Our series on machine quilting continues. We have talked about books on the subject; we have discussed machine quilting design; we have looked at ways to mark our designs on the quilt top. Now we’re ready to layer that quilt top with the batting and backing fabric, but what will we use? This week, we will consider our choices for quilt batting.
I am very frequently asked what kind of batting I use in my quilts. Why do people want to know this? Obviously, the batting itself is unseen in the middle layer of the quilt and only its impact can be observed. They can see the loft, or the thickness of the quilt, and the drape – how the quilt hangs or falls. They can feel the weight of the quilt and get a sense of its warmth and/or softness. Do they want to know what batting created the effect they observe in my quilts? If so, it is a good question.
There are many choices of batting available and some are better than others for machine quilting. Batting can be made from cotton, polyester, wool, silk, bamboo, alpaca, soy, flax, linen, rayon and assorted blends. It can be bleached, bonded, carded, scoured or siliconized. It might have a scrim and it might beard. How on earth will we ever be able to choose?
All I can tell you is about the batting I have tried. The rest I will have to leave to the experts and you will find a list of resources at the end of this post. My batting of choice, and the one you will find in the majority of my quilts, is Hobbs Heirloom Premium 80/20 Cotton Blend.
Hobbs 80/20 is made with 80% natural cotton & 20% fine polyester. It is needle punched and spray bonded to provide exceptional strength and durability. They claim that it offers more loft and less weight than traditional cotton batting and that it may be quilted up to 4″ apart. It is also available in bleached, black, fusible, natural, and natural with scrim, but I haven’t tried those. I find it very easy to work with for machine quilting and am consistently pleased with the results.
When you find something that works well, there is little inclination to try anything else. Nevertheless, after hearing rave reviews about wool batting, I was interested to give it a try. I used Hobbs Tuscany Wool, a washable wool batting that is carded and resin bonded to help retard bearding. It has a higher loft than the 80/20, so I struggled to machine quilt it without creating puckers. High loft, however, is a necessity for cut-away trapunto so it has become my preferred type of batting for this technique.
Another batting I have used and enjoyed in the past is Warm & Natural Cotton. Its 100% cotton fibers are needle-punched to prevent tearing, shifting or migration. The needling process holds the fibers together without glue or resins. They claim that the evenly layered fibers will stay in place inside your quilt even with generations of washings. I have successfully machine quilted with this batting and my only comment would be that it might be slightly heavier and bulkier to work with than the Hobbs 80/20 – a definite consideration for larger quilts.
These are the types of batting I have tried for machine quilting, but you will have to find your own personal preference. The batting resources below might also be helpful as you consider your options. Please feel free to share your comments and experiences – we love to hear from you!
Quilt Batting Basics – The Curious Quilter
Quilt Batting Selection Chart – The Curious Quilter
Ultimate Batting Chart – Village Quiltworks
Choosing the Right Batting – Threads Magazine
General Batting Characteristics – All People Quilt
Hobbs Product Comparison Chart – Hobbs Quilt Batting