show), someone asked if there was a right and wrong side to quilt batting.
Let me just say that I’m thankful for my quilting community for a lot of reasons: the creative inspiration, original ideas, and incredible muffin recipes… but I’m also thankful for you all because you ask amazing questions about things I wouldn't even thing about!
I actually thought I knew the answer to this, but when I started reading the responses from you in the comment thread, I realized that there is a lot on this subject that I need to research. Confession: before researching this post, I actually thought that Quilters Dream Wool had scrim!! OMG, RIGHT?? So silly of me. 😉 (FYI it doesn't – don't be confused.)
Batting seems pretty straightforward. I mean, we covered How to Choose the Right Quilt Batting here and The Truth About Black Batting here so what else could there possibly be to talk about?
We need to talk about the sides of batting, and how to make sure we stay on its good side.
The Right Side to Batting
Just like fabric (and your unpredictably emotional friend), a lot of batting also has a right side and a wrong side. This is important to be aware of, because if you place your batting wrong-side-up, you could have issues with consistent thread tension, and your quilt may grow more of a beard!
Now, not all batting is finicky like this. Only batting that has been needle punched during its origin has a right side. How do you know? Take a good look at your precious bit of batting, and see if there are small pin holes (these look like dimples) in its surface.
When needle-punched batting fibers are being compressed, a machine uses small needles to drive the fibers together. You can see these small holes afterwards if you look closely. Your goal is to make sure that the needle of your machine is headed in the same direction as those needles did, once upon a time. If you can see those little pin holes, congrats! Your batting is right-side up.
If you see little tiny balls of batting, like the little pills that have formed on the sweater you’ve worn every day this week (I know it’s not just me), you’re looking at the “bottom” of your batting.
You want this side, and all those little balls, to go against the backing of your quilt FOR SURE, and this is why: if your needle tries to push one of these dense little fabric balls through the batting and out the other side, it’s probably going to take some of the fibers with it. That’s how beards are born, my friends. (On quilts at least!)
Sometimes, it’s pretty easy to tell the right and wrong sides with this dimples vs. balls method. But sometimes, it’s harder to see. You can also try sliding a needle through from each direction, and judging which way it slides through the easiest.
Even though most bamboo battings are needle-punched, they can still be particularly hard to tell which side is the "right" side. If that's the case, it doesn't matter. Just like some fabric doesn't have a right and wrong side (think batiks), not all batting does either.
Some batting isn’t needle-punched at all (so if you don’t see those needle marks, don’t stress! There are a few different non-needled types.
First, there are bonded battings. These batting fibers are bonded together with thermal or resin bonding. Good news! These don’t have a right and wrong side. They’re your easy-going, low-maintenance friend that you don’t have to tip-toe around, and we all need some of that in our life.
(I think this close up photo of my wool batting looks like an underwater sea creature. Totally mesmerizing if you stare at it long enough...)
Bonded Batting Examples:
Then, there’s “scrim” batting. Even though it sounds to me like another holiday villain that hates Christmas and wants to steal all your gifts, scrim is actually a light material adhered to batting to help hold it together.
Whether or not scrim goes on the top or bottom is subject to a heated debate, but the experts generally agree that the scrim goes on the bottom side, nearest to the backing.
Here’s the logic behind that answer: the scrim should hit the side of the batting which will receive the most wear. Even though it seems like quilts would get the most “wear” on the quilt tops, if you think about it, the bottoms are always rubbing against whatever surface they are on… whether its the surface of the bed, or another surface altogether. Having the scrim down reduces batting migration during this contact.
I checked out the Quilters Dream website to make sure we had the info about the scrim right. The only blend they have with a scrim is the Dream Blend (a 70/30 cotton/poly blend), and the scrim provides extra support when used on a longarm machine.
In many cases scrim is needle-punched into the batting, and Quilters Dream supports the “quilt the same direction the batting was punched” method, so let that be our rule of thumb.
Is there a catchy way to remember this? Anyone? Let’s brainstorm some ideas. Something more catchy than “if it looks like my sweater does right now, flip it over.” But you get the idea.
71 thoughts on “Is There a Right Side to Quilt Batting?”
Thank you. It can be so confusing sometimes
Thank you for this very informative article.
Thank you, I’m 71 years old and I,ve been quilting for at least 40 years and I have learned great deal from you. Love your patterns and helpful hints.
This is such a good article! Is there any way you can make it a PDF? (I have no idea what I’m asking so don’t feel bad if it’s a big deal!) I need to read your other two articles on batting, too. I’m assuming my longarmers understand the difference in battings, but I need to be smarter about it so I appreciate your thoroughness! Thank you!!!
