Quilt Batting Boot Camp – How to Quilt with Different Types of Batting

quilt batting

Rob explains and demonstrates quilting with nine types of batting:

1- Cotton Select mid-loft batting.
2- Cotton Deluxe high-loft batting.
3- Bamboo, silk, & cotton blend.
4- Cotton/polyester blend 80/20.
5- Cotton/polyester blend 70/30.
6- Green (Made from recycled water bottles.)
7- Polyester mid-loft batting.
8- Polyester high-loft batting.
9- Wool batting.

Learn the pros and cons of natural fiber vs synthetic and get tips for successfully quilting with either.

Get the supplies here: https://www.missouriquiltco.com/land/mansewing/different-types-of-batting

Video Transcript (Download Printable Version Here): 

Hey, batters up! Here at Man Sewing today we’re doing an entire sewing science tutorial for you on all the different types of batting, washed and unwashed. Let’s get started.

I had some much fun preparing this tutorial for all of you. And it’s a really good thing because you have no idea how many hours of free motion machine quilting I was really getting myself into. So yes, it is sewing science at Man Sewing. And what I want to do is I want to take a whole variety of different types of batting and free motion quilt them. And so what I tried to do was I used the exact same fabrics, the exact same threads. Yes the color changed because I ran out of thread like four thousand yards of thread later. I had a couple of color changes but yeah. Same fabric, same thread. The only thing that changed was the batting itself. So thank you, Quilter’s Dream. They sent me nine different styles of batting to play with.

So let’s start running through these. The very first one, and if you look across my little fanned out list here, I’ve kind of set them up in order. So the first one we’re talking, or the first two we’re talking about are cotton battings. These are 100% natural. It’s a natural fiber so you’re going to have more shrinkage. So if you’re looking for loft and pucker, cotton battings are wonderful for that. This is an example here. So the first examples I’m going to show are going to be the unwashed samples. So this is the Cotton Select. It’s kind of a mid-loft style batting. And I’m kind of using some of the names from Quilter’s Dream but a lot of different manufacturers have these different kinds of battings out there. I just appreciate the fact that I was able to use them all from the same manufacturer to keep my science experiment as scientific as possible. Moving forward, ok. So here is the Cotton Select. It’s like a mid-loft batting. It worked wonderful under the machine. This is all machine quilted. Nice and smooth from the quilting. But it actually, because it wasn’t a real dense batting, sometimes it didn’t travel as fast as I expected it to. So it didn’t have quite the rigid feel so I couldn’t push and pull it quite as quick. But I really loved the feel under the needle there. And this is what it looks like all washed up.

This was really fun. So I washed all of my batting samples together in the same load with a very hot washing machine. And it’s all 100% cotton fabric and 100% cotton thread. So if there was any shrinking it really happened within the batting itself. You can see there’s not a ton of loft in here. It gives you kind of a nice antique texture. And it washed up very well. And didn’t have a big mess on the edge. I left all of the edges raw so we could also see what happened to the batting in the washing. Because I had never washed a quilt before. I’ve always just put them on my wall and vacuumed them when they got dusty before.

So moving down our series. And I don’t know if you can really tell if you look at my pile here but the first one was the kind of a mid-loft and then this is considered a high loft cotton. And that higher loft cotton, I’ve got a little bit more pinch to it. The reason that the loft matters is the loft gives us a little bit more elevation to the areas we do not machine quilt. So they call theirs Cotton Delux. It has a really nice hand on it. And also the heavier weight of the batting when it comes to the natural fibers, the warmer the quilt could be. So if you’re looking at this for utilitarian uses, I would use a heavier cotton so that it stays nice and warm. And you get a little bit more from the work you’re doing within the loft and the machine quilting itself. They call their Delux. And I really enjoyed quilting on this as well. This is what it looks like washed. So you’re going to get a better washed texture. More loft. More something use the word character out of your batting sample if you’re using a higher loft cotton batting than a lower loft cotton batting. So I really like the way this washed sample finished up very nicely. Ok?

Now we’re going to talk about a few different blends that are out there. The first blend is a primarily natural blend. It’s a bamboo, silk and cotton blend. All natural fibers. I’m a bit on the fence though. And I don’t mean to be sounding negative but bamboo, to my understanding and I would love to be incorrect about this. Bamboo is not the best fiber for textiles but it’s a great fiber for like lumber. So they use a little bit of the bamboo. The bamboo gives it a very supple and soft elegant feel to the batting though. And the silk combination of the cotton made for a very, very nice batting to machine quilt. Just, what I’m trying to say is it’s not necessarily as eco-friendly as sometimes we might want to believe it is as a sewing fiber. And that goes for all uses of bamboo in the fiber because of the way they have to produce it, right? But this is the version of it unwashed. And it was very easy to machine quilt through. Very similar to the low-loft cotton. And here it is washed. And the washed feels almost it has now more drape than either of the first two samples have got a lot of good body and give to it. If I was giving a gift of a washed quilt this has a very, very nice finish to it. And it literally feels like air in my hands. So I really do like the finishing of the washed of the cotton-silk and tensile is another fiber that they use in there to help kind of bond it all together. Bamboo, silk and cotton was this choice. Ok?

