How to choose the right wadding

Choosing the right wadding for your quilt

 

Wadding is the material used to give a quilt loft or thickness and warmth. Warmth is determined by fiber thickness and type. For example, down feathers hold more air longer and are excellent insulators. Wool, silk and cotton are other good insulators. Our grandmothers used blankets, flannel or a purchased cotton or wool batting for their quilts. Polyester was not yet available. Today, quiltmakers are fortunate to have more choices.

Cotton waddings are drapeable and fairly easy to quilt; they are also warm. Bearding, the migration of batt fibers to the outside layers of fabric, is not a problem. Cotton wadding requires closer quilting lines to prevent bunching and lumping, especially after laundering.

Cotton/Polyester wadding combines the good qualities of cotton with the easy-care qualities of polyester. It is easy to work with and produces a thin-layered, warm quilt.

If you like to work with natural fibers, you may want to select wool or silk wadding. However, both are much more expensive thand cotton or polyeste wadding, and silk is not widely available. Wool is a jow to work with, soft and easy to handle. Silk wadding requires special techniques, so be sure to learn about it before you decide to work with it.

Polyester wadding is inexpensive, easy to quilt and care for and is non-allergenic. Because of the bonding and glazing process, quilting lines can be farther apart. Polyester does have a tendancy to beard.

To choose the right wadding, determine how you plan to use the quilt and your method of quilting. If a quilt will receive frequent use, such as a child's quilt, the wadding should be sturdy and washable. Consider a different wadding if you are making a wall hanging, which will probably never be laundered. Thinner waddings are easier to quilt by hand. In machine quilting a thick wadding is not a problem.

Wadding can be purchased by the meter in different widths or by the package ranging in size from craft size (36" x 45") to king size (120" x 120"). The patterns in this series give the size of the finished quilt; purchase a wadding size that can be cut a little larger than these measurements. The excess will be trimmed away prior to binding the quilt.

In this chart you find all the facts of wadding in an overview:

Wadding type Advantage Disadvantage Characteristics
100% Cotton Natural fiber so wadding breathes.Resists fiber migration. Readily available. Often cannot be prewashed.Shrinks 3-5% when washed. May be too dense for beginning hand quilters to needle. Can give a puckered appearance when washed after quilted. Good for experienced quilters' fine hand-quilting stitches and machine quilting.
Cotton Polyester 80/20 Some natural fibers so wadding breathes. Resists fiber migration. Easy for beginning hand quilters to needle. Readily available. Some shrinkage which can be avoided in many cases, if desired, by prewashing. Low to medium loft. Drapable. Good for hand quilting and machine quilting.
Wool and Wool blends Natural insulator. Preshrunk. Available in black. May have inconsistent loft.  Blend of fibers from different animal breeds. Soft, drapable. Good for hand quilting and machine quilting.
Silk Good choice for quilted garments. Does not shrink. Can be washed. Expensive. Not widely available. Damage by exposure to direct sunlight. Has excellent body and drape. Lightweight. Good for hand quilting and machine quilting.
Polyester Lightweight. Cannot be harmed by moths. Readily available. Available in black. Cheap and non-allergenic. Synthetic fibers lack breathability. Available in many lofts. Suitable for hand quilting and machine quilting. High loft is good for tied quilts.
Fusible No need to prewash. Eliminates need for basting. Good choice for small projects and for "quilt as you go" projects. Limited wadding options. Adds adhesive to quilt. Difficult for hand quilters to needle. Good for machine quilting. Eliminates need for basting.
       

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