Hey Pat, I don’t know how to turn this into a PDF, but you can bookmark it in your web browser so you can come back to it easily later. So glad you enjoyed the info!
You can open in safari and then save it to IBooks which will save it as PDF.
I can help! On the bottom of your phone hit the box with the arrow an top and save it to your notes. Then from your notes click save pdf to iBooks ( if you have an iPhone ) then go to I books and open and you can print the pdf. I’m not a wizard but learned this the hard way!😳I love printed materials vs onscreen so this is my work around! Hope it helps!
Or you can just print the web page too. And if you have a Mac, from the print dialog window in the lower left corner there’s usually an option to Save As PDF!
What awesome information! I am fairly new to quilting and have learned so much via sites such as this one. I am still a little unsure how to tell which side is the scrim side but will keep trying to find out!!
Thanx a MILLION !! Great to always learn something new and VERY HELFUL !! Been doing this for 30 years and never knew this !! 🤩
If you have Microsoft Word, you can highlight the whole blog, copy and paste it into a word document then save as a PDF file. I usually remove any ads (they don’t copy but leave nonsensical marks, times etc). I also center any pictures. It takes a bit of time but well worth it if you prefer PDF files.
Mmm … It may explain why some of my quilts have beards … 🙄 Thank you for the hint Suzy! I’ll definitely check if the batting I use have a right side.
Happy Birthday!! Today is my son’s birthday and he is 22 years old. I was 35 years old and had been going through infertility treatments for 4 years. I also am blessed to have 2 daughters through adoption as well. It was a hard road to walk but I met many wonderful people who were going through the same thing. Congratulations and happy birthday!
It is a hard road and can feel very lonely. Thank you for sharing!
Thank you. I have wondered about this. I am hand basting today and thought I needed to correct my ways. I’m 71.
Thanks for the info. I’m a novice in quilting,so any/ all hints are greatly appreciated. Your explanations are always easy to follow. Thanks again!
Thanks for researching these batting issues. I would have never even known what questions to ask. When I first started quilting 35 years ago, you just took whatever batting was available and quilted it and moved on. Now there are so many different varieties (which I appreciate) but I don’t know how to put them to their best use. Now that I’ve “met” you, I know about the different battings and my quilting will improve because of this knowledge. So, thank you.
So happy to help!
Great info and refresher for those of us who get a bit lazy when basting quilts. Pay attention to the details! Now I have a question: I’m considering using two batts for my next quilt, Quilter’s Dream Wool and Quilter’s Dream Request, both of which I’ve used for years. Which one goes on top and which on bottom? Has anyone used two batts on a domestic machine? If so, what difficulties have you experienced?
Great question! Is Quilters Dream Request their cotton batting? I’m not finding a batting called that on their website. If it is their cotton batting, it is needle-punched, so you’ll want the side with the dimples to face the top. Since Dream Wool is bonded, it doesn’t have a right or wrong side. I haven’t layered two before, but I’ve heard a lot of other people doing it. One challenge you may run into is wrinkled batting right out of the package sitting on top of wrinkled batting – making it hard to baste. To get the wrinkles out, you could mist both battings with a bit of water and toss them in the dryer on air fluff. That should smooth them out. I think you’ll have a nicer baste then.
With Quilter’s Dream batting, “request” refers to the loft of the batting. It is their thinnest batt and comes in cotton and poly. I frequently layer batting and put the wool on top. It’s a nice high loft batt that shows off the stitching very well, especially for custom/decorative quilting where you want all that work to stand out.
I have often used 2 batting’s. Warm an natural and thena higher loft cotton under a mid panel to make it stand out more when doing hand quilting. I do have to sew around the outside of the center extra batting. Be careful and make sure your not making ticks underneath. I have always pin basted but I am going to attempt spraying basting this next time. I will have flannel bottom, batting and large appliqued Pokémon (Snorlax) in the center. I may not using the second batting this time because I don’t want to have to quilt inside the actual applique so I believe I am going to sew my backing and batting together where I made the panel then begin machine quilting all layers at the edge of the panel outwards. I have always put the smoother side of batting on top. For instance warm and natural had a side tha looks (tighter and has larger particles) when ever I place 2 layers I place the extra soft (non scrim sides together) I have never had issues. It’s just hard to maneuver because of the thickness. Good luck and thank you so much for this tutorial!!!! God Bless
Just another reason why I love your blog! I’ve been quilting for 44 years & never knew this! Thanks so much for the information! Merry Christmas to you! Deb E / CA
I like your explanations. It is always nice to learn more about quilting.
Congrats on your pregnancy. Hope to see pics of the nursery and of that little blessing before too long.
