Best batting for quilts? Well, it depends… (cheat sheet)

Quilting 101: quilt batting types

Do you choose the same batting for your quilts over and over again—but only because you’re not sure which quilt-batting types are best for what purposes?

Many quilters favor one batting over another, and with good reason. Machine quilters prefer one kind, hand quilters another, and the topics of warmth and washing can take you in different directions too.

So which batting is best for your quilts?

Let popular blogger Elizabeth Dackson of Don’t Call Me Betsy introduce you to the types of batting available—and when to use them—with this cheat sheet of batting basics from her book, Becoming a Confident Quilter.

Quilt-batting types

from Becoming a Confident Quilter by Elizabeth Dackson

If you visit a quilt shop, you’ll find almost as many options for quilt batting as there are varieties of coffee beans! Each kind of batting serves a purpose and works better in some quilting applications than others. This handy reference should make batting shopping a breeze.

100% cotton. This type of batting is easy to work with and easy to launder. When the finished quilt is washed, cotton batting creates a crinkly, vintage look. (All quilts in Becoming a Confident Quilter were assembled using Pellon Legacy 100% cotton batting.)

Precious Stones quilt
Imagine how snuggly this “Precious Stones” quilt will become when it’s washed to vintage-crinkle perfection!

100% polyester. This batting is preferred by some hand quilters because of the ease of needling. Polyester batting has gained a bit of a bad reputation due to bearding (batting fibers poking through the quilt top), but many polyester products on the market these days are treated to prevent that problem. Polyester batting is a bit warmer than cotton batting but also more slippery, making it a less-than-optimal choice for machine quilting.

Poly-cotton blend. Super smooth to the touch, poly-cotton blended batting is quite popular with machine quilters. It’s considered to combine the best parts of both cotton and polyester batting in one package. Quilts with poly-cotton batting tend to have a slightly thicker look than those with 100% cotton and a smoother appearance as well, even after washing.

Wool. Cozy-warm and easy to hand quilt, wool batting is popular with hand quilters. Wool has an airy loft that creates highly defined quilting stitches, and it’s the warmest type of quilt batting available. But it does require hand washing and may need moth protection if stored.

Get a crash course in quiltmaking basics, plus tips on topics from stash building to scrappy backings, in Becoming a Confident Quilter. You won’t want to miss Elizabeth’s method for finding the sweet spot for a scant ¼" seam on your sewing machine. Do it once and never worry about it again!

Quilts from Becoming a Confident Quilter
“Patchwork Dreams” and “Lattice of Stars” from
Becoming a Confident Quilter

Curious about improvisational quilts? Elizabeth covers that too. Her “Wonky Fences” quilt will ease you into improvisational piecing with an in-between technique she calls “calculated improv.” Check out her method in this quick video:

Reading this in email? See the “Improv Quilting with a Road Map!” video at the Stitch This! blog or watch it on YouTube.

Becoming a Confident QuilterSee more from

Becoming a Confident Quilter >

Print book: $26.99
eBook: $18.99

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What type of batting do you typically use: cotton, polyester, a blend, or wool? Tell us in the comments!

41 Comments (leave a comment)

  • I like to use cotton that is very thin. Blends are good to but I want them to be thin.

    —Patricia D. Roberts on February 23, 2015
  • I use 80% cotton and 20% poly for everything but placemats. It is thin and gives that crinkly look when washed.

    —Lorraine Robertson on February 23, 2015
  • I use cotton and a cotton/poly blend. I’m thinking of trying wool. I’ve used polyester in the past but only because at that time I was not aware that there were others available. At that time I didn’t even know about quilt shops. LOL

    —Lana Frazier on February 23, 2015
  • I always used 100% cotton. I love the look after they are washed.

    —Debbie on February 23, 2015
  • I use 80% cotton 20% poly now. I like the quilting and the look after washing and the warmth.

    Janet on February 23, 2015
  • I use 100 % cotton from Pellon usually. I also love the crinkled look. I machine quilt. It is thin and pliable and easy to quilt any size quilt on my domestic machine.

    —Gail Griffith on February 23, 2015
  • If I could find wool batting at a reasonable price, I would use wool. Now I use cotton poly blend,

    —jan on February 23, 2015
  • I love the quality of the blends before and after the quilting process.

    —DeEtta Burney on February 23, 2015
  • I use only 100% cotton batting. I love the old fashioned puckered or wrinkly look when washed and dried. I also do NOT wash my material before using.
    I know,it does shrink a little and that’s what adds to the puffy kind of quilt look I like. I also use a color catcher sheet in the washer and take the quilt out as soon as it is washed and dry promptly. By the way use quilt soap and not detergent on your precious quilt.

