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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 crazy creativity, original ideas, and incredible muffin recipes… but I’m also thankful for you all because you ask amazing questions that I probably wouldn't have come up with!
I actually thought I knew the answer to this, but when I started reading the responses from you in the question 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 crazy. (FYI it doesn't – don't be confused.)
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 that unpredictably emotional friend you used to have in high school), 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’ll 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...)
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.