Today I’m going to talk about wadding or batting. The fluffy layer that goes in the middle of the quilt to provide the warmth. Again, this is primarily for my sewing groups and I’m not going to go into a huge amount of detail, just enough to give the beginner an introduction into what is available.
Wadding, or batting as it is known as in America, was originally made from natural products. In Wales, where I live and teach, wool was a common filler. The natural fibres sometimes being picked from the hedgerows and used directly in the quilts, twigs and all. This led to the pressing of seams ‘to the dark side’ as the natural fibres were loose and able to wiggle their way out of the tiny gaps between stitches. Sometimes woollen blankets were used as the thermal layer and I have known people to still do this today.
These days we have a much larger selection of products from wool, silk, cotton, polyester, bamboo and even recycled plastic bottles! Most are bonded in some way which keeps the fibers together so escape is not so frequent. They come in white, cream and I’ve even seen black. There are different properties to each and there is plenty of information either on suppliers or manufacturers websites to help you in your decision but here is a little guidance to get you started.
Cotton/polyester mix or 80/20 is a mixture (80% cotton, 20% polyester) which is ideal for quilts that are being used. Washable and easy to handle I guess most people will start with this as I did. It is a good, allrounder. The various makes will have a different ‘handle’ and ‘drape’. If you can it is good to attend a show to feel the difference between them but some suppliers do ‘sample packs’ which can be an excellent way to choose which ones you like.
I love bamboo wadding, which I have found to have a beautiful, gentle drape but I also favour 100% cotton wadding. Another that I use, and I am currently quilting a quilt by hand and finding it fabulous, is wool. Although it feels quite thin you actually get a lovely finish when hand quilting it. Personally I have edged away from using non-natural, polyester, waddings as I don’t like the idea that tiny plastic particles from this end up in the ecosystem. Although, there are few waddings which could truly be labled eco-friendly due to the manufacturing processes.
If in doubt, 100% cotton is one to go for. Waddings can be bought as cut pieces, as meterage off the roll or even as a whole roll if you feel you would use it. When buying for a particular quilt add on 10″ to your quilt top measurements which allows for the pulling in action that occurs when you add the quilting. If you are getting your quilt finished by a long-armer then you will need to check how much they require extra as sometimes this can be 8″ each side (a total of 16″ extra).
Don’t forget to keep your off cuts of waddings. They can be used for smaller projects and do come in handy. If you happen to have some larger pieces they can also be pieced together. You do this by butting the edges, make sure they are straight first, and then either join by hand with a Ladder stitch, as below, or run through your machine with a large Zig Zag stitch. Do use a matching thread though, I’ve used a contrast here for demonstration only so you can see it clearly! You only need to hold it together until you get the quilting done. We don’t overlap these pieces when joining as this would leave a ridge running down through the quilt.
Next time we’ll be looking at the different options of binding a quilt. Until next time, take care.