When I am asked this question I used to say “80% or more cotton, the right size & in my house”, I have come a long way. And understanding the differences between batting types helps make selecting a quilt batting easier. The very best place to learn about a particular type of batting is the product information on the label.
Historically, quiltmakers used whatever natural fibers were on hand for the quilt’s middle layer. Today’s quilter has an overwhelming number to choose from, natural and synthetic products that have a variety of characteristics.
The batting you choose should complement the nature and use of your finished quilt. I’ll talk about all the different qualities of battings and help you choose the one that will work best for your project.
Things to think about when selecting the right batting.
Drapability: The density or sparseness of the quilting and the loft of the batting will affect the drape, or relative stiffness or softness, of the finished quilt.
Grain line: Many batts have a grainline. Just like with fabric, the lengthwise grain is stable and doesn’t have much give; the crosswise grain will be stretchy.
Note: A wall hanging is happiest when the stable grainline is vertical.
Loft: This term describes the thickness of the batting. Different loft levels result in different appearances in a finished quilt.
Resiliency: This is the batting’s ability to regain its original shape--how quickly it can spring back when unfolded and how it resists creasing.
Warmth: Cotton battings absorb moisture, making them cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Wool battings provide warmth with little weight.
Note: I live in Seattle. After many years of sleeping with a polyester comforter, I decided it was time I make a quilt with a cotton batt. We nearly froze the first winter. We now have quilt with a wool batt, it’s perfect.
Washability and shrinkage: Polyester and wool battings resist shrinking, while cotton can shrink from 3 to 5 percent. Some quilters prefer the puckered, antique look that results when batting shrinks. I prefer no shrinkage so I prewash my batting.
Note: Read the manufacturer’s directions if you choose to prewash.
Here is a comparison of types of batting and the pros and cons of each.
Will your stitching be high density? Choose a low-loft batting. Batting options could
include 100% cotton, cotton/polyester blend, or wool.
Will your stitching be medium density? Choose a medium-loft batting. Batting options could include a cotton/polyester blend or wool.
Will your stitching be low density? Choose a high-loft batting. This combination is not
recommended as stitching will be lost in the batting’s loft.
Will your stitching be high density? Choose a low-loft batting. Batting options could include cotton, cotton/polyester blend, or wool.
Will your stitching be low density? Choose a medium-loft batting. Batting options could
include wool or a cotton/polyester blend.
Choose a medium- to high-loft batting. Only batting option should be polyester.
Note: Looong before I knew better, I put a cotton batt in a tied quilt. The first time it was washed there was one large lump of batting in the corner.
How Will Your Quilt Be Used?
Before you make your final batting choice, consider how you’ll use your quilt. These questions will help you evaluate which batting is best for your project.
Is it a baby quilt that will be washed and dried extensively? Will it be placed on a child’s bed and get pulled and tugged? Are you making a wall hanging that needs to maintain sharp, crisp corners? Or are you making a quilt that you want to drape loosely over a bed and tuck beneath the pillows? Is it an heirloom project that will be used sparingly and only laundered once every few years? Or is it a decorative item that will never be washed? Is it a table runner that needs to lie extremely flat?
Crib mattress 23 x 46” Batting 45 x 60”
Twin Size mattress 39 X 75” Batting 72 x 90”
Double/full mattress 54 x 75” Batting 81 x 76”
Queen Size mattress 60 X 80” Batting 90 x 108”
King Size mattress 76 X 80” Batting 120 x 120”