    —Mary Ann on February 23, 2015
  • I use a cotton/poly blend because it’s not heavy and works for all seasons. I also like the look and feel after washing. I did purchase a silk blend and am anxious to see that turns out.

    —Marsha Nelson on February 23, 2015
  • I mostly use all cotton or cotton with scrim since they work best for the machine quilting I enjoy most. I’ve mostly used wool for projects that won’t need cleaned/washed often, and have used poly for added loft for some trapunto, textures and shapes. Although I prewash cotton batting, as I do all fabric, for respiratory and allergy reasons, I sometimes still get a bit of the "crinkly" after a few washings, which is ok. Thanks for the references. It’s good to have options.

    —Jane on February 23, 2015
  • I prefer 100% cotton. And I always wash it befeore use.

    —Wilia Diederichsen on February 23, 2015
  • I use a variety of battings. Place mats, wall hangings and table toppers usually get a thin poly. Most machine quilted quilts get Quilters Dream 70/30 blend. I like this batting for its consistency. As many of my quilts are given away and you can never be sure how they will be laundered, this batting gives a slightly crinkled look with great stability. I also use cotton and wool in quilts that I will be keeping or gifting to those who know how to wash and care for these battings. For hand quilting I prefer cotton or wool but use the 70/30 blend as well. I have tried bamboo for hand quilting and although it was wonderful to needle I was disappointed with its shedding as I stitched. I am going to try a different brand and see how that works out.

    —Audrey on February 23, 2015
  • Used to use Polyester because that was all that was available. Once I tried Cotton I never went back to Polyester!

    —Carol Romack on February 23, 2015
  • What about silk batting? I see it advertised but I wonder how it holds up and what it’s characteristics are.
    Janet Hilderman

    —Jant Hilderman on February 23, 2015
  • Depends on customer’s preference; personally, I use 80/20 cotton/poly blends.

    Karee on February 23, 2015
  • I love the cotton poly blend battings because I am basically a hand quilter. I have played with some straight poly battings but most tend to beard as does a lot of straight cottons. Please note it really depends on who makes the straight poly and straight cottons because I have had some good experiences with those also. When it comes to machine cotton it tends to be whatever I have on hand.

    —Sandy H on February 23, 2015
  • I prefer cotton or a cotton blend. I both hand & machine quilt sometimes on the same quilt. I like the feel of the finished project & with all cotton, a quilt can be used year round.

    —Sharon G on February 23, 2015
  • I always use 100% cotton and depending on whether my fabric is light or dark, I use the white or off-white version. I also love how the quilt looks when I wash it. The crinkles give it an antique look.

    —Robyn on February 23, 2015
  • I have been using a lot of wool batting and love it. Read instructions carefully. The wool batting I use can be washed and dried in the washing machine using cold water and a cool setting on the dryer. I find it much lighter in weight than 100% cotton. I live in Florida and still love my wool batting.

    —Sandy P on February 23, 2015
  • Batting has changed over time. My mom used 100% poly- cheapest but it has not stayed together through 40 years of washing. 100% cotton has washed and held up through the past 30 years, especially Warm and Natural. I have noticed poly/ cotton blends for more puffy look, which the 100% poly gave, but not the warmth. I have played with it all, I still love Warm and Natural 100% cotton; they even have heavier 100% cotton and can’t wait to make some quilted feathers with it.

    —Linda Christianson on February 23, 2015
  • I prefer 100% cotton for the look it gives over time with washing. I’ve never used wool before, but would like to try it on a smaller project for easy hand quilting.

    —Sharen on February 23, 2015
  • I always use polyester. It’s warm, cheap by comparison, doesn’t shrink, it’s a bit thicker and is very light weight. I’ve never had any problems with bearding or slipperyness.

    —Jen B on February 23, 2015
  • I usually use a 70-30 cotton poly but started originally with 80-20. However for my baby quilts I just love the recycled "green" batt by Quilter’s Dream. It doesn’t beard & the quilts wash up so nice & soft.

    —Joy Bradley on February 23, 2015
  • I am a machine quilter and I use Quilters Dream 80/20 batting. Just the right amount of lift and no problems for my machine.

    —Cecelia Mercer on February 23, 2015
  • I use cotton batting.

    —Christy on February 23, 2015
  • I love Matilda’s Own 100% Cotton. When the quilt shop I worked in closed, I bought a new roll and 8 years later I’ve still got two or three large quilts-worth left on the roll. I will definitely buy another when I’ve used it 🙂

    Living in Queensland, Australia, I’m a big fan of cotton wadding as it’s not as warm as other battings and I love the way my hand-quilted stitches look after the quilt goes through the wash.

