Robin Stroot

This week’s column is focusing on batting. Much like fiberfill mentioned last week, this is a fiber that is placed between two layers of fabric. The difference is that batting, sometimes called batts by crafters, is made in a specific-sized single piece or can be purchased, similar to fabric, in certain widths by the yard.

Fibers used for batts are 100% cotton or wool, cotton/polyester or cotton/wool blends. Centuries ago, quilts were made from start to finish using all natural fibers of cotton and/or wool. These kinds of fibers were easily accessed by crafters.

Quilters are very particular on the kind of batting used between layers of the quilt fabrics. Some people might say that some batting is too expensive and will purchase a less expensive brand. That can also mean less quality of the batting. The last thing a beautiful quilt needs is batting between the layers that ends up in small bunches between the stitches of the quilted design, sometimes called fiber migration.

Bonded batting uses a special process that locks the fibers down. Bonded batting has a higher loft, or airy appearance than other styles of batting. This is probably the most popular batting used by quilters on machine or hand-quilted items.

Needle-punched batting is made where the fibers are fed through a needle machine where several barbed needles move up and down through the fibers of the batting. The barbs on the needle purposely entangles the fibers of the batting. Needle-punch is also a technique used in felting fibers onto a fibered surface. The batting can have a low or high loft appearance, depending on the number of needles piercing the batting and how many layers are run through the needle machine. More loft means more layers. This kind of batting is often used for quilted clothing.

Cotton batting appeared commercially around the mid-1800s and is still made much the same way. Originally, the batting had to be stitched into place less than 1 inch apart through the layers. However, even the closely-spaced stitching didn’t always prevent migration of the batting fiber between the layers.

Some techniques such as scrim or covering over the outside are used to hold the fibers into place. However, this extra layer can make it difficult to quilt the layers together. Plus, if you want all natural fiber for your project, the extra scrim layer is made of polyester and slightly changes the natural/man-made fiber ratio.

Cotton blends are an easy care fiber that blends the warmth and durability of natural fibers with less fiber migration. It is very easy to use for beginning and experienced quilters.

Wool batting is usually the most expensive batting used for quilts. It has the same properties of 100% cotton batting, being soft and pliable as well as warm. Most wool batting is covered with a lightweight fabric or cheesecloth. The wool is cleaned to remove all traces of dirt and oils, then given treatment that makes the batting moth resistant. Next, the wool is carded and felted together in the same manner as cotton that bonds the fibers together and keeps the batting from migrating.

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