A Guide to Quilt Wadding (Batting)

Whether you are new to quilting or someone with lots of experience, choosing the wadding you will need for your quilt can be tricky. There are a great many waddings to choose from, and there is a lot of terminology used, most of which we are not overly familiar with.

I hope the information given here will help you understand the subject better and also help you to choose the right wadding for your next project. Don’t be afraid to experiment with a wadding you have not used before, as it could soon become your favourite!

Wadding, or batting as it is referred to in America, is the warmth layer between the quilt top and the backing fabric. For many quilters, the decision surrounding which wadding to choose starts with thoughts of the intended recipient of the quilt. For instance, if you are making a cot quilt for a newborn baby then your priorities may be to ensure the quilt is lightweight, not too warm and easily washable.

Natural fibres, polyester or blends?
Natural fibre waddings are available in cotton, wool, silk or bamboo.

Cotton is soft and breathable and a popular choice for many quilters who think, ‘cotton fabric, cotton thread’ then cotton wadding! Cotton wadding, if not pre-shrunk before use, gives a rather classic ‘vintage’ feel to projects which many quilters like. It is usually low-loft although various makes are now available giving you more options. It is often one of the most expensive waddings available but nevertheless, a quality product. Cotton wadding is available with and without scrim.

Wool wadding is a top choice for quilts used in damp and cool climates as it is able to absorb moisture and will still keep you warm if it becomes wet. It is usually low-loft but light, warm, great at regulating body temperature and naturally flame retardant. Many quilters avoid using wool for two main reasons; firstly the cost and secondly, the care needed when washing. Fortunately, there are more wool waddings coming on to the market that can be machine washed on a delicate cycle without the risk of shrinkage however, you would never put a quilt with wool wadding in a tumble dryer. Wool wadding is often needle-punched to hold the fibres together or thermally bonded. No added chemicals are involved in either process so the natural qualities of the fibre are maintained.

Silk wadding is a premium product and represents the ultimate in luxury for many quilters. Some silk products contain a small percentage of polyester which the manufacturer incorporates for binding of the fibres, reducing the chance of bearding. Silk wadding is generally very expensive and requires gentle treatment, including hand-washing and air drying.

Bamboo wadding is growing in popularity. It is naturally antibacterial so for suffers of eczema or asthma this would be a top choice. Also, for the environmentally conscious quilter, bamboo is a fast growing, sustainable fibre that is relatively eco-friendly, although to make the bamboo fibres soft enough chemical processing is required. It is a lighter fibre than cotton, breathable, soft and machine washable.

Polyester wadding has been a popular choice of many quilters for years, as it comes in a variety of lofts (often graded as 3 ounce, 5 ounce or 8 ounce), is very durable and is much less costly than natural fibre wadding. It is very light, is subject to minimal shrinkage and is easily washed and dried. The downsides are; it isn’t as breathable as natural fibre waddings, it doesn’t drape particularly well and it does have the tendency to beard. It one of the cheapest waddings available so a good option where cost is a factor.

Blends – Wadding is now available in a range of blends such as cotton/polyester, cotton/bamboo as well as eco-friendly recycled cotton/polyester. The ratio of blends can also vary from 50/50 to 70/30 or 80/20 so there is a lot to choose from. They offer the quilter the ‘best of both worlds’, especially if you are unsure which wadding to use. They are easy to work with and often loftier and lighter while still providing the benefits of natural fibres. They are also cheaper than 100% cotton or 100% bamboo waddings.

Which colour should you choose?

Waddings generally come in three colours, white, natural and black. It might not be the first thing you think of when deciding on wadding but the colour you pick can affect your finished quilt. Whilst white is the most commercially available and arguably the most popular, black is a much better choice for quilting using darker fabrics as it won’t show through. So before you buy, make sure you think about which fabrics you’ll be using for your quilt and which colour wadding would be most beneficial to you.

How much will I require?

