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The Art of Quilt-making Part 3 -- How to Choose Batting
by Mary Asper, Green Mountain Designs
A Seasoned Quilter Shares Her Tips

In this article, Mary Asper of Green Mountain Designs shares her tips for successful quiltmaking. Although it is written especially for the beginning quiltmaker, even more experienced artisans may find valuable information. See Part I  and Part II for more tips.

Mary’s Tip: Choose the batting that will best produce the desired effect in your quilt. I prefer cottons and cotton blends.

Battings today are almost as varied as fabrics! So many choices: polyester or cotton? Wool or silk? Organic or not? Thick or thin? Here is some information to help you with those choices!

1.) There are inherent drawbacks to polyester batting that you should know about:

  1. The air that is trapped in the batting during its production process makes polyester puffier than cotton or cotton blend battings. This makes machine quilting difficult, although it has little effect on hand quilting
  2. Polyester batting is more prone to bearding and pilling than cotton or cotton blends. This is because of the type of fibers used, and the way it interacts with the cotton fibers of your quilt.

2.) There are also some positive qualities about polyester batting: it is generally less expensive than the other choices, comes in a wider variety of sizes and makes a very lightweight quilt. Also, you can generally quilt polyester batting much farther apart.

3.) The drawbacks to cotton (not cotton blend) battings are:

  1. Sometimes you must pre-wash a cotton batt to remove oils and little pieces of the cotton boll that get left behind.
  2. Generally, cotton must be quilted very closely. The exception is batts that are treated with a scrim. Battings with scrim can often be quilted up to 10 inches apart.
  3. They are usually more expensive. 

4.) Positive qualities of cotton battings: They machine quilt wonderfully. The give a flat, antique look to your quilt. They launder without bearding or pilling. They are a little heavier once quilted, therefore warmer.

5.) If cotton battings have many more positive qualities, cotton blend battings have even more! They do not have to be pre-washed; they can be quilted farther apart; they are not quite as expensive. My favorite batting is an 80% cotton, 20% polyester batting that I’ve used in clothes, quilts, wall hangings and it has performed excellently every time.

6.) Wool and silk battings are very expensive and totally wonderful for their appropriate purposes. If you can afford to use either for a special project, splurge and try it at least once. You’ll be glad you did!

7.) Here is a list of what batting to use for what purposes:

This is only a brief overview of batting. The best reference book for choosing battings is Harriet Hargrave’s From Fiber to Fabric; C&T Publishing, Lafayette, CA 1997.

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