Quilt wadding, or batting as our American cousins prefer, is the unsung hero of quilting – the middle child of fabric and thread that never quite gets its moment in the spotlight. But fear not, this guide, infused with insights that will help demystify this pivotal component and ensure your quilts are not just good but Great British Bake Off finale-worthy.

The Core of Your Quilt

Before diving into the world of wadding, let’s establish what it is. Wadding sits snugly between the quilt top and backing, providing that plush comfort and warmth we all crave in a quilt. But it’s not just about comfort; the wadding’s type and quality can make or break your quilt’s aesthetic and longevity.

The Making of Wadding: A Textile Tale

Modern wadding is predominantly needle-punched, a process less prickly than it sounds, where fibers are entangled through a fine scrim to create a stable yet soft structure. While other methods exist, like glue or heat bonding, they can leave your quilt feeling like a crunchy leaf underfoot – not ideal.

Choosing Your Wadding: A Checklist

  • Loft: Think of loft as the wadding’s personality – low loft is sleek and subtle, while high loft is all about drama and puffiness.
  • Price: While we all love a bargain, your quilt’s soul isn’t the place to skimp. Polyester may be kind to your wallet, but is it kind to your quilt?
  • Warmth: Here’s a hot tip – wool wadding is your go-to for a toasty quilt, but if breathability is key, cotton is your friend.
  • Color: Going dark? A black wadding might save the day, preventing any unwelcome peek-a-boo from your wadding.

The Quilt Batting Spectrum

From the traditional cotton to the innovative insulating types, wadding options now cater to every quilting whim. Whether you’re machine quilting with the ever-reliable cotton or hand quilting with cushy polyester, there’s a wadding waiting for you.

Cotton Wadding: The Quintessential Quilter’s Choice

Cotton wadding stands as a timeless favorite among quilters. Traditionally 1/8″ thick, it’s praised for its natural fibers, aligning with the fabric itself, which makes it a harmonious choice for quilting. However, it’s not without its quirks; cotton can “drag” on the needle, especially during hand stitching. To counter this, some manufacturers offer specially finished cotton wadding to ease hand stitching. It’s worth noting that cotton is flame resistant, a bonus for safety-conscious crafters. For those aiming for a vintage vibe, a product like Sew Simple’s Super-Soft 100% cotton wadding, which allows for 3-5% shrinkage and quilting up to 8” apart, can be ideal.

Polyester Wadding: The Durable and Economical Pick

Polyester wadding, known for its durability and excellent washability, is a go-to for items that require frequent laundering, like baby quilts. Its ability to maintain shape and thickness while being lightweight makes it a versatile choice. Plus, it’s generally easier to stitch by hand compared to its natural counterparts. A reputable option would be the Sew Simple Super-Soft polyester wadding, which is needle punched with scrim and boasts minimal shrinkage.

Wool Wadding: The Warm Embrace

Wool wadding is celebrated for its superior thermal properties, making it perfect for cozy bed covers or lap quilts. It’s typically about ½” thick and crease-resistant, though it’s not the best candidate for frequent wash cycles. Allergy sufferers should take note, as wool can sometimes trigger reactions despite being encased in the quilt. For those seeking the warmth of wool, the Sew Simple Super-Soft 100% wool wadding, with minimal shrinkage, is a solid choice.

Bamboo Wadding: The Eco-Friendly Softie

Bamboo wadding stands out for its environmental friendliness and silky soft texture. It’s an excellent pick for machine quilting, offering a beautiful drape that’s hard to beat. The anti-bacterial properties of bamboo are a bonus, making it a smart pick for health-conscious crafters. If you’re leaning towards bamboo, consider Sew Simple’s 100% bamboo wadding for its pure composition and luxurious feel.

Insulating Wadding: The Functional Innovator

Emerging as a functional favorite, insulating wadding, often infused with Mylar fibers, is designed for projects where temperature control is key, like potholders or cooler bags. Its felt-like texture and heat-resistant qualities open up a new realm of crafting possibilities, making it a must-try for innovative quilters.

Wadding Blends: The Best of All Worlds

For those who find choosing just one fiber type challenging, wadding blends offer a middle ground, combining the strengths of various fibers. Common blends include 80/20 cotton/polyester, offering durability and ease of stitching, or cotton/bamboo, which marries softness with structural integrity. These blends cater to a wide array of quilting needs, providing versatility and performance.

Can’t decide? A blend might be your answer, offering a mix of qualities like the durability of polyester with the natural appeal of cotton.

Quilting with Wadding: Tips and Tricks

Before you dive in, a few pro tips: press your natural fibre wadding gently, join pieces with a zigzag stitch or fusible tape, and if you’re using polyester, keep that iron on a low setting unless you fancy a quilt meltdown.

Expert Opinions: What the Pros Use

Curious about the go-to choices of quilting maestros? They lean towards blends, balancing softness, durability, and that cherished crinkled look.

Kerry Green – The Practical Aesthete

Kerry Green, celebrated for her VeryKerryBerry blog and her contributions to ‘500 Quilt Blocks’, opts for a pragmatic yet aesthetically pleasing 70% cotton and 30% polyester blend. This choice underscores her focus on practicality without compromising on quality. The blend offers a unique combination: it’s dense yet lightweight, catering to households buzzing with the energy of children and pets. Its quick-drying attribute, courtesy of the polyester, is a boon for busy households. However, Kerry notes a caveat – this blend’s aversion to high heat, a small trade-off for its overall performance and drape.

Lynne Goldsworthy – The Comfort Connoisseur

Lynne Goldsworthy of Lily’s Quilts, another esteemed author of ‘500 Quilt Blocks’, gravitates towards an 80/20 cotton wadding. Her preference speaks volumes about her prioritization of comfort and tactile satisfaction. Describing it as “nice and pouffy,” Lynne highlights the cozy, inviting nature of her quilts. While she acknowledges the allure and superior quality of bamboo wadding, its cost poses a limitation, guiding her towards more economically feasible yet equally fulfilling options.

Katy Jones – The Blend Advocate

Katy Jones, the editorial mind behind the erstwhile ‘Quilt Now’ magazine and ’25 Patchwork Quilt Blocks’, champions a cotton/polyester blend. Her choice reflects a harmonious balance between traditional and modern quilting values. This blend marries the softness and desirable shrinking characteristic of cotton with the resilience and easy maintenance of polyester. Katy appreciates the blend’s user-friendliness, its consistent loft, and the way it drapes, offering a nod to the blend’s versatility and appeal across various quilting projects.

These insights from quilting experts underscore a common theme – the choice of wadding is as much about the functional needs of the quilt as it is about the personal preferences and the specific contexts in which the quilts will be used. Whether you’re drawn to the practical elegance of a blend or the luxurious pouf of high-loft cotton, the wisdom of these experts can guide your selection, ensuring your quilting projects are not only beautiful but also perfectly suited to their intended use.

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