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Electric Quilt 7

battingDefinition

Batting is the filling used in quilts and quilted projects. It is composed of many different fibers and comes in the shape of batts, mats, or sheets which is where it gets its name. It can be bought in pre-cut sizes or by-the-yard. Sometimes it is also called padding or wadding. It serves to give your quilting definition, adds dimension/thickness to your quilted project and determines how warm the final piece will be.

Terms to Know

Loft refers to the thickness of the batting and the higher the number the thicker the batting. Also the thicker battings create a puffier design when quilted.

Drape describes the way in which a garment or fabric hangs. Your quilted project can have a drape that ranges from soft and flowing to stiff. The amount of quilting and type of batting you choose will affect the drape.

Right and Wrong Sides - Most batting types are made by needle punching the fibers into a sheet. This process can created a right and wrong side to the batting. Generally the side that was punctured with the needle punch is the right side as your quilting needle will penetrate the fabric easier. Some brands will mark this side of the fabric with flecks of color or some other identifier. If your batting doesn't have this, you can test the surface by poking both sides with a sewing machine needle. The side that is easier to poke is your right side. If your batting ends up wrong side up, you could have some added difficulty to quilting and more bearding as you'll be undoing the needle punched surface.

Bearding is the result of the batting coming through the quilt top or backing. It can resemble little hairs or nubs on these surfaces or along the quilting. This issue occurs due to static or with cheap batting and/or thin fabric. To combat static pre-wash your fabric, use a humidifier, and don't store your quilted projects in plastic. To combat the thin fabric and cheaper batting issues, add an inner lining fabric around the batting, though it is usually better to just get better batting and fabric in the first place.

Shrinkage and Washing - Many of the natural fiber batting options will have some shrinkage during washing. Check the packaging or manufacturer's website to see if an initial washing before quilting is required as some come pre-washed and others do not. A little shrinkage can be a good thing if you'd like a more antique/crinkly look to your finished project. Also note the washing instructions, on the package or manufacturer's website, for your finished project.

Minimum Quilting Width - This is usually noted on the batting packaging or manufacturer's website and refers to the minimum width between your rows of quilting. If you exceed this number your batting could end up clumping. 

Options

Colors - Batting comes in three main colors. Natural/tan is made from the natural material color, white is usually achieved through bleaching unless it is polyester, and black is created with dyes. The color of your quilt project top will determine which color of batting you'll want. Lighter fabrics can be a bit transparent so you'll want the lighter batting colors. Also, if you're doing a lot of detailed quilting, the batting could show through the needle holes.

Sizes - Batting comes in a standard set of sizes that encompass the typical blanket sizes that include baby/crib, twin/lap, full, queen, and king. To determine which size to get, think about the size of your project and the cost. It is usually better to get a larger piece of batting because you can use the extra in smaller projects like potholders, table runners, pillows, and wall hangings. If you don't want to deal with that extra bulk or the higher cost then buy the batting size that best fits your project. Some quilters prefer to have one less thing to cut down to size when they get to basting, but it's up to you. 

Main Types

Cotton is the most traditional batting option. It is made from plant fibers that have been needle punched into a flat sheet. Some will shrink in the wash and some will not. Check the packaging or manufacturer's website for pre-quilting instructions (pre-washing). Cotton breaths well, becomes softer with age, and usually does not beard.

Wool is made from sheep and is more expensive than cotton, but it is also warmer so you can create a thinner blanket with wool that is still quite warm. Wool has some issues with bearding and possible moth damage over time. It is also mold resistant and crease resistant.

Polyester/Synthetic is composed of synthetic fibers that have been needle punched into a sheet just like cotton. Polyester batting doesn't shrink in the wash and is generally cheaper than other batting options. Beware of some of the extremely cheap polyester batting as it can be prone to bearding.

Bamboo is made from bamboo plant fibers. Look for eco-friendly processed (mechanical instead of chemical) to get all the positive benefits of this type of batting. When it is processed mechanically it is also anti-microbial and hypo allergenic. If it is chemically processed it is commonly labeled as bamboo rayon.

Fleece is a type of fabric that is also used as batting in certain projects. It doesn't shrink and provides a flatter appearance after quilting. Sometimes quilters choose to only have a two layer quilt when working with fleece. In this instance the fleece acts as the batting and backing so the final quilt is made of the pieced top and one layer of fleece. This creates a lighter quilt perfect for warmer weather or a quick baby blanket. 

Cotton Flannel is another fabric that is also used as batting. Very similar to fleece, it provides a flatter finished appearance. It is also a light weight, breathable batting so it's great for making warm weather quilts.

Silk is a specialty batting that is hard to find and is more expensive than cotton or wool, but produces a very flowing drape. This is also a very light, breathable, and fluffy batting. Some shrinkage, similar to cotton, will occur during the first washing (about 5%).

Thermal Batting is specialty batting that is designed to help insulate (hot or cold). One of the most popular is Insul-Bright. You'll see this type of batting come up in patterns for pot holders, lunch bags, ironing board covers, etc. 

Fusible Batting options contain a heat activated glue on one or both sides of the batting. This can be helpful when working with smaller projects.

Mixed types/blends are a mix of materials such as cotton and polyester. Depending on the percentage of each, you'll get the benefits of both but see more affects of the higher percentage material.

And more! As new fibers are created new types of batting are being developed. Art quilters also play with different materials to create new textures and effects in their work such as felt, paper and cardboard.

Scraps

Batting scraps are great for small projects or they can be sewn together and used in new projects so you'll have very little waste. To accomplish this, just butt the scrap edges together and sew a wide zig zag on your machine or by hand. Do not overlap the pieces because this will create an extra thick spot that will be harder to quilt over later. 

Now What?

That's very helpful information, but what should I buy for my project?

When in doubt or first getting into quilting, choose a pre-washed cotton batting. It is the most traditional and easy to use of all the batting types and your pieced top is probably cotton so all of your layers will age the same and have the same care requirements. You only need to get into the other types when you have a special project that would benefit from its special features or if you want to branch out and try new things.

A good way to try several batting types is to buy small amounts or ask a friend if they have any scraps of the ones you are interested in and make some test quilt sandwiches. Find out if you like the feel of the batting and how it quilts. You'll find one that works best for your project and quilting style.