As is the case with every quilter, your desire is to produce quilts that are suited to their intended use. Quilters historically turned to the available natural fibers when they needed to craft their art, but things have now changed as you can choose from a range of natural and synthetic fibers with varying characteristics.
With lots of quilting options available today, it is important that your choice of batting compliments the nature and intended use of your finished quilt. If you are still new to quilting, testing a few samples to determine the best for your project is very important.
Quilt Batting Qualities to Look For
Knowing the quilt batting qualities to look out for can spell the difference between a well finished quilt and one that is poorly done. One way to learn about the different battings is to look at the finished products of other quilters. Find out the batting they used as quilt batting of the same type from different manufacturers may have varying results and qualities. Also ensure you keep the records of any batting you use as this will guide your selections in the future.
Some of the qualities to look out for include:
Bearding occurs when the batting fibers find their way through the top of the quilt; some quit batting beard more than others. Bearding can be especially problematic when dark fabrics and light batting are used together, or the reverse, so it is important that your batting color complements your quilt color. Also use similar quilt fabrics to test batting, quilting technique, thread, and washing process. Finally, ensure you do not use an untreated batting.
The drapability – softness or stiffness – of a finished quilt will largely depend on the loft of the batting as well as the sparseness or density of the quilting. A denser quilting and thinner batting will generally make for quilts with softer drape. A less dense quilt and thicker batting will yield less drape.
Like fabric, batting can have a grain line. While the crosswise grain is stretchy, the lengthwise grain will be stable. To prevent unwanted distortion, it would make sense that you tie the lengthwise grain of the backing and batting. Limit the distortion by first quilting the lengthwise grain.
Loft refers to the thickness of quilt batting. It is the “spice” used mid-way into the quilting process to add height to the quilt and allow for more visible quilting stitches. The loft level of quilt batting determines the appearance of the finished quilt. Keep in mind that the higher the loft, the less drapability you will have in the finished quilt.
Cotton batting is able to provide natural warmth in the winter and comfort in the summer as a result of its ability to absorb moisture. The lightweight nature of wool batting also makes it possible for them to provide warmth. Unlike these natural fibers, synthetic fibers like polyester lack breathability.
Resiliency refers to the ability of a batting to regain its original shape. Polyester battings are resilient, so when unfolded, they spring back to their original shape and resist creasing. This feature is particularly desirable if you’d prefer your finished quilt to have a puffy appearance. Cotton batting, on the other hand, does not have as much resiliency and is more vulnerable to creasing. However, some of the qualities of cotton balance out the resiliency offered by synthetic fibers, and still make for comfort when used.
Shrinkage and Washability
Cotton batting shrink about 3% to 5%, while wool and polyester battings do not shrink. Some quilters prefer polyester and wool batting for their resistance to shrinkage, while others prefer the old-fashioned appearance of batting that shrinks once it is quilted.
How to Select Your Batting
A range of factors should guide you when selecting your batting. These include:
Would you like to quilt by hand, tie, or use a machine? It is important that you decide whether you would prefer a sparse or dense stitching beforehand as your batting type will determine the spacing between the quilting rows.
How do you think your finished quilt will be handled? Is it a wall hanging that must maintain its crisp and sharp edges? Or is it a baby quilt that will be regularly washed and left to dry? Is it a quilt that will be sparsely used and washed once in few years? Or is it one that should be tucked beneath the pillows but spread loosely over the bed? These questions will help you determine the best batting for your project.
What would you like your finished quilt to look like? Would a flat and drapable quilt work for you? Or you’d like to make one that is big and puffy? When do you intend to wash your batting and quilt fabrics? To achieve an antique look, ensure you only wash them once the project is finished, not separately.
As a quilter, you would want stability when applying a quilting frame. So, it would make sense that the quilt batting is larger than the quilt top. This will allow for take-up while quilting. To achieve this, add 8 inches to the length and width measurements. This will give you an extra 4 inches of batting for the quilt.