Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Quilt: Choosing Batting

Disclaimer: I am in no way a quilting expert. I have learned solely from trial and error (emphasis on error) and reading on the internet. I have only made 4 quilt tops and have hand quilted 1 top and machine quilted 4 tops. I am not saying everything I do is the right way to do it, just sharing what I've picked up so far. You'll probably learn best by trial and error too ;-)

Believe it or not, there is no fabric or craft store where we live now. Rather than drive an hour (one-way) to get to one, I got online yesterday to order batting for the quilt I had finished (I had already picked up king-size batting for the other one when there was a good sale going on several months ago). That reminded me that shopping for batting the first time is overwhelming and it'd be worth doing a post about.

Batting is the middle of the quilt--the part that makes it fluffy and warm. There are a lot of different materials you can choose to use for batting. In the old days, it was old blankets that went in the middle of a new quilt. Today if you are wanting to save money and have fabric laying around, you might use flannel or even fleece. You can buy batting made out of wool, silk and bamboo (no, the bamboo isn't prickly--Josh and I have bamboo sheets that are our absolute favorite because they're so soft). Practically speaking though, most people are making a choice between polyester and cotton batting, so I'm just going to do a quick run down of those two.

Polyester batting has the fibers bonded together with a glue-type substance. It looks fluffier in the package and will "poof" more in your quilt to give a look similar to a store-bought comforter. It's easier to hand quilt, but also works with machine quilting. It is more likely to "beard" (fibers pulling through the needle holes where you quilted) as time goes on though and is not quite as warm in winter or comfortable in the spring/fall.

Cotton batting has the fibers bonded together by "needle punching" instead of glue. Though it's thinner, it will be warmer in the quilt and because of the natural fibers, it will also be more comfortable in warmer weather. The batting will shrink when the quilt is first washed, leading to that antique, puckered appearance on the quilt (which some people like and some don't). You may be able to pre-wash the batting to shrink it before quilting, but I've personally never done this. Cotton batting is fine for machine quilting and experienced hand quilters, but can be difficult to hand quilt because it's more dense. Cotton batting is also more expensive.

You will also need to decide if you're going to buy packaged batting in typical bed sizes or batting by the yard. So far, I've always purchased mine pre-packaged and cut, but I'm beginning to consider buying a whole bolt of batting next time I see a good sale. Whichever you do, be sure that your batting is a little bigger than your quilt top. As you quilt, the batting and backing will get "pulled in" a bit, so they need to be a couple inches bigger than the top you're quilting. The pre-packaged battings take this into account.

So far, I've chosen to use either 100% cotton or 80/20 cotton/polyester blend battings. I haven't had any trouble machine quilting either and even with very very limited experience, I didn't have trouble hand quilting the blend.

Quilt Step One: Planning
Quilt Step Two: Cutting Fabric, Preparing Machine
Quilt Step Three: Piecing The Quilt
Quilt: Piecing, Continued
Quilt: More Piecing
Quilt: Scrap Happy Blocks Pieced
Quilt: Spindrift Pieced
Quilt Step Four: Sashing
Quilt Step Five: Border
Quilt: Choosing Batting
Quilt Step Six: The Quilt Sandwich

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