Weblog and Idea Spot for Quilters

13 September 2007

Quilted for Comfort

High or low loft? Cotton, wool, or polyester? How in the world do you decide what to put in the middle of a quilt? I have used several things for quilt batting over the years, and here's what I've learned.

Read and follow manufacturer's recommendations for distance between quilting lines. They aren't kidding around. While the quilt is brand new it will seem that it can endure a much wider spacing of quilting lines, but after just a few short seasons of use you'll begin to notice seperation areas in the batting (thin spots) in the places where stitching is far apart.

High loft equals high anxiety if you plan to do a lot of machine quilting. Smushing the sandwich down tight enough to get the darned thing under your presser foot will wear you out before you even get started.

Two layers of batting of any kind is overkill.

Polyester dulls needles faster than cotton does.

Polyester dries much faster than cotton.

Cotton breathes better than polyester.

Cotton batted quilts form permanent creases when folded much faster than polyester batted quilts do.

Low loft batting, no matter how many layers you use, will never make a puffy comforter style quilt.

High loft batting, no matter how closely you quilt it, will never make a flat quilt.

Wool sure can smell funny in a lasting, permanent, and not at all humorous way if it lives in a humid area for any length of time.

White or pale batting in a black or navy quilt is a serious mistake if much quilting will be done. Better is to buy black, or dye the batting before sandwiching the quilt. If you use white or natural, the quilt ends up looking like it is covered in pet hair when the quilting is over; and if you compulsively pick threads off things, you'll end up losing most of the batting.

Simple cotton flannel works very well as batting if you want a light weight blanket instead of a winter quilt. Use it just like a low loft batting, one layer only, and quilt as usual. You can get away with as much as 6 or 8 inches between quilting lines, and you'll find the sandwich just about flies under the needle. It doesn't get cold around here in the winter time, so I often use flannel to batt baby quilts when the baby will be born in the summertime.

Polyester batting doesn't shrink in the wash. Most all cotton battings do (at least a little bit) and any wool will.

Cotton fabric, cotton thread, cotton batting, and lots of quilting makes an heirloom.

Cotton/poly blend fabrics, polyester batting and cotton/poly threads with any amount of quilting that meets the manufacturer's specificied minimum makes a serviceable, durable quilt that will last several years.

Cotton fabric and cotton batting makes a sandwich that sharp needles will sail through. Your quilting will be a breeze, a pleasure, therapy.

Man-made fiber fabrics and polyester batting will make a sandwich that you will need a post hole digger to bust through. Count on changing needles and fiddling with your bobbin thread all the way through your quilt. Alternatively consider tying the quilt instead of quilting it.

All of these tips pertain to bed quilts. Art quilts are a whole other ball game where many of these tips just don't mean anything. For instance, you seldom need to throw an art quilt into the washing machine, so you'll probably never run across a problem with shrinkage or seperation.

No matter what kind of batting you choose for your quilt, remember to press your top from the back so you can see what happens to all those seam allowances - do your best to keep them as flat as you can. Press the backing fabric, too. Sandwich your quilt in a clean, flat space. Take your time, pin or baste it thoroughly. These things will help keep your sandwich smooth and easy to handle as you quilt.

1 comment:

  1. Great Article!

    That was one of the most helpful articles I've ever read on batting.


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