Batting Guide from Amy of Happythings

on February 27 | in Sewing + Quilting Tips, Sewing Tutorials + Patterns | by | with 75 Comments

Once you have pieced a beautiful patchwork top, the next step in the quilt making process requires batting. (Or perhaps it is called wadding where you live?) Batting is simply the stuff in the middle of your quilt – the layer between the front and the back that gives your quilt dimension and warmth. Since quilts have this extra layer, they require quilt-ing – that is, stitching, (plain or fancy, by machine or by hand) to hold the layers together. There are some choices when it comes to batting. Here is how I (a self-proclaimed non-expert) understand them:

Your Guide to Batting

by Amy of Happythings

 

Types of Batting
Cotton

  • 100% cotton battings are soft, usually supple (drapable), and usually thin (low-loft) but it seems these days they can be found with many variations.
  • Cotton breathes – so your quilt will too.
  • If not preshrunk, cotton tends to shrink. When you wash your quilt for the first time, the batting will shrink and create that wrinkly, quilty look that you either love or hate. (I love.)
  • Since normal cotton fibers will tend to shift around in your quilt over time if not properly anchored with stitches, the batting manufacturers tell you that your quilting “lines” must be close together (usually 2-3” maximum) to prevent this bunching/shifting. There are manufacturers of new types of cotton batts that claim otherwise and say you can quilt them further apart (up to 8”.) I haven’t had the guts to test their word yet.

QMABA1.jpg

Cotton batting is supposed to look flatter.

Cotton Blends

  • There are many, many different types of batting that are part cotton, part synthetic (nylon, polyester, mircofiber, polypropylene) in a variety of ratios 87.5/12.5, 80/20 50/50…)
  • Because of these added synthetic fibers, these battings require less quilting to be stable. This is a plus for people like me for whom quilting is not easy nor the favorite step in the process.
  • The lofts (thickness), weights/drapes, and shrinkage properties of these products vary and it may take some experimentation to find the one that suits your purposes. There are some that I love and some that I cannot stand the feel of.
  • The batting I have worked most with is the Warm & Natural brand cotton batting that is 87.5% cotton, 12.5% polypropylene. It is easy to find at the local craft stores and can be bought by the yard on big rolls when it is on sale or with a coupon. (And by the way, I have no interest in giving this recommendation!) I have found it to be a very nice product for my purposes.

Synthetics

  • Synthetic battings (frequently polyester) also vary in thickness though in general they run from medium to high loft (on the thicker side.)
  • They are generally lighter in weight so they will produce a lighter quilt that doesn’t drape as well.
  • If you plan to tie your quilt, instead of quilting it, it is often recommended that you use a synthetic batting because they require less anchoring than cotton battings. High loft (very puffy) polyester batting is OK for tying but not recommended for quilting (especially hand quilting.) But if you ever look at a quilts and crafts from the 1970s you will see this “rule” was meant to be broken!
  • Some synthetic battings (especially the high-loft ones) have loose fibers that tend to work their way through the layers of your quilt (known as bearding). This is especially evident if your fabric is dark colored. Some synthetic battings come colored black for this reason.
  • In my opinion, most synthetic battings that I’ve tried are slipperier than cotton battings so they tend to shift around more as you are quilting. If I use them, I try to baste more heavily to prevent some of this.
  • Because of their flammability, I personally don’t like the idea of using polyester batting (or fabric for that matter) for quilts that people (babies and kids especially) will sleep under.

QMABA4.jpg

Poly batting is supposed to look kinda “poofy.”

Wool/Silk

  • I have not worked with wool or silk bats so I have no direct knowledge to share, but I know they are out there and I bet they are nice to work with.
  • They are more expensive, as you might have guessed.

Cotton Flannel

  • Flannel makes an interesting, very thin batting for quilted projects like bedspreads or tablecloths.
  • Since it is so thin, the quilt design doesn’t stand out, so don’t waste your time doing anything fancy.

QMABA2.jpg

Batting squares, a polyester to cotton spectrum.

