Batting Information to Enhance Your Quilt from your friendly longarm quilter, Charisma. When I first started quilting on my longarm, I was soaking in all of the information I could on designs and quilt patterns, just like most people; but early on, I went to a great long arm quilting show in Seattle and I was looking at the quilts and wondering how they got such great dimension. I had heard about trapunto and some different techniques that I thought were time consuming and delicate work so I knew I did not want to do those. It wasn’t going to be time effective for me to do a lot of that. So I went on a mission to discover how batting could help me get the desired dimension in my quilting that I liked.
I started experimenting and trying different quilting techniques and batting combinations to see if I could reach the dimensional effect without the “extra- delicate” work of trapunto. I learned a bunch during these experiments and thought that I would pass along some of this info.
Don’t just choose any batting that you have laying around, or whatever is the cheapest, isn’t the way to go. I think your batting choice is just as important as your fabric choices and pattern design. Many people don’t understand that batting choice truly influences the overall look of your quilt. I am going to demonstrate why & how.
Seven battings were selected to test from Fairfield and made samples for you to see what they look like. I am a mom of 6 kids, we have pets, and an active household so for the same reason we can’t have glasses and we need Tupperware tumblers, we have to be able to wash and dry our quilts. I have a few wall-hangings and such but mostly if a quilt is in my home, it has to be washable. All of these battings are washable and machine dried.
There are plenty of factors that I ask my customers or myself when I am looking at a quilt and design.
- What will the quilt be used for? Is it a kid quilt, wall hanging, is it going to be in a show? will it be washed? is it for charity?
- How much quilting am I going to do? (Basically, how much thread am I laying down?)
- What do I want my end result to look like?
Batting samples I chose from Fairfield:
The natural fiber battings I chose are Soft and Toasty.
With all of the natural fibers, notice the minimal shrinkage . All natural fibers are going to shrink. There are a few things to know when using a natural fiber batting. Natural fibers breathe so you can use natural fiber battings in a hot or cold environment, but because they breathe, you must also use all cotton fabrics when making a quilt to keep it breathable. If you use polyester fabrics a breathable batting isn’t going to matter. You also need to understand that anytime you use a flat batting, like bamboo or cotton, it’s going to have a flatter look when it’s first quilted & hasn’t been washed. As soon as it’s washed it’s going to shrink and crinkle up getting that vintage crinkly look that we all love in those antique quilts. If you don’t want that vintage crinkly look, don’t use a cotton or bamboo batting. If you aren’t confident in your quilting you should use a natural fiber batting because once the quilt is washed you can’t really see the quilting design. For that same reason, if you are paying a long arm quilter a pretty penny to do a lot of quilting, and you will eventually wash the quilt. You should avoid using a natural fiber batting because in the end you won’t see all of that wonderful quilting. Your batting will absolutely dictate what the finished product will look like and let it work for you.
Wool is a fiber for the purists who like everything to stay natural but like the “poofy” look of a polyester batting. It’s a low loft so not poofy in the normal sense of the word, but poofy in the sense that it poofs in all the right places to show quilting.
An 80/20 blend Batting
The 80/20 blend is nice because it’s a bit of both worlds. It’s a bit warmer than a traditional cotton or bamboo but easier to sew through if you are a hand quilter ect. You can use this on kids quilts especially. Notice the minimal shrinkage.
Then I chose 3 polyester battings.
I am not a purist. I look at all of the combinations and I care more about the look I want to achieve (after you have gone through all of the other factors). The other thing you need to know about Poly battings, is that they don’t breathe. So you want poly battings for those long winter nights, baby quilts and those people in our lives that are always cold. Poly battings don’t typically shrink so sometimes you can’t even tell that they have been washed.
Low loft Batting
High loft Batting
That is what they all look like before & after.
*note that there are many factors with shrinkage. If you don’t pre-wash your fabrics you will experience shrinkage as well. In my case I don’t..so it’s notable to say that.
Now that you have seen what all of those battings look like by themselves, I would like to show you the tricks of the trade for layering and achieving dimension in quilting without much extra work. I almost always layer battings in my quilts and in all show quilts.
There is a trick to them. You should never layer some combinations together:
Wool and poly
Poly and poly Batting
The reason you don’t layer these two together is that they just come together and it’s like you don’t have 2 layers at all. The more you quilt them the flatter they get. I have a quilt that I quilted, it’s quilted pretty tightly and you can’t tell, but there is sometimes 5 layers of poly batting in that quilt. It’s so thin and flat. No matter how many layers of wool or poly batting you layer it won’t matter.
Here is that quilt:
The trick is to always use 1 layer of a flat thick weave batting like Soft & toasty, bamboo, or even 80/20. Then you put a layer of a “poofy” batting (low loft or medium) on top of that. You can choose poly or wool. Either one will achieve the same look, it just depends on if you are a purist or not as to which one you choose.
Additionally, people often ask is, “Will the quilt be stiff like cardboard if you use 2 layers of batting and lay down a bunch of thread?”
The answer to that is, maybe. So I will say in my experience….and I typically quilt heavier for show quilts, is that the quilts lay flat and stiff to hang in a show, and once the show is over, if you wash and dry it, it will drape and hang just like any other quilt. It’s just a bit heavier which is nice on those long cold winter nights. The only quilts on my bed have 2 layers of batting, they started out a bit stiffer for a show but now they fold up, drape and nobody would ever know it was a show quilt. 🙂
*another thing to mention is that no matter which batting you choose the more quilting that you do the less warm the quilt is. Less quilting equals more warmth.
So here are some of the combos:
Soft and Toasty with wool
You can see that both of these natural fibers shrink, minimally. So you will still get the vintage crinkly look after washing with 2 layers. No matter how much thread you lay down with this combination you won’t end up with a stiff quilt after it’s washed.
Soft and Toasty with Medium Loft Poly
You can see that there is still some shrinkage not as much as when there was just one layer of cotton. but you can still see the definition of the quilting after it’s washed and dried. But it drapes well and it’s soft.
Bamboo with Wool
Bamboo with Medium Loft Poly Batting
These 2 samples have the same results as the soft & toasty.
80/20 with Wool Batting
So you can see that there is minimal shrinkage again. Just not as much.
80/20 with Medium Loft Poly
There really isn’t any shrinkage in this case. You can also see that the quilting is a bit more visible.
Now you can see that I quilted all of these the same and you can see quilting lines very well. If you I were to quilt around an applique or something you can see how the dimension would just pop out. That is what we are trying to achieve. The quilts aren’t really any thicker, they are just more stable, and hold the heavy quilting a bit better.
Here are samples of some quilts with applique and embroidery. These are my own quilts where I used a layer of cotton and a layer of low loft poly.
If you have gone to all of that work to applique, embroider, or paper piece a quilt, sometimes you want all of that handiwork to show up a bit more and this is the way to have your longarm quilting help you. It helps create more dimension and showcase your work even more.
I hope this helps you on your next quilt. Please take my word for it and let your batting be part of the creative process for you. You will love your results.