Tips to Help You Choose Cotton Quilt Batting

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Cotton quilt batting is a traditional choice for the interior of a quilt sandwich.

You'll find a large selection of cotton quilt batting when you shop; variations include loft (height, or "puffiness") and in how closely quilting stitches must be sewn to keep the batting intact in the finished quilt. Batting labels describe how to use each product.

When you inspect older or vintage quilts with cotton batting, you might feel little nubs through the top and backing fabrics, remnants of the cotton plant that weren't removed from the batting before it was used in the quilt.

Today's cotton batting is manufactured using a process that eliminates the leftover bits and makes the cotton easier to quilt by either hand or machine.

What Is Quilt Wadding?

Quilters in the United Kingdom (and some other areas) use the term 'wadding' to describe the product we call batting in the United States. Other quilters use the term 'padding' to describe quilt batting.

Advantages of Cotton Quilt Batting

  • Cotton is a natural product that breathes, allowing excess heat to move away from the body as you sleep under it.
  • Cotton batting becomes softer with age and use.
  • Cotton batting does not beard (a problem you might encounter with polyester batting when it migrates through fabrics and leaves little bits of fluff on the quilt).
  • Cotton batting shrinks a bit, a nice quality if you would like your quilt to have a vintage appearance after its first wash.
  • Cotton tends to stick to the quilt top and the backing, (sometimes) allowing you to place basting stitches farther apart.
  • Cotton batting is a good choice for wallhangings because it isn't as stretchy as batts made with polyester fibers; the quilts hang nicely, with no drooping.
  • Thin cotton batting rolls up compactly (a nice quality for machine quilting on a regular sewing machine since you can only work with a small portion of the quilt at a time).

Quilt Batting Made from Other Natural Fibers

  • Wool batting is more expensive than cotton and is warmer to sleep under. The warmth can be either a pro or a con, depending on where the quilt will be used.
  • Silk batting is another natural fiber choice. Silk is very easy to hand quilt and drapes nicely. It's perfect for dollhouse miniature quilts and other projects that require a delicate appearance.

Variations in Cotton Quilt Batting

  • The minimum distance that lines of quilting stitches can be sewn from each other varies quite a bit, from 2 to 3 inches for some types of cotton batting to up to 8 to 10 inches for others (particularly bonded batting, which has a very thin stabilizing layer affixed to each side of the cotton).
  • Some types of cotton batting are bleached to make them whiter.
  • Some kinds of cotton batting are easier to hand quilt than others. Buy batting samples if possible and make test quilt sandwiches for hand or machine quilting. If that isn't possible, read labels carefully and ask other quilters for recommendations.

A Few Companies That Make Cotton Quilt Batting

Learn about cotton batting offered by the following manufacturers:

  • Warm and Natural needled cotton batting.
  • Mountain Mist offers many types of quilt batting, including 100 percent cotton.
  • Fairfield Batting.
  • Hobbs offers a product called Heirloom Natural batting and also manufactures batting that is 80 percent cotton and 20 percent polyester.