Other (that catchall)

  • Some people use fleece for their battings. I find it too stretchy/slippy to use and definitely thick for my climate. I have tried to use fleece for the back of a few of my quilts and quilt the top directly to the fleece with no additional batting. This has produced, shall we say, mixed results.
  • Fusible battings can be ironed to your quilt top, eliminating the need for basting. I haven’t used these products myself but have seen them used in small, machine quilted projects.
  • 100% cotton battings are available now in organic varieties.
  • You can do like the pioneers and struggling quilt makers of times past have done and use whatever extra “stuff” you have as batting. If you piece things (old cloth diapers? washcloths? etc. ) to use in your quilt you will just have to live with the bunches and creases and irregularities But that is part of the charm of make-do quilts – and definitely in line with the history of quiltmaking! Hmmm, while you are at it, you could card some cotton that was leftover in the fields. OK, now I’m getting off track…

QMABA5.jpg

Cotton quilted is supposed to look wrinkly.

Working with Batting

  • Batting can be bought folded or rolled in packages or by the yard.
  • I prefer to buy batting by the yard because I can cut off just what I need for each quilt and have less waste.
  • If in packages, batting is generally sold in standard bed-sized quantities – crib, twin, full, queen, king. You will need your batting to be a couple inches bigger than your quilt top on all sides.
  • Some battings can be pre-washed to eliminate shrinkage. Check your manufacturer’s recommendations. Some people like flat quilts with no wrinkles and puckers. I am of the opposite school and so never pre-wash my battings.
  • You can drape or lay your batting flat overnight to let the fold/wrinkles relax before using it. Some battings can be thrown in the clothes dryer and fluffed before use to remove wrinkles. Some battings can even be ironed carefully.
  • Check the manufacturer’s information to see if your batting has a top/bottom side or grain lines (direction the fibers run). For less possibility of distortion you should make your batting’s grain lines run in the same direction as your backing fabric’s grain line.
  • Remember to check the quilting requirements for the batting you will use and plan your quilting design accordingly. If you exceed the recommended maximum distance between quilting lines your batting could shift/bunch/tear inside your quilt over time.
  • You can piece large scraps of batting together as a way to re-use all those cut off ends. I think this is a nice option for scrap quilts especially. You can sew the pieces of batting together by machine but you’ll end up with a bulky seam in your quilt. You can just butt them together without sewing but you might end up with a gap. You can try hand sewing the pieces like this or try using a long/wide machine zigzag stitch for the same effect.

More links about batting

This Batting Guide was created by Amy of Happythings. Be sure to check out Amy’s introduction!

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75 Responses to Batting Guide from Amy of Happythings

  1. thanks for all this great info!!!

  2. Stephanie says:

    This article is wonderful. I have a question about batting for pillows. I stuffed some pillows with polyester but the filling was migrating through the fabric. The fabric is just regular cotton fabric. Is this a natural occurrence in bat-land? Or, should I have done something differently? It is Fairfield 100% polyester. Thank you!

  3. Peg Lyons says:

    I recently bought fusable batting for a tablecloth that I am making and now that it is almost finished I find it rather stiff. Will it get soft when it is laundered? Thanks for any info you can give me as I have gone too far with the project to make a change. I just want it to relax and drape.

  4. Thanks for the info!
    nice guide

  5. Carrie says:

    I just did a quilt with a wool bat, it was wonderful to work with! and sooooooo warm! It is a tiny bit “Poofier” that the cotton/poly bats. But I’m from the 70’s I like that look.

  6. Nice guide!

    Wool batting is my favorite. Hobbs makes a 100% wool batting that is nice. It does squish down well for machine qulting, and it is lightweight and warm to sleep under. I follow the package directions and wash my finished quilts in the washing machine and dry them in the dryer on low. Wool can really take more abuse than is commonly believed. It is a tough, resilient fiber. As long as you wash it in cold water with minimal agitation, it should be fine. I mostly make household quilts that are actually used to keep warm under, so the little extra expense is worth it to me. If you are making a wall quilt, I would skip the wool as cotton would give a similar look at less cost.

