A Beginner's Guide to Understanding Types of Quilt Batting
For quilters of all skill levels, the variety of quilt batting available is overwhelming. What is available in big box stores, your local quilt shop and online can immensely vary not only in quality and sizes but also in what it is made from and how that impacts the use of the quilt. It is completely understandable that many quilters never stray from one type of batting especially given the time, labor and love that goes into making a quilt. We have put together this guide to types of quilt batting to help you navigate your options and highlight important factors to consider when buying quilt batting.
Loft: the thickness/weight and height of the batting.
Shrinkage: allowance for reduction of size after washing.
Crinkle: soft puckering over surface resulting from the shrinkage of the batting after washing.
Stitch Distance: recommended maximum distance between top stitch lines needed to stabilize the quilt backing with the batting and quilt top and prevent uneven migration of batting fibers overtime.
Pre-wash: practice of washing batting before quilting together backing and quilt top to lessen impact of shrinkage on the quilt. Most manufacturers do not recommend this practice. Always check manufacturer label before trying to pre-wash batting.
Scrim: substrate of extremely thin material that is needle punched with the batting fibers. Scrim helps prevent movement of fibers.
Fusible: Fabric can be ironed onto the batting and it fuses the batting to the fabric.
Main Types of Batting
Cotton: 100% cotton batting is a very traditional batting material that generally has the greatest rate of shrinkage compared to other types of batting. Loft, rate of shrinkage and recommended stitch distance can vary drastically between different brands. Quilters looking for the maximum crinkle typically use 100% cotton batting. Typically available in natural or white. Poor quality cotton batting can yellow over time and is most prone to breakdown. Vintage quilts are sometimes lumpy because of the batting breaking apart over generations of use. Choosing a high quality brand is important for quilts you cherish. Cotton batting typically produces the most lint when applying a top stitch (varies by brand).
Blends: An 80/20 blend is one of the most popular blends on the market however other blend varieties exist. The term 80/20 refers to the composition of the batting being 80% polyester and 20% cotton. Other blends may include the blending of a wide range of fibers such as silk, wool, bamboo, recycled plastics and other fibers. The general percentages of blend composition is usually disclosed on the packaging or name of the batting.
Wool: The main concern with wool is if it is washable and how it can be dried. If it is not washable then the quilt can never be washed with regular laundry and instead can only be washed with Woolite, dry cleaned only or hand washed and air dried. If the wool is not washable the concern is the same as when you accidentally wash a wool sweater and it goes from adult to child size. Always consult the manufacturer's label to identify if the wool batting is washable or not. 100% wool batting is naturally flame retardant, light weight, a super insulator that provides the greatest warmth and naturally breathable.
Polyester: This type of batting has minimal to no shrinkage (always refer to manufacturer product labels) and provides the greatest range of loft available. Highly recommended for quilts that will be used by young children and teenagers because it can be washed and dried the fastest. One of the most durable fibers that typically has the widest stitch distance and for machining a top stitch is virtually lint free. Selecting the right weight of your polyester batting can make a quilt perfect for warmer weather or colder climates. Polyester batting is one of the most affordable batting options.