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The notes below, about patchwork quilt batting, were given to us to publish by Deanna Gaudaur, a member of the Kenya Quilt Guild. At the March 2012 meeting, Deanna presented a lecture based on these notes, and most generally offered to share them with us here. Thank you, Deanna!
What is batting/wadding? It is the middle of your quilt sandwich, or the insulating layer that provides warmth. It also adds dimension/thickness.
How is it held together?
- Bonded: similar to glue, using starch or resin, some will dissipate with water so you might not be able to preshrink them.
- Scrim: A gauze, a loosely woven fabric sometimes used to stabilize the fibers
- Needle punched: Fibers are loosely felted together by a process involving many needles. It is more stable but is harder to needle as it is quite firm. More stability for wall hangings means your quilts don’t droop so much. A word here about needle punched batts: put the batting on the quilt with the needle holes the same way you will quilt.
Each type of batting has a long list of pros and cons. There is no “right” choice for every quilt and it will take some research to find the best one for your project. But how many hours and how much money have you invested into your quilt? Let’s not just put it together with any old batt!
Before we talk about the types of batting and which one you should use, there is a list of questions which can be asked about each project:
- What am I making? A baby quilt requiring frequent washing will require a different choice than a large bed quilt. A table runner or placemats will need to be washed frequently and an art quilt will never come near water but might need dry-cleaning.
- How will I be finishing it? Will it be tied, hand quilted or machine quilted?
- What kind of look do I want? Puffy? Flat? Highly defined? Do I want to see the actual quilting stitch line, or do I want the texture and dimension that quilting creates? You might want a soft cuddly bed quilt but more stiffness for a quilted carry-all.
- How warm should it be, or do I want it to breathe?
- Will shrinkage matter? Is the quilt’s finished size important? Quilting causes up to 5% shrinkage, then if you wash and it shrinks another 1-4% due to your batting choice, you might be surprised at how small it ends up!
- Do I want this quilt to feel weighty or light?
- What price can I afford to pay?
- What fiber will be best?
- Cotton: Feels like a thick flannel. It’s a good option for machine quilting because it doesn’t slip around. Generally it must be quilted closely. Cotton shrinks up to 4%, softening the appearance of the quilt and giving it a comfortable look. It can be sometimes prewashed/shrunk if you don’t like that feature. It is low loft, so doesn’t provide much definition to the quilting.
- Polyester: Less expensive, readily available in Nairobi, and is better for hand-quilting (if it is low loft) because it doesn’t need to be quilted so closely. High loft is best for comforter-like quilts, minimal quilting, or tying. It also holds it shape better, even when washed repeatedly. It resists mold and mildew as well. But negative sides can be the bearding that can occur, particularly if you use a lesser quality fabric or a dull needle. It is slippery when machine quilting, so take care to baste well. It also doesn’t breath well, so people can overheat. But, it can shift, especially when hanging. That being said, the majority of my quilts are done with polyester and my own son wanted the “poofiness”of a poly batt, not the drape of cotton.
- Bamboo: When I quilted professionally for the year I was in Canada, 90% of my quilting was done on this type of batt. It is very soft/drapeable and easy to use, either by machine or by hand. They are very washable and because the fibers are longer the quilting distance will be greater than in a cotton batt. We think of them as being very organic and environmental because bamboo is a renewable resource, especially when we hear about the world-wide shortage of cotton. However, most bamboo bats are only 50% bamboo and the process by which the bamboo is made into fibers suitable for using is very labour and energy intensive, negating some of the positive image. Learn more at O Ecotextiles.
- 80 % Cotton, 20% polyester blends: This is Hobbs’ best selling quilt batt. I like the lightness of this product, rather than the heaviness of pure cotton. Also it is thin, it has a bit more loft due to the polyester. It is available in Nairobi at The Woman Shop.
- Other options: Flannel–prewash unless you want shrinkage; old blankets, quilts or used quilt batts; or even polyurethane or rubber foam–available from Nakumatt in the mattress section. This is ideal for a stiffer project, like placemats, table runners or bags.
Find a helpful batting chart on The Curious Quilter blog.