I posted on Facebook the other day that I was going to use wool batting in a quilt, and people asked me to explain why, so I think I’ll do a series on batting.
The actual question posted on FB was about explaining the choice between cotton & wool, but I thought I’d expand on the topic & talk about a wider variety of batting and what factors should influence your choice.
For me, I choose batting based on the way the quilt will be used & the type of quilting I want to do.
In my quilting business, I carry about 13-15 different types of batting; they each have their pros/cons and best ways to use them, and I like to offer a variety to my clients so that “what I have” isn’t a deciding factor. I have everything! So now my clients can choose based on what’s best for the quilt and their budget.
As you are selecting a batting for your quilt, here are some questions you should ask yourself:
- Do I want a natural fiber, synthetic, or a blend? Some people are real purists about natural fibers, but there is such a variety these days. Cotton and wool are popular options, but there is also bamboo, soy, rayon, and even flax/linen! In synthetics, you’re usually limited to polyester. Blends are nice for situations where you want to combine properties of different fibers, for example the drape of cotton combined with the strength of polyester.
- Is pure white a dominant color in my quilt? If so, then you definitely want a pure white batting! That means going with a bleached cotton or polyester.
- Is my quilt dark or black? A black batting may be your best option here. Most battings will “beard” a little bit (where the fibers poke through the weave of your fabric), and if you’ve got white fibers poking through your black fabric, you’ll be annoyed. Legacy makes a black 70/30 cotton/poly blend; it’s the only one I’m familiar with.
- Is cost a factor? Synthetic is going to be your cheapest option, followed by blends. Natural fibers are the most expensive, with wool usually topping the list.
- How will I quilt my quilt? Are you quilting by hand or by machine? Will you quilt more densely or not very much? Polyester & wool are probably the easiest for hand-quilting, but you can only quilt about 4″ apart. If you want to quilt further apart, choose a batt with a scrim binder. “Scrim binder” is a very, very thin layer of poly that is needle-punched into the fibers & helps to hold them together better. A 100% natural cotton usually allows quilting up to 4″ apart; that same batting with a scrim binder can be quilted 8-10″ apart – so it makes a huge difference!
- Is shrinkage a concern? I actually love my quilts to shrink up around the stitching, so I will not prewash my fabric or my batting for maximum shrinkage. Not to mention I quilt pretty densely, so after a quilt is finished & washed, it probably loses 3-6″ in size. Most battings will shrink up to 5% , so if you do not want your batting to cause the quilt to shrink, choose polyester or preshrink your batting in the washer.
- How will the quilt be used? My default batting is an 80/20 cotton/poly blend with scrim. It’s what I consider an “all-purpose” batting for machine quilting and it’s fairly inexpensive. It’s the only batting I buy on a 30 yard roll – that’s how much I use it. However, when I am making a quilt for a child, I’ll go with rayon, because it’s flame retardant, non-toxic, and non-combustible. For wall hangings or other “show” quilts, I’ll go with wool because of the way it drapes & helps define the stitching. If you are gifting a bed quilt though, never use wool unless you know for sure the recipient is not allergic.
There are other properties of specific batting, so as I go through the Batting 101 series, I’ll call out why you might choose that particular batting and how it compares to other choices. This will be fun!
Oh, and before I forget, I wanted to point out what has become one of my favorite, favorite tools: a pair of batting scissors.
This is one of those things that you don’t ever think you need, until after you get it; then, you wonder how you ever lived without it! Since my batting is all on bolts or rolls, I am often cutting through 2-4 layers of batting at a time. This really makes quick & painless work of cutting batting. I got these from Handi Quilter at a show, but you can buy them from their website too.
If you have specific questions you want me to cover in the Batting 101 series, just leave a comment on this post!