The Secrets of Quilt Batting

Quilt Batting is the secret layer that has several purposes. It places special emphasis on the quilting stitches and will support your quilt through the generations.

It adds warmth, drape, volume, definition and can control shrinkage. That's a lot for something that you can't see, touch or feel!

The batting technique of 'layering the quilt' is known in the quilting world as adding the peanut butter between two slices of bread.

The batting for quilts must 'stick' the layers together so that the quilting stitches can be added.

quilting accessories

A quilt is thought by many to come alive only after it is quilted. Continuous Line Quilting is a fine art and takes practice but choosing the right quilting stitches will make a difference.

Before you feel defeated, remember that the padding in old quilts is much thinner than is commonly used today which makes the quilting look different.

Batting has come a long way and most of them on the market today will do a good job for you.

Quilt Batting Can Cause Fuzz Balls

quilting basics

All batts beard! This simply means that the fibers migrate to the outside (through the top and the back) of the quilt, creating a fuzz (or beard).

Bearding is particularly noticeable on dark solid fabric when a light colored quilt batting is used. If you have ever washed a good synthetic sweater only to find that the washing machine caused the sweater to create fuzz balls...well that's bearding. All quilt batting has some degree of bearding.

When you use polyester batts, the fibers stick together and form little pills that are almost impossible to remove.

When you use wool batts they too will beard but not as bad as polyester.

When you use natural fiber batts, this bearding disappears when you wash the quilt.

Some quilt batting is soft and easier to push a needle through which makes them a preferred quilt batting for hand quilting;

Other quilt batting may have more grip or harder to push a needle through which is why you would prefer it for machine quilting;

Flatter batting is preferred for wall hangings as they are more drapeable;

Fluffier batting is used for high definition quilting;

Batting with even more fluff is preferred for tied projects like comforters;

Loft refers to the thickness or thinness of quilt battings with high being thick and low being flat;

Fleece is the thinnest of all low loft batts. A single layer of prewashed cotton flannel is good for tablecloths, table runners or wall hangings.

quilt batting

Polyester is lightweight, inexpensive, simple to wash and care for, and easy to needle.

Polyester is a synthetic fiber and considered to be less breathable than natural fibers.

Synthetic is prone to melt and more flammable than natural fibers.

Synthetic is not serviceable for potholders or other items that come in contact with heat.

Polyester batting tend to beard which allows their tiny fibers to penetrate out through the fabric layers. This is merely a natural static reaction of polyester.

Making wrinkles relax from polyester batting requires a little extra work. This is a great batting tip - since you never iron polyester, instead, remove it from its package two or three days before you plan to use it.

Spread it over the bed and by the time you are ready to use it it will be relaxed and wrinkle-free. If you are not a planner, simply tumble in a dryer set on air dry for 5 to 10 minutes. Do not use heat!

To combat this natural static reaction of polyester you can purchase the kind that is glazed or bonded meaning the tiny fibers are sealed to the surface of the batting with chemicals or heat.

Synthetic fibers tend to dull rotary blades so use an old blade when cutting.

Polyester may be a problem for people that are allergenic.

batting for quilts

Natural fibers are cool in summer and warm in winter; they are not sensitive to heat and less flammable.

Did you know that alpaca fleece is being used in batting? (In case you were not aware, alpaca fleece is a natural fiber, super warm, soft as cashmere, flame retardant, and lightweight, water resistant, and hypoallergenic. Some think that it makes awesome batting for quilts!

The older version of cotton quilt batting was nothing more than lint meshed together. Therefore a good deal of quilting stitches were needed to keep it from shifting and lumping and it was very difficult to push a needle through it.

Cotton batting has been re-invented in recent years.

They make a blend of 80 percent cotton and 20 percent polyester which is just enough to stabilize the cotton fibers and allows you to quilt at 2 to 4-inches apart.

Some cotton quilt batting is 'needle-punched' in which batting fibers are punched with special needles to bind them together. This creates a micro-thin polyester scrim which allows you to quilt at 8 to 10-inch intervals. Needle-punched means the fibers have been broken up allowing for easier needling.

Washing batting for quilts is a personal choice and depends on how you want your quilt to look when using the re-invented cottons of today.

The procedure for removing the seed flecks in cotton batting today makes the finished batting very clean and with minimal shrinkage when washed.

If it does shrink, you get a nice puckery look as in an antique quilt and is very appealing. Be sure and follow the directions on the package if you prefer to wash it before quilting.

Wool, which is also a natural fiber, is lightweight, breathable, and very easy to hand or machine quilt. It does beard to a certain degree due to static buildup but is not a major problem.

basting a quilt

Each time you acquire a different type of quilt batting be sure and make a batting sandwich consisting of two layers of muslin with the different type of batting in the middle; Baste the square before quilting it.

Make one sandwich for testing hand quilting using a hoop; hand quilt a curve design, a diagonal line, and a straight line on the square. Also, use different types of thread like 100 percent cotton, polyester-cotton blend, rayon, and metallic.

If the thread shreds or the needle is hard to push through the sandwich, try a larger needle. Write the batting type on the back of the square and keep the square and your notes as to thread type and needle size in a resealable plastic freezer bag or write the information directly on the face of the sandwich square for your reference library.

batting for quilts

Make another sandwich for testing machine quilting using different techniques and threads such as machine guided quilting and free motion quilting.

Those of us who quilt for pleasure generally will never own a longarm quilting machine. We learn how to machine quilt using our regular sewing machine...the same one we used to piece the quilt.

You could also wash your sandwich to see how bearding, shrinkage, or drape affects it.

Keep your sandwiches for future reference. It is a terrific reference tool for you to keep and share. Quilting Accessories such as these hand made sandwiches are easy to make and provide an instant visual when needed!

batting for quilts

Experienced quilters can purchase batting by the rolls, I mean huge rolls that will barely fit under your quilting frame.

For everyone else, only buy enough batting to do your quilt unless you are an avid quilter and the price is right.

The batting should be 3 to 4 inches larger than the quilt top on all four sides or 8-inches longer and 8-inches wider than the top.

If my piece of batting is not large enough should I add pieces of batting to extend it? Sometimes it makes sense to piece batting provided you do it right.

Whether using up leftovers or piecing to get the right size, it is best not to overlap the batting when stitching it together.

You do not want to create a welt by overlapped edges.

Cut a clean edge by placing your two pieces slightly on top of each other and cut a straight line with a dull rotary cutter.

Butt the two clean edges together, and join the pieces with a needle and thread using a whipstitch or similar process.

Some quilters refuse to use a straight edge but rather a serpentine edge when joining pieces.

The curved lines may distract the eye and render a serpentine joint more invisible than a straight line would.

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