    On bamboo: I’m still waiting to try the new bamboo batting, but I have used the bamboo pillow forms and the loose fiberfill from the same company, and the fibers are wonderful; springy, soft, and light.

  7. Emily says:

    Thanks for the great article! I’ve only ever used Warm and Natural, but now I may try something else.

  8. Karie says:

    Thank You for all the info on the batting. Batting has been the biggest struggle for me to figgure out, which type to use, how it should be handled how to decide to quilt it ect… I have used Fleeece for my quilting projects but its usually when I cant run to the store and get batting or Its just for a pillow top. I deffentily want to try the Warm and Natural brand batting. Thank you Amy for all the great info, it was really helpful!!

  9. Thanks Amy for all the wonderful info!

  10. LadySnow says:

    Thanks for the info!

  11. Suzanne says:

    Thanks for the tips!

  12. Suzanne says:

    Thanks for the tips!

  13. Glaucia says:

    Thank you for all that wonderful information! As synthetics are easier to find than cotton here, that´s what I’ve been using, but now I’m going to try a 100% cotton, it seems to give a nice effect :)

  14. Ashley Ann says:

    Thanks for sharing your batting knowledge!

  15. danna osen says:

    excellant information…Thank You.

  16. Kristin Lawson says:

    That is all great information! I will have to try a blend when I am going for the “poufier” look. I usually use Warm & Natural on my baby quilts because it has a nice weight to it. Polyester batting feels like you are sleeping under nothing.

  17. TC says:

    Thank you for this great information! As a new quilter I’m baffled by all the choices of batting available, but this helps me to figure out what I should use for my hand quilting.

  18. Sam says:

    This was great! Although might be too late in my case; I’m using Quilter’s Dream 100% cotton for my current baby blanket project, and after reading this I think I might have to change my quilting plans. I’m doing a project from “Last Minute Patchwork Projects” that involves hand-quilting around the fabric print (Alexander Henry’s Juicy Jungle), and I hadn’t anticipated needing to have so little space between my quilt lines! So now I’m rethinking quilting plans. Thanks for the save!

  19. Valerie says:

    Great info! Thank you so much! : )

  20. Maria says:

    The batting you choose will depend on the final use of the quilt you are making. I’ve made quilts with polyester, cotton, and wool battings. A few years ago I also made samples using just about every batting that was available at the time. Cotton is a good basic batting. It’s very nice for a beginner and is good for everyday quilts. And, while poly is readily available, it is probably the last thing I’d recommend. However, if you’re making an heirloom quilt, I highly recommend that you consider wool batting. It’s pretty much the only batting I’ll use anymore. I figure my time is precious and it’s worth the extra expense to get quality batting. Wool batting is wonderful to hand quilt or to machine quilt. I’ve used it for both. Now I mostly make art quilts for the wall. One really terrific thing about wool is that your quilt will not develop creases like it would with poly or cotton. It can be tightly compressed so that you can quilt even a king-size quilt on a regular sewing machine. It is very drapable and it breathes. While it’s true that you don’t want to throw a quilt with wool batting in the washing machine, I would argue that quilts really shouldn’t be washed like that anyway (unless it’s a baby quilt that you don’t intend to keep for more than a year). If your local store doesn’t have wool batting, you can get it from Hancock’s of Paducah (no affiliation, etc.). Okay, I’m off my soap box . Enjoy!

  21. Gail says:

    Great information and very helpful!

  22. Mette says:

    Thank you so much for this great article!

  23. Becca says:

    Thanks for all the great information!!

  24. ainhoa says:

    Thanks for the interesting information.

  25. Great info. :-)

    I’ve used fusible batting for small projects (24″x24″ and similar) and can’t imagine using it for anything much larger. When you iron it to fuse, it gets very flat, rigid, and “crispy”, and it’s hard to tell how your quilting will drape once you wash the adhesive out. That said, for mini-quilts, it works fine for me.

    I really enjoy the puckered finish of a cotton batting, but for sheer puff, sometimes polyester is the best. A lot of the quilts I make are for dogs, who need a poofy place to sit rather than a warm cover.

