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4 questions to ask yourself when choosing batting for your quilt project

by Allison Spence

This week I’ve been taking a close look at 5 batting samples I received from Fairfield. I did some testing of the effects of washing before quilting and after. I quilted samples using each of the different battings to see how they stitched out.

I’ve looked at the 3 polyester battings; Project Fleece, Poly-Fil Low-Loft and Poly-Fil Extra-Loft.

Project Fleece, Poly-Fil Low-Loft and Poly-Fil Extra-Loft batting are 3 samples from Fairfield

3 batting samples from Fairfield

I also reviewed 2 cotton battings I was sent; Quilter’s 80/20 and Soft & Toasty.

Soft & Toasty and Quilter's 80/20 battings from Fairfield

Soft & Toasty and Quilter’s 80/20 battings from Fairfield

Why use one batting over another?

Batting choices are personal. Often we stick with something that we’re already familiar with. I usually have the same 2 battings in my studio available for customers to choose for their quilting projects. I’ve stuck with a cotton/poly blend and a cotton. Pretty boring I know.

I know the cotton batting will give a flat, minimal texture finish to the quilt and the cotton/poly will have a bit of texture once the quilt is quilted. Remember these quilts will have a much different look once they are washed!

After conducting my pre-and post quilting washing experiments, I think I’m going to be expanding my selection of battings for myself and my customers and start using some polyester batting.

So, why would I choose a poly batting?

I would choose a polyester batting for projects where I want to have texture and when I know that repeated washes won’t affect the texture of the quilt. The Poly-Fil low-loft batting would be a great go-to choice.

I think I’ll certainly keep some of the extra-loft on hand for the special quilting projects when I want to see all that great texture from quilting. I have a whole cloth wall hanging to quilt at some point this year. The texture I get from quilting this batting will be fantastic and I know that as this quilt travels with me to show it will not get any distracting creases.

Below are two samples of densely quilted quilts. The yellow sample uses a single layer of Fairfield’s Extra-Loft batting. The blue sample uses a single layer of wool batting. Both have been washed to remove the markings I made during the quilting. Notice the blue sample is a slightly bit puckered. Not that I don’t like it, but some of the quilting gets lost. Unlike the yellow sample using the polyester batting, the texture is all batting and thread!

I can see more extra-loft batting in my quilts in the future!

Extra-loft batting vs. wool batting

Extra-loft batting vs. wool batting

I would choose the low-loft batting for baby or kid quilts that I know will be getting a lot of wear. Polyester battings cost less than natural fibers like cotton. So, for my giving quilts (charity) I’ll probably choose to use this batting.

Here’s a picture of an older quilt [25 or more years]. It has been well used and washed a lot. In some areas the fabric has disintegrated, but the polyester batting is still going strong!

Polyester batting still going strong while the cotton fabric has disintegrated

Fabric disintegrated, poly batting lasts

Package over Roll?

Most stores that you visit to purchase batting will have packages available. The packages are conveniently cut into a variety of sizes for easy sale and use. Sizes are available from baby or crib size [36″ x 45″] to king size [110″ x 110″]. I would recommend that you open the packages well before use, especially the cotton ones. If you choose not to pre-wash, lay the batting flat and give it a mist of water from a spray bottle. The batting will relax from it’s tight roll and will be much easier to quilt.

Some of the battings are also available in rolls or bolts for those of us who use a lot of batting! Personally, I prefer the rolls of batting when I can get them for my own use. I can then cut exactly the amount I want off the roll and not have any batting waste. But then again, I’m always looking for scraps of batting for smaller projects.

My advice would be to start by purchasing a package of batting to see how you like it and then you can invest in a roll. You’ll need to talk to your local store to get them to order a roll for you. It may not be something they carry as part of their regular stock.

What’s the bottom line?

As I’ve already said, batting choices are personal decisions. Ask yourself the following questions to help you decide on which batting to choose for your next project.

  1. What is the purpose of this quilt? Will it be a baby blankie, a wall hanging or an art quilt?
  2. Are there any allergy or material preferences? A polyester batting won’t work for someone who prefers all natural fibers.
  3. What batting is available to me? Can I wait until I can order from my local retailer or does that quilt have to be done right away for gifting?
  4. What effect do I want for the finished project? Do I want the finished quilt to be smooth or textured like an antique quilt?

You can be assured that whatever batting you choose to use your quilt will turn out wonderfully. Just remember to give some thought to the desired finished project, and it will help you decide which batting will be most appropriate.

I enjoyed this batting study. I’m off to my local retailer to order some batting rolls!

This is part 5 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 4: Understanding batting loft and which to use for your quilted project

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1 comment

Joanne Recla June 14, 2019 - 10:52 am

I do a lot of sewing with very old blocks from another era, when doing these finish up old quilts, I have begun using sheet blankets, many from garage sale finds. I love the warmth, and the flat storage size, and the warmth. Just an idea for others especially for a real home use quilt. They hold up so well. I find many little used at garage sales.


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