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.

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  1. Paula Moore says:

    Hi Rose, I have been asked to make a quilted bed throw out of a silk sari. Could you advise a light weight wadding and a suitable backing fabric? I intend stab stitching the layers together. I am thinking about a cotton poplin backing but need advise. Many thanks

    • Hi Paula. I’m afraid that I have never used sari silk in a quilt. There are so many different types and qualities of wadding that I don’t know which one would be best. It might be best to email a company like the Warm Company who actually manufacture wadding. I’m sure cotton poplin would be fine for the backing. Sorry I couldn’t be more help.

  2. Is it possible to double up the wadding i.e. use two layers, to make the quilt feel a little thicker?

    • Hi Sara. Perfectly good idea. You can also buy waddings which are thicker to start with. It’s known as a high loft – thinner waddings are said to have a low loft.

  3. Hi, very helpful information thank you.
    I am attempting to make a babys cot bumper. Which wadding would you suggest? as it needs to stay upright and not flop. Thanks for any advice

    • Hi Marian. It’s difficult for me to comment on individual waddings because there are so many different manufacturers and they all have a range of different waddings. Your best bet would be to ask at your local quilt shop – they will be able to advise you based on the waddings that they stock.

  4. I’m making my first quilt for my daughters cot/cotbed and wanted to know which wadding would be best, when searching to buy, the wadding is sold using oz, I’m not sure which “weight” would be best to use? Thanks in advance, Lins

    • Hi Lins. Welcome to the world of quilting! I think that the only thing that I would say is that for a child you should definitely use a natural wadding – cotton or bamboo. The weight is really a matter of personal choice – there are so many different wadding manufacturers that it would be impossible for me to recommend one over another. You could talk to the people in the shop: they will have a good knowledge of the waddings that they stock. Hope that helps.

      • hi rose,
        i have made several quilts with the ‘green’ wadding its great quilt up to 12″ apart and so easy to machine quilt, very soft and drapes beautifully

  5. Your article is Extremely helpful! Whenever I’ve tried to find out just these things, online, I end up with a retailer’s website and I’m none the wiser! I now know more or less what to look for for my hand sewn hexagon quilt, but will definitely have to visit a ‘friendly’, probably small-business type fabric shop for advice! I did notice the sizes offered didn’t quite match my ‘odd-sized’ quilt of 2.5 x 1.6m though! I know, I didn’t plan the quilt, I just kept going, and going! Thanks for a helpful article!

    • Thanks for your comments. A quilt can be any size – it’s your project so it’s up to you! I’m glad you found the wadding article helpful.

  6. Hi,
    I have made a simple quilt out of a friends old t-shirts and it is the size of a double duvet cover. I wasn’t sure what to use for the wadding. Any help would be great
    thank so much!

    • Hi Anna. Well done – sounds like a lovely quilt. The choice of wadding is really up to you – I personally prefer waddings made with natural fibres (such as cotton) but I can’t really recommend any particular one because there are so many different manufacturers, all with their own range of waddings. Your best bet is to visit your local quilt store and see what they have available. They will be able to tell you which ones are natural or synthetic and you can choose one that feels the right weight for you – I think you don’t want anything too heavy for such a large quilt. Hope that helps.

  7. Hi, i am wanting to make my first quilt for myself but don’t know what wadding to use. I am wanting to use it during the summer nights when a normal quilt is too much if i need to. Any help given would appreciated. Many Thanks Audrey

    • Hi Audrey. Difficult to comment as there are so many different waddings and manufacturers around. Your best bet would be to talk to your local quilt shop and see what they recommend from those that they stock.

  8. Geraldine says:

    Hi Rose, I am just about to start my 1st quilt ( for my granddaughter’s dolls cot) and wondered if you have any advice on which would be the best batting to use. There were several thicknesses of synthetic looking and feeling stuff when I looked in Hobbycraft, wasn’t sure what would be best do decided to ask the expert 🙂 x

    • Hi Geraldine. To be honest, if it’s for a doll’s cot I don’t think that it matters which one you use. For a baby you should always use one made from natural fibres, but for a doll’s cot that doesn’t apply. Why not ask your grand daughter to choose whether she wants a thick or thin batting?

  9. Christine Emerson says:

    I am making a table runner and I dont know if ordinary wadding is ok or whether I should get some thermal wadding. Can you advise me please.

    • Hi Christine. It’s really personal choice, I think. I personally don’t use thermal wadding – most things that I put on top of a table runner aren’t hot enough to need it. If I was putting something very hot on the table I would use something else like a cork place mat. rose

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