When it comes to quilt batting, there are several different types to choose from, each offering unique characteristics and each offering a different applications. Don’t get overwhelmed! We spend a lot of time creating our quilts – here’s the skinny on different types of batting to help you decide which to use in your next quilt project.
Cotton batting is made from natural cotton fibers, cotton batting is soft, breathable, and drapes well. It is suitable for lightweight quilts, including those with intricate or dense quilting patterns. Cotton batting is my first choice in batting because of the natural fibers. It’s lightweight and breathable nature is great to be used in “summer” quilts – when you want a light covering.
Since cotton is a natural fiber, you can consider it to be hypoallergenic making it a popular choice for individuals with allergies or sensitivities. (Though, if you have an allergic reaction to cotton it may not be the first choice to use in your more utilitarian quilts.) It is less likely to cause allergic reactions compared to other more synthetic materials. As a natural material, cotton is biodegradable and renewable, making it an environmentally friendly choice. It can be easily recycled or composted, reducing environmental impact.
Cotton batting comes in pre-shrunk and non-pre-shrunk varieties. The non-pre-shrunk cotton batting will give the end quilt a “crinkly” look once washed unless you pre-wash the batting. Cotton batting (as with all quilts) should be washed in a gentle cycle and machine dry low or line dry.
Polyester batting is synthetic, lightweight, non-allergenic, and provides varied loft selections. You can use the high loft polyester batting for quilts that require a puffy appearance or a higher loft, tied quilts. There’s low loft options, as well as, medium loft. When you are machine quilting low loft batting is the easiest to work with.
Polyester batting is generally more affordable compared to natural fiber options such as cotton or wool and is easy to care for, as well as, it does not shrink. Neither does it biodegrade, since polyester is a product of petroleum.
Polyester batting has a synthetic feel and lacking the softness and warmth associated with natural fiber options and is not breathable. The lack of breathability helps it to feel warmer but also might be too warm.
Wool batting offers excellent warmth and is known for its natural moisture-wicking properties. It provides a fluffy and cozy feel, making it ideal for quilts used in colder climates. Wool can be scratchy depending on the animal that it came from. Some animals have more guard hairs than others which is what makes wool sweaters itchy.
Wool fibers are breathable and allows for good airflow. Wool retains its loftiness and shape over time, providing a plush and fluffy appearance to quilts and other projects. It bounces back well after compression.
Wool is a natural, renewable resource. It is sheared from sheep/llamas/alpacas/etc without causing harm and can be shorn year after year.
Wool batting tends to be more expensive than polyester or cotton and requires special care. Wool items are often recommended to be hand washed to prevent felting or shrinking. Be sure to read the label on the wool batting to ensure it will meet the long terms needs of your quilt.
Although rare, some individuals may be sensitive or allergic to wool fibers. Since wool does come from an animal there is always the potential that it contains the dander of that animal.
Wool is generally heavier than synthetic alternatives. This may be a disadvantage when used in art quilts or quilts that are expected to be displayed on the wall.
Yes, you read that right: Bamboo batting. Bamboo batting is an eco-friendly option made from renewable, fast growing bamboo plants. It is breathable, lightweight, and drapes well. Bamboo batting is suitable for quilts that will be used year-round as it provides a comfortable temperature balance.
Bamboo batting is known for its softness and lightweight feel, which can provide a comfortable and cozy quilting experience. It, also, has natural moisture-wicking and breathable properties, allowing for better airflow and temperature regulation, keeping you cooler in hotter environments.
Bamboo fibers have natural antimicrobial properties, making bamboo batting resistant to odor-causing bacteria and mildew, ensuring a fresh and clean quilt. (My biasness might be showing but I love bamboo.)
Bamboo batting tends to be more expensive compared to other types of batting.
Bamboo batting may experience shrinkage after washing, which could affect the size and shape of your quilt. Pre-washing and careful handling are recommended – depending on how you want your end quilt to look. Some people love the crinkly affect of non-prewashed batting.
The batting typically has a lower loft than polyester batting, which may result in a flatter appearance in your quilt but is great for machine quilting. Bamboo batting may not be as readily available as other types of batting, so it might require some searching to find a reliable source.
Insul-Bright batting is known for it’s heat-reflective properties and is great for a very specific project type like quilted potholders and quilted trivets. The reflective nature comes from metal fibers inside the batting itself so it cannot be used for those cute little tortilla warmers that you put in the microwave — or anything that associated with microwave use.
Insul-Bright is lightweight and durable. It is designed for frequent use and washing.
Insul-Bright is a low loft batting – and can be used for machine quilting, though the metal in the batting might require you to change the needle more frequently.
Try using Insul-Bright in the Around the World potholder pattern
Blend batting is a combination of different fibers, often a mix of cotton and polyester or cotton and bamboo. This type of batting provides the benefits of both fibers, offering durability, breathability, and good stitch definition. Blended batting can take on the good and the bad characteristics of the blended materials in an attempt to minimize the bad and enhance the good. In practice this may not be as successfull.
The Right Batting?
Ultimately, the choice of batting material depends on the specific requirements and preferences of your project. It’s always a good idea to consider the desired qualities and purpose of the item you are creating before selecting the appropriate batting.
Choosing the right type of batting depends on various factors such as the desired quilt weight, warmth, loft, drape, and personal preference. It’s a good idea to consider the specific qualities of each type of batting and match them to your quilting project accordingly. Remember, experimenting with different types of batting can also be fun to achieve different aesthetic and functional results.
My personal favorite is cotton batting since I can get it by the roll. The last time I needed batting has been for special projects like potholders.