Staying in with our blends, but now we’re moving into a combination. A blend between natural fibers like cotton or silk and/or synthetic fibers like polyester. Now polyester isn’t going to shrink as much. It has a little bit more longevity. And normally we think of poly as the pillowy kind of batting. The, the higher loft. I have always quilted with an 80/20. I’ve really enjoyed it for a lot of years. It has a similar machine ability like the high-loft cotton. So it has a good, what am I trying to say? As a sandwich it’s got a good feel to it as I’m moving it under the needle. It responds to my movements very well. So I did like that. It has a nice amount of loft. And what I did find after quilting all nine of these samples is the more dense the batting was, the more it caused my machine to vibrate. And yes I put a fresh needle in with every single sample as we always should. That vibration caused, you know, some audible fatigue, some visual fatigue. And I could physically feel the fatigue in the machine. Each sample took me a little over an hour to machine quilt. So funny enough, the more dense the batting got, the more difficult it was to machine quilt or machine quilt for a long period of time. So those of you who are new, I’m going to suggest more of the cottons because they are easier on your body while you’re learning your rhythm. Ok? This is an 80/20 so that is going to be 80% cotton, 20% polyester. And here is the washed version. It washed up very nicely. Very similar to the mid-loft cotton. Not quite as supple as the blend with the bamboo and the silk in it. But as I said this has been a favorite style of batting for me for years. The 80/20. And I really like the way it washed up. So now I feel comfortable to throw some of my quilts in the wash, right? Because I know that’s what’s in them.

This is one I hadn’t played with before and I really did like the feel of this. More dense so it started to become a little bit harder to machine quilt or a little more fatigued but boy I liked the way it moved under the needle. So this is a 70% cotton, 30% poly. So more polyester than the last sample. It has a little more loft to it so it’s got a little more elevation in the quilting. And was very nice to move, like I said, when trying to track underneath that needle. Here is the washed version, ok? So these are real fun. Not a big difference between the, the feel of the washed, just a little more loft in this between the 80/20 and the 70/30. So I would certainly use this batting in projects as well, ok? And maybe the more washability. That’s one thing I should point out. The more polyester in the batting, the more longevity in the washability because of that synthetic fiber. So maybe a baby quilt we’ll want to think about, right?

Now I’ve got to admit, one of my all time favorite battings, I have used this before and I’m not sure if other manufacturers make it or not. Please forgive me. This is called Dream Green. And it is made from recycled water bottles. Here follow me over to my samples. So we’ve already done a couple of these. So it is made from recycled water bottles. And that I think is awesome because it gives you that eco friendly flavor I was after for the bamboo. And I tell you what, this batting, like a low to mid-loft polyester, just needled great. Very little body fatigue from me while machine quilting it. And I really liked the finish hand on it. It’s very light. This is one of my all time favorite battings. It’s a personal preference of course. And I tried to quilt you a little recycled symbol in there to remind you that it’s made from recycled water bottles which I think is a slick idea. Now here it is washed. It really held up nicely in the washing machine. So if you’re going for something that can be laundered often and not coming out looking real ratty or tattered, other than the fact that I forgot to pick all my fuzzes off, right? So this is a really nice batting to work with for washed or unwashed quilts. So again I’ve used it before and I will definitely use it again on that one.

Now as I said, polyester is for loft. And loft is a lot of fun especially if you like trapunto style quilts which means you’re going to be leaving areas exposed and other areas tightly quilted so you get a lot of character in your quilting. So the first one I did was a mid-loft poly. The mid-loft poly still has more character than a high-loft cotton. It was very easy to machine quilt through although the density you could start to feel it in comparison to the cotton. So cotton is still a little easier for us newer machine quilters. It has a nice rigid feel so if you’re doing wall quilts, art quilts, quilts that maybe have a lot of fusible web in them. And you’re worried about them sagging over time because of the weight in other things that you used in your quilt, I would recommend a polyester batting. It just gives you a nice, a little extra structure. You can see how easily it stands up on its own like that, ok? And then for the washed version, lots of fun. More character as I said than the washed version of the high loft cotton batting. A real fun, fun way to do it. And again if you’re doing baby quilts or something, this should, you know, a lifetime. Even if you start with it as a, as a newbie, right? So that’s a real fun way to do it there.

