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What You Need to Know to Choose the Right Quilt Batting

Batting seems like it should be a stress-free topic. After all, the entire job of batting is to make things soft and comfy. And yet, choosing the right batting for your project can be totally confusing. There's cotton versus polyester, tons of different brands, issues like fiber content and loft... so many questions! Luckily, we have answers.

Decide what size to buy

Batting comes prepackaged in standard sizes for crib, twin, full, queen and king size quilts, which is handy because it saves you a step. Or, you can buy batting off the bolt in your own custom size. This requires you to get your custom size cut at the store, or cut it yourself at home, but if you quilt a lot, off-the-bolt can be a more economical and convenient choice.

Look at fiber content

The most common quilt batting is made of cotton or polyester, but wool, silk, bamboo or a poly-cotton blend are all fair game. Batting also comes in blends that are organic (safe and recommended for baby quilts) or made from recycled fibers. Here's the good thing: there's no right or wrong here — fiber's mostly about personal choice.

Check the loft

Loft is basically a fancy way of saying thickness. If you go for high-loft batting, the lines of your quilting will be more visible and the quilt will be puffier overall. Low-loft batting gives a flatter finish, which is great if you want to show off the piecing more than the actual quilting lines.

Try different brands

Quilters are definitely a loyal bunch, and most have a favorite batting brand or two. If you're a newbie, go ahead and experiment, but also feel free to lean on more experienced quilters for recommendations. Warm & Natural batting is known for creating a soft, crinkled finish after washing that some quilters prefer, and Hobbs brand is a reliable choice.

Think about your machine

Professional longarm quilting machines can handle pretty much any batting you can buy. But if you're using a domestic sewing machine, you might have an easier time with lower loft — especially if your project is on the large side. The bulk of large batting cuts, combined with thicker loft, can make it a tight squeeze to fit your basted quilt through the neck of your machine, and that's just asking for problems.

More lingo to know

Once you've got the basics of size, fiber content, and brand, it's time to get into the nitty gritty. Here are some other terms you'll see, and what they mean.  

  • Some battings will specify an optimal quilting distance between rows of stitches. Take a look at your quilting pattern and use this info to your advantage.
  • Scrim describes a light layer or grid of woven fibers added to some cotton battings. It acts as a stabilizer and helps to hold the batting together while quilting. This can be a good safeguard if you're just starting out, or prefer a design with wider spacing between quilting lines. If you use a cotton batting without scrim, you'll need to keep your quilting lines close together so the fibers don't separate in the wash. 
  • Bonded quilt battings contain a type of glue or bonding adhesive, which means the batting may get looser once the quilt is washed. This usually requires close quilting lines to make sure your quilt holds up over time.
  • Bearding is something to avoid! It refers to wispy fibers that eventually seep out of the quilt top. This shedding is very annoying, and it's a good reason to go with a high-quality quilt batting from the start.
  • Fusible batting is great for small projects. It can be ironed to temporarily secure it into the middle of a quilt, which will save you time basting.