  26. Lil' d says:

    Thank you – just in time to answer my questions!

  27. claudia says:

    Wow, great information just when I needed it too!

  28. Libby says:

    Lots of good information. Thank you for sharing it. I am still completely quilt ignorant, but learning more each time.

  29. Stephanie says:

    This was very helpful! Thank you Amy!

  30. Sharon Gollman says:

    Thank you so much for all this information! I can now choose the batting for my quilt with confidence!
    Sharon

  31. Rebecca says:

    I’m a hand quilter and I definitely prefer poly over cotton. The newest microfibers can virtually eliminate bearding. I’ve also learned to avoid anything with a scrim or seed pods or anything that could make it harder to stitch through the quilt. The idea of handquilting through fleece with that webby center terrifies me! Bandaids, please!

  32. Dawn says:

    Great info! I’ve learned not to use polly batting from bad experiences. Thanks for the information!!!

  33. Missy says:

    Wow what a detail explanation. I will print this out and keep in my sewing folder!

  34. Amy says:

    Thanks for all your nice comments – I’m glad it was helpful to some of you.

    Jenclair — Wow, I hadn’t heard of bamboo batting yet — I’ll have to look for that!

    Waterworks – I used the Warm & Natural cotton batting in those bags – it was just the right thickness and weight I thought.

    Carolyn — I don’t think the flannel will tear apart but I think you would still need to add some minimal quilting, tacking or tying to keep everything together.

    Kristin – Yes – you are right — cotton will burn too — but slower – and it doesn’t MELT like poly…

  35. anita says:

    Thank you! Great information and thank you so much for the links, I’ve book marked them.

  36. Carol says:

    Thanks Amy! This is a great guide.

  37. CIndy says:

    Warm and natural is nice–but if you can find it, I recommend “Quilter’s Dream” 100% cotton–very soft and smooth–and really a “dream” t work with–comes in different lofts–the “request” is very low loft –8″ quilting–

    The bamboo is intriguing–I had a chance to feel some bamboo yarn yesterday–wow–it was so soft!!!

  38. Rose L says:

    Thanks for all the helpful info.

  39. Amanda says:

    Great guide Amy! This will be very helpful when I start quilting(which will hopefully be soon)! :)

  40. kate says:

    Thank you, this is SO helpful, maybe someday I can use this info! :D

  41. Char says:

    Thank you for this summary. I never thought of buying it by the yard, but this makes a lot of sense… and the fleece idea is interesting, too. I might give it a try.

  42. Cassie Ogle says:

    This is so informative. Thanks!

  43. Kristin L says:

    Nice to have so much info in one place. Thanks. As for brands, I love the look, feel, and availability of Warm and Natural. But cotton in general can be a bit dense for hand quilting, so sometimes a blend is nice. I love the “stickiness” of cotton though when it comes time to hold the layers of a quilt together. Cotton Dream is super soft and not as dense as W&N.

  44. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks for the great information!

  45. Kristin says:

    Thanks for the interesting article. I have used both cotton and polyester. I used the Warm and Natural for a few bedspreads and it was nice but a little too heavy for the summer. I have also used polyester for a baby blanket and it had a lighter puffier feel which I really liked. I researched cotton versus polyester because I was concerned with polyester being flammable, and I found that cotton is flammable too unless it is chemically treated.

  46. Julia D says:

    WOW! thank you for sharing your experience. I’ve never heard of silk batting. I’m going to see about finding some. What an easy to read, friendly, informative article! Thanks!!

  47. Rose says:

    Very helpful. Thank you very much.

  48. Carolyn says:

    Great information, Amy. I’m a pretty new quilter and so far have used cotton batting (off the roll), and a fleece blanket for filler. I didn’t really like the way the quilt top lay on the fleece, so I won’t use that option too often, I think. I love the feel and drape of a quilt with cotton batting, though. Right now I’m working on a rag quilt with flannel filler, and I could see liking to use flannel as a filler in a larger project. Plus, you don’t have to worry about quilting the flannel for stability, right?

  49. Jen says:

    Super information!! Thank You!

