Friday, 2 December 2011

Batting Test

I teach a lot of machine quilting and often get asked about the best batting or wadding to use in a quilt. I always use Matilda's Own 60% wool and 40% poly, except when I make a baby quilt then I use 100% cotton.
I had a look at my different battings that I owned and found that I had 5 different types. I made up 9" square samples to sew and test them equally to see how they measured up.

The battings that I used were
Matilda's Own 60% Wool and 40% Poly
Matilda's Own 100% Cotton
Hobbs Tuscany Collection 100% Wool
Sew Easy Bamboo
Silk 100% ( I don't know the brand name of the silk, it was a sample piece given to me in a Silk class at Houston last year)

I changed the fabric colours so I could easily recognise the different battings but the fabrics were all Ricky Tims hand dyed fabric.

Test Results

The silk and cotton battings had a lovely strong grip on the backing fabric and the wool had a quite a good grip as well.

The wool batting came out on top for loft, the heart that I quilted looks as if I have trapuntoed it. The 60/40 Wool/ Poly had a good body and the cotton was surprisingly good as well. The bamboo and silk felt too thin with no body at all. They show no dimension in the quilting. I have seen that they are advertising a bamboo batting with a poly mix so that might fare better than the 100% bamboo.
Although the loft with the wool was wonderful, I had to be very careful that I didn't quilt in a tuck because of the thickness, the wool/poly mix was the easiest to quilt.

 Fold Test
I folded the the finished samples in half with the right sides together and left them for a couple of days. They all showed fold marks. When I washed and dryed them the fold marks disappeared on all of them.
I folded them again but this time I folded them with the wrong sides together and the fold marks were minor compared to when the right sides were together. I must remember to fold my quilts with the right side facing out.

The wool, wool/poly did not shrink at all. The silk and the cotton both shrunk by an 1/8' and the bamboo shrunk by 1/4".  I was surprised at the amount of shrinkage on a 9" square. This would be more pronounced on a large quilt.

This is where I had the most unexpected result. I used a different colour in the top and the bobbin so I could see that the tension was correct.
I sewed the heart in the centre with cotton thread and the tension was good on all the samples, but I had to adjust it slightly for each sample.
I used a YLI 100% silk for the stippling around the heart. If you are going to have tension issues, the silk thread will show them up.
I quilted the wool/poly first and had no trouble.
I had a lot of trouble getting the tension right on the bamboo, in the end I changed the bobbin thread to match the top thread to mask the problem.
I had a lot of trouble with the silk thread shredding in the cotton and silk battings.
I was having so many tension and shredding issues that I started to think that it was the sewing machine but the last little sample I quilted was the 100% wool and I had no tension or shredding troubles at all.

Whenever people are having tension and thread problems it has never occured to me that it might be the batting that they have used that is causing the problem.
Because the silk and cotton batting had such a good grip with the backing fabric, I wonder if it was gripping the thread while I was quilting it.


This was my final test. I had put a black fabric on the back of each sample to help show up the thread and tension problems and show any bearding that might occur. Bearding is when the little fibres of batting come through the fabric, no matter how many times you wash or brush it.It is only a problem with dark fabrics, but it is heartbreaking when it happens after all that work of quilting the quilt.

The only batting that didn't beard was the Hobbs Tuscany Collection 100% wool. Matilda's Own make their 60/40 Wool/Poly in a charcoal colour and I have used it many times on a dark coloured quilt and had no problems.
The bearding with the bamboo batting is particulary bad.

I will continue to use the Matilda's Own wool/poly mix but I am also going to quilt my next quilt with the Hobbs Tuscany Collection 100% wool. Matilda's Own is an Australian company and they also make a 100% wool batt but I haven't tried it yet.

Bye for now,


Anonymous said...

Congratulations Linda on a wonderful discussion on the battings, now I will know where to look when I want to use something different.


Lisa Walton said...

Excellent - thanks for going to the trouble of doing this. Very interesting.

Joy V said...

Thanks Linda - this is excellent. I would love to put a link from my blog to this article.

Judy said...

Thank you Linda for sharing these very interesting results. I am preparing to baste a quilt with the Matilda's Own wool/poly. I haven't used it before and you have reassured me in my choice. I will be using Aurifil 100% cotton thread so I should be frustration free!

Fran C said...

THank you Linda for your in depth writing on battings. I was about to buy some bamboo wadding to use in a quilt that I have ready to baste, now I will stick with the Matilda's Own that I always use for big quilts and the cotton batting for baby quilts.

Fran C said...

I have written on my blog refering readers to your article.

Janice m said...

Thank you Linda! I must record my own results because I know it will save me years of frustration!!! Especially the bearding problem. Scream!!!!


Anonymous said...

wow- fantastic information. Thanks very much for doing this study.
I never thought about the batting when I have tension issues, but it makes sense!

Nancy said...

Linda, thanks for sharing this information. I had no idea that the batting could cause shredding of the treads. And I suspect you are right, that the fibers in the cotton are the problem.

Twila said...

fantastic results...I am the editor of Loon Country Quilt Guild in Grand Rapids, MN and would like your permission to add the batting test results to our next newsletter, publish date next January. Please let me know if that is possible.

Linda Steele said...

Thanks for all your comments and emails on my batting test results.
I am glad that some people have found it helpful.

mad elena said...

Great test! Thanks for sharing. I tested a bamboo blend batting which bearded something awful too.
The hand of it was what drew me to it. Did you notice any differences in weight and stiffness?

Linda Steele said...

The wool/poly 60/40 was slightly heavier and stiffer, the 100% wool and 100% cotton were about the same stiffmess and weight and the bamboo and silk were the lightest and very limp.

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Unknown said...

Hi Linda,
I am about to make a quilt for my first grandchild, and purchased some 100% bamboo batting. A friend commented today that bamboo batting is more flammable than anything else.
I noticed in your comments that you use cotton for baby quilts? Could you advise me on this as I am a novice quilter. What is the reason you use cotton for baby quilts?
Hope you can help.

Linda Steele said...

Hi Denise,
Bamboo is relatively new on the market and apparently it is much improved now from when it first came out. Cotton is traditionally used for babies because it breathes and is light and washes well but also because that was all that was available for years, especially in America. I had a bad experience with bamboo bearding with black fabric but if you are using pastel colours, I would go ahead and use the bamboo that you have bought.

Anonymous said...

I have used Hobbs Tuscany wool batting in a T shirt quilt and have had no problems with bearding. Cool machine wash and line dry. Re: baby quilts a quilting lady told me they are not recommended as bedding in Australia due to baby overheating and not being able to throw the layers off? She recommends to use super thick polyester high loft batting 200 g per sq m and give the quilt as a play mat. Then when the baby does a face plant she doesn't hurt herself.