And then one of my all time favorites when it comes to character, of course, is the high loft poly. Now the high loft poly gives you that great quilting loft that gives you a ton to play with. I will say though I found, there was two things I want to point out when quilting with a higher loft batting, and I especially experienced it in this high loft poly. The higher the loft of the batting, the more important it is that you quilt from your center outward. Because if you’re quilting in an area and then you come back and you trap yourself it’s very easy to create puckers. There are places in this sample where I accidentally covered it up so much, and I don’t even see it at the moment. But I’ll, I can find it, where I quilted the pucker and it actually stitched over the top of the fabric and it lost the stitching. And I had to come back and put in the stitching. So what I’m trying to say is the loft creates such a large amount of, of gravity there that when you’re stitching around you have to be very careful. So start and work your way out. Don’t try to come back into sections or you’re going to end up in trouble. However, once it washed up, trouble or not, it has, you know, amazing character. I hope I have this much character as I approach my senior years because I have a feeling I will. I guess I get a lot of character from smiling they tell me. And I smile an awful lot. So I will look like this at the end of my quilting career I’m sure. I will be a high loft batting example.

Now this is fun too. Those of you know that follow Man Sewing that we film here in Missouri with the MSQC and they have opened up a really cool place called the Machine Shed and so I’m going to leave these batting samples there. So if you’re ever in Hamilton, Missouri you can see these. But don’t look too close because the back is a disaster. I had a couple real problems in some of the battings and that helped me learn some of the things I’m trying to teach you today. So you can’t judge me on my quilting. I was doing it quickly. But you can certainly judge me on the video because I think we’re doing some good sewing science here. So that’s the high loft batting.

The very last sample, this is something I had not played with before. I heard a lot about it. And that’s wool batting. Wool has a couple of neat characteristics. Of course there is incredible warmth involved in wool. And so if you’re trying to make something to keep somebody warm in the mountain climates or something, a wool batting is a great choice. However, I will say the wool batting just had a lot more weight. And as you quilted it, it became very dense. This was the most difficult for me to free motion machine quilt. And it wasn’t just because it was one of the last samples I quilted and I was getting tired. I did two a day so I had a very good body mechanics going. And I just felt the more I quilted the wool down the more dense it became the more harder it became to move, the more weight. So if you were doing a king or queen size quilt it could become a little bit problematic. But if you want the warmth, the wool is well worth the effort. And here it is washed. And I had also heard that washed wool could be tricky. And I found that at least the washed wool I was using was fantastic. And let me hold it still so you can see the character that’s involved there. See you get a lot of character like you would in a high loft after it’s washed. And I really like that. It’s nice and soft and pliable again, unlike the unwashed. So once we added some water it kind of was more forgiving in its, in its body we’ll call that, right? And then if you look at the edges I didn’t have any real problems. I didn’t lose any of the wool in the wash. All of this came out and I have not lint rolled any of it. I was expecting it to be a giant ball of mess as it came out of the washer and dryer from all the loose fibers I left. And really everything handled very, very well.
So that is my sewing science for you today on the different styles of batting. All of them were very enjoyable to work with. I want you to have the different knowledge so that you can go out and play and experiment. And if I missed a batting sample that you want to know my opinion on, please drop it in the comments below. And we’ll see you next time at Man Sewing.

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  • brett

    This tutorial is great and so very informative! I have tried most of these battings. I would like to comment on the bamboo. I quilted a small quilt with just bamboo batting purchased from my local quilt shop. It was very soft and quilted well. However……..I soon discovered I had to stop numerous times to clean all the lint out of my machine. I think it would be great for hand quilting, but would not use it again for machine quilting. Did you encounter lint issues with any of the battings?

  • Oregon Kay

    Could you please compare the sizes of the washed vs unwashed samples of the cotton and wool batting? Just hold them up together so I can get an idea of the shrinkage involved. Also, did you use 100% cotton for your sample fabrics?

  • Marianne Finnegan

    Loved this tutorial. It was great that you showed what each piece looked like after washing. I quilt a lot of baby quits and have used mostly 100% cotton, but now have moved to the polyester batting because of the frequent washing needed when used with babies. This tutorial I will refer often now before I decide on which batting to use. Thanks so much. I would recommend that quilter new to the quilting world watch this…super beneficial.

  • Carol

    I like your tutorial but not your fabric choice. The quilting was very hard to see. It would have been nice if you would have used something where we could clearly see how it looked before and after. I love all your tutorials. Just disappointed in this one