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Quilt batting is the "filling" or middle layer of your quilt. It provides warmth and it makes your quilt fluffy. There are many types of batting on the market. But, for your first quilt, I recommend using a low-loft batting.
Low Loft batting is thinner, and therefore, it's easier to machine quilt. The thicker the batting, the more challenging it becomes. So, start with a thin cotton batting. You'll have plenty of time down the road to experiment with all the other fantastic batting choices!
Batts are available in differing weights and thicknesses called "loft." Low loft means thin. High loft means thick.
Choose low loft if you want your quilt to have a flatter appearance. This batting works well for wallhangings, placemats or garments that need thin insulation.
For a fluffier quilt, choose a high-loft batt. But I must warn you: Most quilters save the loftier batts for comforters or hand-tied quilts. It's too hard to machine quilt through all that bulk.
Quilt battings are available in both natural (cotton, wool, silk) and synthetic (polyester) fibers. We're going to focus on cotton and polyester because they're easier to work with.
Cotton battings fall into the low-loft category. But appearances can be deceiving. Although cotton batting is thin, it's also heavier than polyester batting.
You'll have to do a little more quilting on cotton than polyester. That's because cotton fibers shift and beard while you're quilting. Bearding happens when the cotton fibers in the batting separate and push up through your fabric. To avoid this, keep your quilting stitches 1/4" to 1/2" apart.
If you want an easier way to quilt cotton, try bonded batting. Here's how bonding works.
Manufacturers apply a light adhesive to both sides of the quilt batting. The adhesive holds the fibers together so they won't shift or beard. This stabilizes the batting, so your quilting lines can be farther apart.
Quilts made with cotton batts are popular throughout the year. That's because cotton doesn't hold heat, so you'll feel cooler in the summer.
On the other hand, cotton batts absorb and trap air. This cushion of air keeps you warm and toasty on those long winter nights.
Polyester battings are thicker but lighter than cotton batts. But don't let that fool you. Polyester keeps you warm without the extra weight. Be careful, though. Polyester fibers don't breathe, so you can overheat in a hurry.
Polyester fibers are stronger and more stable than cotton fibers. Polyester also holds it shape better, even with repeated washings. Best of all, it resists mold and mildew.
If you want the benefits of cotton but prefer more loft, try a cotton/polyester blend. This quilt batting has a blend of 80% cotton and 20% polyester. By using this combination, your quilt will be thicker and warmer without the weight. And, best of all, you can easily quilt through it. Warm days or cool days, cotton and polyester battings have got you covered!
Always read the package directions; some battings need prewashing. If this is the case, expect cotton batting to shrink up to 5%. Poly battings will have minimal shrinkage. Think about whether your batting will be large enough after prewashing it. When in doubt, buy a larger size.
If you buy quilt batting off the bolt, you won't have folds. But if you buy pre-packaged batting, you will. Here's how to get rid of those pesky folds: Remove batting from the package and gently unfold it. Toss it in the dryer on a NO-HEAT setting for a few minutes. What a difference this makes!
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