I was told not long after getting married that I would have “trouble” conceiving. Two years later I was pregnant then miscarried around 2 months. I was devastated. Then the next month I took another pregnancy test, positive. After my doctors appointment he confirmed that I was about 3 months along, strange, I thought I had miscarried. I did. I miscarried one of what would have been twins. I ended up giving birth to a beautiful healthy daughter. A couple years later I miscarried again, devastating. Then again a couple year later I was pregnant. It wasn’t until I was 8 months along that an ultrasound confirmed TWINS. I gave birth to big, 6+ and 7+ pounds, healthy baby boys a month later. My heart and home was full. Although my 34 year old daughter is married and my twin sons are now 29 I still recall and feel the loss of my other babies. I don’t dwell on them but as you said in your post, a part of me died and that never leaves you. I only recall my own losses after hearing of another miscarriage, such as yours. Time to reflect on my own life. It is that kind of loss that helps me to savor what I do have, wonderful adult children that I enjoy spending time with. Enjoy every moment of your pregnancy and birth.
What an amazing story! I can’t believe you were pregnant with twins twice in a row! Thank you so much for sharing. I do think the more people share their stories, the less we feel alone in our grief over miscarriage.
Excellent article. I have often wondered which side should go up on some of the battings I’ve used. Some of that batting was donated to my guild and we use it for charity projects. Usually I have no idea what brand it is nor what the fiber content is.
I think if you can’t see the needle punching, then it probably doesn’t have a clear front and back.
This was such a great post! Thank you! May I ask (unless I missed it somewhere within the posting) what category of batting would the Dream Cotton fall into? We sell it here at the shop, and I always assumed it was a scrim batting, but now I’m not so sure. If you know the answer, I’d love to learn it. Thanks so much!
It looks like that specific batting is needle-punched with no scrim – so there is a front and back.
I wish I had known this before I had made my quilts! This explains why some of them were difficult to quilt, broke needles and grew beards! Perhaps I have a tendency to flip the batting upside down for some reason. Now I know better. Thanks Suzy for the information!
Thanks so much! Just discovered you, loving your patterns ! Happy birthday 🎂🎈🎉. Looking forward to your blog and seeing the pics where that baby gets here. All thoughts and prayers to you.
Happy Birthday and congratulations on your soon to arrive blessing. Wishing you and your husband much joy.
Thank you for your willingness to share your personal experience of loss. Isn’t it amazing how these feelings were repressed for so many women until recently?
Thank you also for all the great information on batting. Why don’t the packages give you this information???
That’s a great question! I’m very curious why they wouldn’t say that right on the front. And thank you for the birthday wishes! 🙂
This article is very interesting and informative. I am new to quilting and still have so much learning to do. Is this article available in printable form? I really enjoy your e mails and glean many hits.
I believe if you go to your top toolbar you can hit Print under the File tab. Once you’re in that dialog box you can either save it as a PDF or print it.
I remember it this way – Show the dimples, hide the pimples!
Hahaha! So gross but totally stuck in my head. That’s how I’m going to remember it too!
This may be an answer to my question of not being able to adjust my tension. ,sees okay striaght but skips in sideways or circles.
If you’re having tension issues, this post might also help – https://suzyquilts.com/how-to-troubleshoot-sewing-machine-tension/
Thank you for sharing this wonderful post. I am a hand quilter and only wish I had known this years ago! Some batting is definitely more difficult to “needle” than others.
Thank you for this important i formation. I needed
A tutorial on batting. Welcome to the Motherhood club.💜
Excited to join ranks! 😉
Yes, I heard the ” Show your dimples, hide your pimples” at a guild meeting earlier this year…. dimples on the front, pimples on the back. Easy to remember and share with other quilters, especially young students, who totally get it!
Sadly, I still get it too. haha!
Thank you so much! I did know there was a right and wrong side! However… I forget which way was the right way with the dimples. So you help me remember.. the needle goes like the batting punch dimples go. Easy peasy… Now maybe I won’t confuse myself!
Yay finally figured it out ! Love the dimples and pimples – that helped me ! One side is smooth and the other side has little bumps so I figure that is the pimple side 😂😂 thanks so much for this article Suzy !
Thank you for this invaluable information! They say it’s never too late to learn. I’ve been quilting off and on for 20 years. Now I finally have this knowledge. I’m sure it will make a difference.