Firstly, measure your finished quilt top and add at least 2” on all sides. Waddings come in rolls of varying widths which are available to buy by the metre. Most shops now sell pre-measured packs in standard sizes for crib, twin, double and king. The actual measurements are noted on the packs so be sure to check that it is sufficiently large enough for your quilt. Strips of left-over wadding can be useful for all sorts of projects from bags to table runners or cushions and it is fine to join wadding with batting-together tape. Just lay two pieces of wadding together with edges touching (don’t overlap or the resultant ridge will show) and iron on the batting-together tape to hold the two pieces together. Once inside the quilt no-one will ever know!!

Glossary of wadding terms
Below is a short explanation of some of the terms used. We hope it is helpful.

Drape – this is the way in which a quilt hangs, for example over the edge of a bed or over your lap. A good quality, natural fibre wadding will drape comfortably without being too stiff.

Loft – denotes the thickness and weight of the wadding. A low-loft wadding means it is thin whereas a high-loft wadding will be thicker or puffier.

Bearding – when fibres separate and push through the seams of the quilt top. This is more often a problem with the less expensive polyester waddings and can be largely avoided by pressing seams to one side rather than open.

Needle-punched – mechanically felted together by punching with hundreds of needles, causing the fibres to intertwine and bond together, making it denser.

Thermally bonded – heat is applied to bond the fibres together.

Scrim – a thin grid of polyester/synthetic stabiliser which is needle punched into the wadding to stabilise the fibres and prevent them from bearding. Also adds strength and stops the wadding from distorting and stretching.

No scrim – With no scrim, the stitches must be quilted closer together to keep the fibres from separating. Waddings with no scrim are a good choice for hand quilting.

Glossary of quilting terms

There are many terms associated with patchwork and quilting and it can be confusing when you first start out.  I have listed below the main terms spoken about in class or written in books and I hope they are helpful to you.
Applique – The technique of applying fabric shapes onto a background fabric and often using fusible webbing such as Bondaweb. Can be sewn either by hand or machine.
Backing – The bottom layer of the quilt sandwich. This is either fabric, usually a single piece but occasionally pieced or fleece/brushed cotton which is a popular choice for childrens quilts.
Basting – A method of using large running stitches, safety pins or temporary spray fabric adhesive (505 spray) to temporarily anchor the layers of the quilt together prior to quilting.
Batting/Wadding – The layer of cotton, polyester or blended filling that is used for the middle layer of the quilt, between the quilt top and backing.
Bias – The diagonal grain of a woven fabric. Woven fabric has the greatest amount of stretch if cut on the bias. Bias tape cut on the bias is best for curves.
Binding – The fabric edging of a quilt which covers and binds the raw edges, finishing off the quilt.
Block – A patchwork or applique square that is a complete design in itself, and repeated to make up the quilt top. Any combination of different block designs can be used to make up a quilt.
Border – The strip or strips of fabric around the outer edge of the quilt that frames the quilt top.
Design wall – A vertical surface often made up of a pin board or flannel wall where work in progress can be hung.
English paper piecing – A patchwork technique where fabric patches are basted (tacked) over paper templates, then stitched together. The templates are removed when the quilt top is complete. Ideal for accurate piecing of small geometric shapes such as hexagons and triangles.
Fat quarter – Patchwork fabric is usually sold off a 112/114cm (44/45″) width bolt – a fat quarter is half a metre cut off the bolt, then cut in half again, so it is approximately 50cm x 55cm (19.75″ x 22/22.5″) in size approx. (a ‘fat’ quarter metre).
Finger press – A quick way of pressing back seam allowances using the underside of a thumb or fingernail, rather than using an iron.
Foundation piecing – The method of stitching patches onto a fabric or paper foundation. Traditionally used for log cabin and crazy quilts, using a foundation makes piecing intricate and small scale blocks easier.
Free machine quilting – A method of machine quilting with the machine feed dogs lowered, used for decorative and curved designs and stippling.