  50. Allison says:

    I also use the Warm and Natural Cotton Batting for ALL my quilting projects.. I recently bought some inferior batting that was on sale, big mistake.. I recommend the Warm and Natural wholeheartedly!

  51. Mellissa says:

    Thanks for all of the wonderful information!

  52. Cristin says:

    I am working on potholders right now and the pattern calls for wool batting. I can’t seem to find it anywhere! Does anyone have a reliable link of someplace I can buy it online? I’ve done some Google searches but not sure if I trust the sites I find.

  53. Deb says:

    What great information! Thank you!

  54. Kristin says:

    Great info! The whole quilting month has been a great resource

  55. water works says:

    Wow! Such a great wealth of info there, Amy. Thanks for your straightforward manner in presenting the facts. Always enjoy seeing your creations. BTW, what did you use as batting in the butterfly bag you made at Christmas. I remember it having a quilted look.

  56. I usually use Warm & Natural or Hobb’s. I find that both of these are wonderful to quilt with. Thanks for all of the information.

  57. Katie says:

    Thanks for all the info. I now feel like a batting expert too!

  58. Andrea says:

    This is so helpful. As a new quilter I am never quite sure what to use. This will be a post a return too often.

  59. Wendy says:

    I’m a fan of Amy’s blog, too. I’m a fan of Warm & White (or Warm & Natural), and love the low loft “quilty” look. Amy also has a great tutorial on her blog about how to do a tied, chenille backed quilt, which I did for my son’s bed quilt. It’s holding up really nicely and is so cozy.

  60. Amy W says:

    Thanks! I had no idea how to get the wrinkles out! So many great tips! Thanks so much!

  61. mj says:

    Wow what a great reference!

  62. RobinE says:

    Thanks so much for the article! It’s nice to have all of this great batting information available in one spot :)

  63. alison says:

    Thanks for the great tips and info on batting. Really helpful for newbie quilters!

  64. Regina says:

    Great information! I love to use flannel as batting in my quilts – it makes a very “drapey” quilt that just hugs you right from the get-go. With a flannel back – it makes a nice warm quilt, and with a cotton back it is a good summer weight. Works great tied, too as it is very stable.

    After reading this, though, I may venture out and try some different ones!

  65. Carrie says:

    I love Amy’s blog and am so happy to see her on here! Thanks for all the great information…as a new quilter I had no clue what type of batting to use, so this is a big help!

  66. Delaina says:

    Thank you thank you thank you! This absolutely clears up my batting confusion! I always get so lost in this section of the fabric store!

  67. Michele says:

    Thanks for all the great information!

  68. Angela says:

    Thanks for all the tips Amy!

  69. jenclair says:

    I usually use Warm and Natural or Hobbs batting, but last week I found Bamboo batting (50% bamboo fiber & 50% organic cotton. I love Bamboo products because they are naturally anti-bacterial and wick moisture away from the body. The batting is very soft, and the package says the quilting distance is up to 8″ (which doesn’t matter to me because I always quilt much more densely); the estimated shrinkage is 2-3 %.

    I haven’t used it yet (and it was a bit pricey at 13.95 for a “generous crib size” package), but hope to try it out soon. Has anyone else tried this new product?

  70. Robyn says:

    Wow this is a fabulous primer on battings! Thanks!

  71. Alisa says:

    Very nice write-up! Batting how-to can be very mysterious.

    At one time I used a thrifted wool blanket which I thought would make a very nice warm quilt. A word of advice – don’t use wool for something that will be washed. I used if for a baby quilt. Every time it is washed it shrinks some more and it looks terrible!

    I’ve really enjoyed quilting month here at Sew Mama Sew! Thanks so much.

  72. Sarah says:

    Fantastic information, thank you so much!

  73. kathy says:

    That is a ton of information about batting. It’s good to have all the options and pros/cons in one place.
    Thanks, Amy (love your blog:))

  74. Ellen says:

    Good information! I like Warm & Natural and the “shrink effect” too.

  75. Apple Cyder says:

    Thanks for all the great information! I love to use old, out-of-use blankets for batting when I can.

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