Judging by my inbox contents, I know many of you are worried about quilt wadding and are never sure which quilt wadding you should be using. Naturally, as with most things in quilting, there is no one answer. A lot depends on what you want for your quilt.
Recentl I attended a talk on quilt wadding and I felt I must lay to rest one of the queries that has been niggling at the back of my mind. Are quilt wadding and batting the same thing? The answer is yes they are – different names for the same product.
The type of wadding does matter
It is very easy to think that because it’s not visible it doesn’t really matter which quilt wadding you use. This really is not the case and I can’t stress that enough. All quilt waddings have a different drape to them and give the finished quilt a different feel. I won’t mention specific makes of quilt wadding here because there are so many manufacturers of quilt wadding that what is available inmy local quilt shop is probably not the same as the quilt wadding stock by your local quilt shop.
What is quilt wadding?
So, with that out of the way, what is quilt wadding? It’s the layer that goes between the quilt top and the backing fabric. It provides the extra insulation to make your quilt warm and cosy, the extra thickness to show up your quilting, the cushioning for strength in a quilted bag.
Two terms that you need to be aware of are loft and scrim:
Wadding comes in a variety of thicknesses and this is referred to as loft. A high loft means thicker wadding and a low loft means thinner wadding.
Scrim is a very fine polyester layer within wadding which is the base for the cotton layers to be needle punched onto. This gives the stability to the wadding so that it won’t break apart within your quilt. So your quilting lines can be up to 10″ apart with some waddings: it’s the scrim that is holding the wadding together.
What is quilt wadding made from?
Now you’re asking! The first division of quilt wadding is between natural and synthetic. Synthetic is generally taken to mean polyester, but there is now even a green quilt wadding made from recycled plastic bottles. It is green in both senses of the word: pale green in colour and eco friendly as it’s made from recycle product. I haven’t used this one myself so can’t comment on it.
Polyester quilt wadding often has a high loft and it’s the one I tend to use in quilted wall hangings. There’s a lot of air trapped in the layers so it can be warmer than some natural waddings, but polyester doesn’t breathe and so it is not advisable to use it in quilt for babies or disabled people who might not be able to push off the quilt if they became too warm.
Natural quilt waddings were originally made from wool but now that is a lot less common, mainly for cost reasons, I think. The most common natural wadding is cotton although it is also possible to find wadding made from silk, bamboo and soya to name a few.
Of course there is also a whole range of waddings made from a blend of natural and synthetic with different proportions of each. Leaving aside what the wadding is made from, there are other differences to consider between different waddings:
- How much does it shrink? If it shrinks a lot with washing then it would definitely need prewashing.
- Can it be machine washed or can it only be hand washed? If your quilt is a gift you need to be able to tell the recipient.
- Colour: most of them are broadly off white, but if you are using white fabric in your quilt you might need to look for a white quilt wadding.
- Hand or machine quilting? Most waddings are great for either, but there are some that are less suitable for hand quilting than others. The wadding label should advise on this.
- Extra features: wadding is available as fusible and as fire retardant. Do you need these properties?
- How does it feel and look? Known as how it drapes, this to me is the crucial question. At the wadding talk I mentioned earlier they had examples of many different waddings made up into quilts. The difference between them was very noticeable. I was delighted to find that the cotton/bamboo blend that I use made the softest most pliant quilt of all the ones on display.
- How will the quilt be used? For a baby quilt or a bed quilt you probably do want one of the very soft waddings. For a throw or a beach quilt it won’t be so important and you can easily use one of the less expensive quilt waddings.
I hope this has helped with some of the queries you may have had about quilt wadding. Talk to your supplier about the quilt waddings that they stock. Most wadding that I have bought has a label from the manufacturer whch details washing, machine or hand quilting and shrinkage to help you make your choice.