What Does the Term Loft Mean to Quilters?

Quilt Batting Loft Examples
Left Deepak Aggarwal/Right Archive Photos/Getty Images

Quilters use the term quilting loft in a couple of different ways, but both of the typical definitions refer to height.

Loft Describes the Height of Quilt Batting

The word loft describes the thickness of quilt batting, the product used in the middle of a quilt sandwich to give the quilt height and to allow quilting stitches to be more visible.

Quilt batting is called wadding in some countries, and you might also hear it referred to as quilt stuffing.

  • High loft describes thick quilt batting—think of the puffiness of comforters to envision one version of high loft. High loft batting produces quite a bit of variation between lines of quilting.
  • Low loft batting is thinner and results in a flatter quilt.
  • There are many loft height variations, so it's a good idea to compare batting heights in person. Read labels before you buy to learn care instructions and to find out how closely quilting stitches must be placed to make sure the batting stays intact.

The Photo at the Top of the Page Illustrates Two Different Batting Lofts

The quilter on the left is machine quilting with meander stitches and a fairly high loft batting. Puffy designs are visible between stitches. You'll find products with an even higher loft when you shop for batting. Most very high loft batting is made from polyester fibers.

High loft batting might be a good choice for quilts and comforters that you want to have a deep, plush look. It could also be a good choice for whole cloth quilts made from a large-scale printed fabric. Follow some of the lines in the print when you add quilting stitches to make the print pop out and create deep grooves in the quilt.

The model on the right is wearing a vest constructed with a low loft batting. You can see that the fabric is raised somewhat between stitches, but not enough to keep the vest from draping evenly.

Low loft batting is a good choice for wall hangings that should hang straight, quilted clothing, and quilts with intricate patchwork or applique designs that shouldn't be overshadowed by the quilting stitches or their depth.

Most quilters who love antique quilts choose a low loft batting because it comes closer to the look of quilts from previous eras.

Loft Refers to the Lift Created by a Seam Allowance

The term loft also describes the slight extra height that occurs along seam lines when seam allowances are pressed to one side on the reverse side of quilt blocks and quilts. The two layers of fabric within the seam allowance below make the fabric above stick upwards just a bit.

Seam allowance loft is one reason why we press adjoining seam allowances in opposite directions. When patches are aligned with the right sides together for sewing, the lofts butt into each other snugly to help us sew a perfectly matched seam intersection.