This was an excellent article on batting and extremely informative. Do you have any thoughts on silk batting?
thank you in advance,
I have not used 100% silk batting, but I absolutely LOVE Quilters Dream Orient which is a silk/bamboo blend. You can read more about it here – https://suzyquilts.com/why-bamboo-batting-makes-the-perfect-summer-quilt/
Thank you so much for your article as I am very new to quilting and am working on my first quilt! I have been looking at batting and have seen the ones with scrim and wondered what it means and which way to use it and also the needle punch and what it meant too, so thank you so much for this article in explaining them to me! Also thank you the one on the different batting!
If you are buying batting that has been folded it is my experience that the batting is folded so that the back is inside the fold (the front of the batting is to the outside of the fold). You can verify this by looking for the small hole in the batting as noted above.
Wow this article about batting has been a mind bender. Never new there was wrong and right sides. I do quilt with other quilters and we open the package and throw it on the frame all the while smoothing it out never knowing it could be on the wrong facing, Yikes! I can’t wait to share this info with the gang. One gal mentioned the beard thing and this will answer that too. Thx for the valuable info
How can you get the heavy feel of the vintage quilts? Does anyone make a heavy cotton batting or would you have to put two layers of batting to give that weighted feel of old quilts. I don’t really care about it being warm but so many of the battings are so thin you don’t get that nice heavy feeling that you get with the older quilts.
I know what you mean. If you can get your hands on some Quilters Dream Cotton Deluxe or Supreme, that is the GOOD STUFF. It has a wonderful density and is very warm. I think either of those is exactly what you’re looking for. 🙂
I’ve used cotton flannel (washed in HOT water, dried in HOT dryer before using) as my batting and it makes the quilt VERY heavy but thin like vintage quilts.
Thank you! This is so helpful.
I recently used the bamboo batting for a jellyroll quilt I made for myself. I love how soft it is right away and I keep on my bed for extra warmth if my blanket is not enough.
Thoroughly enjoyed reading your info on the different battings. Thanks
This is so helpful! I’ll be remembering it as if the needle-punches are little “inny” belly buttons. They will go on the top. We’ll see if that works…last week I could only remember that there was a right side and a wrong side, but nothing more than that. My brain couldn’t provide any more helpful information than that!
All this information fails to mention (for us cotton purists out here) that scrim is POLYESTER.
why don’t the manufacturer mark the batting so we can tell for sure the back from the front?
Mostly likely because that would be extra effort and expense, but wouldn’t it be nice?
Great article, Suzy. You do good work.
You asked if anyone had an easy way to remember to “quilt the same direction the batting was punched.” Here it is: Dimples up, pimples down!
Thanks for this discussion. I had heard before about the bumpy side of needle punched batting needing to face the back of the quilt, but that was not what The Warm Company’s website said about warm and white, my go-to batting. I emailed to make sure I understood, and Dawn replied this way: “There is not a right or wrong side but there is a “scrim” side. When manufacturing Warm & Natural or Warm & White, the cotton fibers are layered onto a scrim – a thin nonwoven substrate material. During the needle-punch process, barbed needles force the cotton fibers through and entangle them to the scrim. This is what holds the batting together without glues allowing quilting or ties to be up to 10″ apart. When quilting Warm & Natural or Warm & White, it is usually easier to do so in the same direction it was needle-punched – the cotton side facing towards your quilt top and the scrim side facing toward your quilt backing. With Warm & Natural the cotton side is distinguished by its leaf & stem remnants (face to quilt top). With Warm & White there is a side that is shinier and smoother. This is the scrim side and should face your quilt backing.” this agrees with what you said about scrim facing down, but it is potentially confusing when scrim and needle punching are aspects of the same batting.
Do you know what these mean as SFSR2 3OZ and FS 5 OZ ?
These are polyester quilt battings. But I don’t know what is different between SFSR2 and FS.
is it the kind of Brand ? Or Do they have the other meaning ?
Hmmm…those labels are new to me. I’m guessing the 3 oz. batting will be lower loft (density) than the 5 oz.
I remember Dimples Up and Pimples Down. Thanks as always for the information love your blog!
So can these “pills” from the batting on the underside be felt through the fabric backing? I’m cutting flannel squares for a rag quilt and the bumpy side can be felt on my bottom layer of flannel.
I wish batting manufacturers put how to use their batting most effectively and quilting spacing clearly on their packaging. I used a different batting (usually use warm and natural and I love it – I quilt on my domestic) and there was no information. As it was a quilt made of scraps to keep in the car, I used minimal quilting. Only to find out, after binding etc, that it needs very dense quilting. Im not sure what to do next. Do I take off the binding and add more quilting?
Oh that’s so frustrating! I think you’re right that the next step is to add more quilting. If you can make small micro backstitches by taking down your stitch length to 1 right in the binding seam, there’s no need to remove the binding. You won’t be able to see the start and stops.
Thank you so much. I never knew that there was a difference.