    —Kayt Deans on February 23, 2015
  • I have used all of the above. The wool is machine washable on gentle and I actually prewash all my batting so that the shrinkage is minimal after being quilted and washed. I love the lightness and warmth of the wool and it drapes beautifully. The poly is good for baby quilts that get washed a lot as well as the cotton poly blend. The 100% cotton is great as well but I tend to use it more in wall hangings and placemats etc than in quilts. It does soften considerably after washing but when new as my husband once said "It is like sleeping under a piece of cardboard" LOL I now wash the quilt when finished to soften it before use the first time.

    —Cindy Hamilton on February 23, 2015
  • Novice quilter. Australia. Using Polyester for table setting project in progress, but have Cotton, Poly-Cotton blend, wool and Bamboo batting ready for future project(s). Probably a baby quilt.

    Very interested in the comments and experiences of the other readers. Would like to know more about bamboo batting.

    —Debra Beet on February 24, 2015
  • My choice of batting is based on the end use of the project. If the quilt is going to an infant/toddler, elderly person, or anyone with mobility issues, using a flame-retardant batting is best. If I don’t have one on hand and the project absolutely has to get finished, then a cotton or wool batting would be my next choice. While they are not flame-retardant, they take a little longer to burn through and won’t melt onto the user’s skin as polyester will in the event that the person under the quilt during a fire can’t get the quilt off of themselves. While you never want to think about the possibility of that happening, it does from time to time. My motto: Better safe than sorry. Flame-retardant batting is more expensive but worth every penny if it saves someone from having to have a melted quilt batting scraped off of their body.

    I reserve polyester batting for small projects, wallhangings, or table toppers that I do not plan on using under hot dishes. If a table topper is likely to have a hot dish placed on top of it I will use cotton or Insul-bright.

    Wool is wonderful and since it doesn’t have memory like cotton you don’t have to worry about fold lines. It drapes beautifully and is great to hand quilt through. Be sure to put a label on the back of the quilt that says it contains wool batting and should be air dried as it will shrink if put into a hot dryer. Yes, we’ve had this happen. Fortunately, the quilt had been tied so it was easy to clip the ties, remove the wool batting, replace it with cotton, and re-tie it. Live and learn!

    Cindy A. on February 25, 2015
  • Cotton

    —Susan Bellamy on February 25, 2015
  • I give away most of my quilts and use either wool or 80/20 blend. I include a white zippered pillow case with a see through plastic pocket sewn on the front in which I have included both washing instructions and how to store the quilt. Friends and relatives appreciate this as most of them have never quilted. And I know that my gift will receive proper care. I always use flame retardent batting for baby or children’s quilts.

    Mary W. on February 27, 2015
  • I do not know if I have a go to batting preference. I enjoyed reading the quick guide to the different types of batting highlighted in this blog.

    —Jamie on February 27, 2015
  • I have used most of them, but wool. I tried bamboo on a queen-sized queen for my son & daughter-in-law’s wedding. I was constantly having to use the lint-remover on my clothes. Was a pain cleaning up after. But I loved the feel of it before and after quilting. So, what’s a person to do?

    —Linda on February 27, 2015
  • I love Quilters Dream products…I usually use the cotton or cotton blend. Have enjoyed using their iron on cotton blend with some smaller quilts. It irons on the backing fabric and makes it so easy to layer with the quilt top and quilt on my machine.

    —sharon on February 28, 2015
  • In addition to the battings you mention, I have also used bamboo which I have enjoyed working with. It is easy to work with,washes well and has good "body". My only comment is that if hand quilting, fibres can come through the needle holes. Other than that, it’s great!

    —Heather on March 2, 2015
  • I have used bamboo batting……works well

    —Cora on March 11, 2015
  • I usually use the 80/20 blend, "just because" it’s requently on sale, and available many places. I plan to use wool on my next project, something for my brother–he wants the look from our childhood, I’m not sure how to get that but I’ll try.

    —carol on March 16, 2015
  • I really like a soft 80/20 blend.

    —Lillian on March 28, 2015
  • Can you use felt as batting for a table runner?

    —Jen on April 14, 2015
  • I use polyester because I prefer high loft. Wool is the most beautiful by far but , because it needs to air dry, it isn’t practical for baby or children’s quilts which are washed frequently. But I have used it in a special adult gift quilt once and it was beautiful! I also use Some blends of cotton and polyester that gave more loft then just cotton. I don’t find any of these battings difficult to quilt. I also wash all batting that shrink before using because I do not like the puckered look of the quilt after washing. I have also used flannel for batting when I want a light, flat look. It is inexpensive but needs pre-shrinking.

    —Marilynn on November 13, 2018

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