Batting How To’s
Batting is there in every quilt, but it is, or should be invisible. It gives shape, warmth, drape, and texture to our quilts, Here are some tips to help you decide which type of batting to use plus a few other things!
Loft-This is the thickness of the batting. Cotton tends to be lower loft and Polyester can be quite thick. There is a time and a quilt for each! Hawaiian quilts use a batting with more loft. It allows those rows of parallel stitches to echo all over the quilt.
Drape-the way batting hangs. Some batting is quite soft, while other types are stiffer. This affects how the batting hangs—and ultimately how the quilt that uses it drapes.
Scrim– is a thin stabilizer that is sometimes layered onto batting to anchor the fibers, keeping them from separating or stretching, and allowing the quilting stitches to be placed further apart. Scrim is often needle-punched onto the batting (but batting can be needle-punched and not have a scrim). Because batting with a scrim is stronger and more stable, you can place your quilting stitches further apart—as much as 8-12″ apart, versus a maximum of only 3-4″ for batting without a scrim. Batting with a scrim is great for machine quilting, but it is not recommended for hand-quilting because of its density.
Align the batting so the scrim side is facing the quilt backing and the cotton side is towards the quilt top.
Needle Punched-in needle-punched batting, the fibers are felted/interlocked together using thousands of tiny barbed needles. When using needle-punched batting, it’s generally recommended that you machine-quilt the batting in the same direction as it was needle-punched—although it’s not always easy to figure out which way that is! (The makers of Warm & Natural helpfully explain on their website how to tell which side goes “up” when using their batting.)
Types of Batting and When to Use Them
Cotton– Cotton batting comes in white and natural colors—if you use a lot of white in your quilts, go with white cotton batting, since the natural color can show through white fabric and make it look yellower. You can also find black batting for your quilts that use very dark or black fabric.
Cotton tends to be softer, warm, and cuddly. After washing the quilt you may bet some shrinkage that creates a crinkly effect. This is great if you are trying to create an Antique effect. It is possible to pre-shrink cotton batting to minimize the shrinkage. Always read the manufacturer’s information as it will give you helpful information about laundering, shrinkage, and how close the lines of stitching need to be.
Note: Cotton batting may not be 100% Cotton. Those with Scrim generally include poly or some other fibers.
Polyester-Polyester batting is fluffier and higher loft than most other types of batting. If you’re going for a puffy quilt or want to really show off your quilting stitches, polyester may be the way to go. Polyester is also a favorite for tied quilts, since the ties are usually quite far apart, requiring a strong, stable batting.
Polyester doesn’t shrink, so if you’re trying to avoid crinkling or puckering, polyester is a great choice. Another benefit of polyester (and blends) is that it tends not to show fold lines as much as cotton. However, polyester doesn’t have the same drape or soft feel as other types of batting, and may not be as warm.
Cotton Blend-The most common cotton blends out there are 80% cotton and 20% polyester—a popular example of this is Hobbs’ Heirloom 80/20. Blends tend to be favorites of long-arm quilters, since this batting has many of the good qualities of both cotton and polyester.
Wool-Wool batting has the warmth of cotton while being much lighter in weight, so this type of batting is great for more of a three-season quilt. It can also be a bit higher loft than cotton, so it’s a good alternative to polyester if you’re looking for a high-loft natural-fiber batting. It is washable and shows quilting stitches nicely. Shrinkage is about the same as with cotton.
Bamboo– Bamboo batting is a greener alternative to cotton, since bamboo is a renewable resource. In fact, depending on the brand, it can be difficult to tell it apart from cotton batting. The loft and feel is very similar, as is the shrinkage. Bamboo can be more expensive than cotton, but if you’re trying to keep it green, this is a great choice.
Fusible Batting-Fusible batting comes with a thin layer of glue on both sides, which is usually ironed into place, allowing you to skip pinning or spray-basting. Fusible batting can be made from cotton, cotton blend, or polyester. May not be the best choice for large quilts as you can get chunks of glue in areas that take longer to melt with your iron. But for mini quilts or other small pieces, it may be a good option.
Remember-No matter what type of batting you choose, be sure to read the manufacturer’s recommendations on how far apart stitches should be, and care instructions. Some batting may be prewashed. Wrinkled or creased batting may be put into the dryer for a few minutes to fluff or remove lines.