Long quarter – Patchwork fabric is usually sold off a 112/114cm (44/45″) width bolt – a long quarter is simply a quarter metre cut off the bolt, so the finished size would be 112/114cm x 25cm (44/45″ x 9.75″) approx.
Mitre – To join two pieces of binding or border at right angles with the seam at a 45º angle.
Monofilament – Often referred to as invisible thread. Used for quilting ‘in the ditch’ where the quilting thread is not meant to be seen.
On point – The method of mounting a square quilt block at an angle in a quilt top so that it appears as a diamond.
Patchwork – The method of joining patches of fabric together in different design to make up the whole quilt block or quilt top.
Quilting – The method of anchoring the three layers of the quilt together – quilt top, wadding and backing – by means of a decorative small running stitch.
Quilt top – The top layer of a quilt, made up of quilt blocks or a single piece of fabric in the case of a whole cloth quilt.
Rotary cutter – A hand held tool with a very sharp circular blade that, when used with a quilters ruler and self-healing cutting mat can be used to cut several layers of fabric at once with great accuracy.
Running stitch – The most common quilting stitch, a straight stitch through all three layers of the quilt.
Sashing – The strips of fabric used to separate individual blocks in a quilt.
Seam allowance – The small amount of fabric between the edge and the stitching line, usually ¼” for patchwork.
Selvedge – The name for the finished edges that run along the length of the fabric as it comes off the bolt.
Sleeve – Used for hanging quilts. A sleeve is a tube of fabric stitched to the rear side of the quilt to enable hanging from a bar or pole.
Stencil – A stencil has a decorative design cut out of plastic that can be traced onto a quilt top with chalk or a fabric marker as a guide for quilting.
Stitching ‘in the ditch’ – The method of quilting where the quilting stitch is worked directly over a patchwork seam so it cannot be seen.
Template – A pattern for marking shapes on fabric. Templates can be made from acrylic or metal, or home made from cardboard or template plastic sheets.
Walking foot – A foot attachment for a sewing machine that feeds the top and bottom layers of the quilt sandwich through the machine at the same time, essential for machine quilting. Also known as an ‘even feed foot’.


How to make a Makower Advent Calendar

This charming Angel Advent Calendar from The Henley Studios of Makower UK is back again by popular demand.  Each of the 24 numbered pockets can hold a small treat making the run up to Christmas even more exciting.

Put a hanging loop on the back of the panel and hang it on the wall – full instructions are printed on the panel or download them here.. How to make a Makower Advent Calendar

Finished size is approximately 22in x 28in (55cm x 70cm).

Need more help?….then watch the video on YouTube by clicking here..Instructional video to make a Makower Advent Calendar

How to make your own Christmas Stocking bunting

Here is a lovely idea from The Henley Studio to decorate your home this Christmas.

A panel of 24 individual stockings ready to cut out and make in to Advent bunting, perfect to hang above the fireplace or as decorations on your Christmas tree!  The colours and design of each stocking match The Henley Studio Scandi range of fabrics so you can co-ordinate other items in your home.

Each stocking can hold a small treat – making the run up to Christmas even more exciting!

Each stocking will require a separate back (lining if desired) which is not included with the panel.  Full instructions are printed on the panel or you can download them here…..Printed instructions to make Christmas Stocking Bunting

Each stocking measures approximately 6″ high.

Watch the video on YouTube if you prefer for more information….

The Henley Studio Advent Stocking bunting video

Tips For Extending The Life Of Your Cutting Mat

Cutting mats are a necessary accessory for quilters everywhere. If you use a rotary blade to cut your fabric, you likely have a cutting mat that gets a lot of use. But like any other tool in your craft room, quilting cutting mats vary in use and quality, and they actually need regular maintenance to provide you with a flat, stable cutting surface.

A good quality mat that’s well cared for can be one of your best friends when you’re aiming for perfect accuracy, so it’s important to have one that can hold up to all the slices you throw its way.

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The New Forest Fabric Store

If you are in the area please call in to the shop, we would love to see you.  The shelves are bursting with fabric, all displayed in their collections to help with the selection for that next, special project.  Help is always on hand from Sue and Niki.  See you soon!