How to Choose Batting for a Quilt

What is the best type of quilt batting? Is cotton or polyester batting better? What is the best batting for a baby quilt? I’m sure these questions arise at one point or another for every quilter, so I decided to find some answers.

Come with me as we explore different types of quilt batting and decide on the best batting for your next project!

Quilt Batting Basics

Before we get into how to choose batting for your quilt, let’s look at some basics. If you’re a complete beginner, I’m sure you’ve got plenty of questions, so I’ll try to start right at the beginning.

What is batting fabric used for?

Pretty much any quilt is made of three layers: the quilt top (this is the pretty pieced layer you work so hard on), batting (sometimes also referred to as wadding), and backing (the layer on the backside of your blanket).

Batting fabric is used to fill your quilt, providing cushioning and insulation. It’s the middle layer of your quilt sandwich (between the quilt top and quilt backing) that gives your blanket dimension, texture, and loft. 

DTQ TIP: Read more about making a quilt sandwich with your chosen batting and basting your quilt in our guide on How to Baste a Quilt.

In other words, the purpose of batting fabric is to make your quilt perfectly snuggly and warm (or cool, if that’s what you’re going for – but more on that later).

What kind Of quilt batting should I use?

There are different things to consider when deciding what kind of quilt batting to use. Things like desired warmth, durability, price, etc. It can get pretty overwhelming, I know.

But the good news is, pretty much all of these things are defined by the two things: loft and batting fiber. I’ll explain loft right now and we’ll take an in-depth look at the different fibers available afterward.

What is loft in Quilt Batting?

Loft basically tells you how thick or thin the batting is. So how thick should quilt batting be? This depends on what kind of finished look you’re going for.

Low loft batting is thinner and produces a flatter and thinner finished piece. The quilting on low loft batting is less visible and also somewhat easier to do (by hand or machine). 

High loft batting is bulkier and will give you a puffier finished quilt. The quilting lines will also be more visible, so you can go for a higher loft if you really want to show off the quilting. Even so, I would recommend steering away from very high loft batting if you’re going for a modern quilt look.

Batting material for quilting

When choosing material for quilt batting there are five main contenders: 100% cotton, polyester, cotton-polyester blend, wool, and bamboo. Each has its own pros and cons, so it’s hard to say which is the best. I’ll walk you through the basics of each of them and let you decide.

100% Cotton Batting for Quilts

Made from natural fibers, 100% cotton batting is a great choice for different types of quilts. Its main advantage is that it is completely natural, which means it is breathable. 

Cotton batting is a great choice for machine quilting, but should be quilted rather closely to avoid bunching after washing.

Can cotton batting stain the quilt?

One thing to watch out for in cotton batting are seeds and plant residue. These can release oils and, in fact, stain the quilt, so know that’s the risk you’re taking.

Can cotton batting be washed?

Like most batting materials, cotton batting can absolutely be washed once it’s safely quilted into your finished project. As a natural fiber, it will shrink (anywhere from 3 to 5% is normal). 

This will give your quilt a puckered appearance, especially if you prewash the quilting cotton, but not the batting (as the batting will shrink, and the quilting cotton will not). 

Should you wash cotton batting before making a quilt?

If the material allows, you can pre-wash the cotton batting before making a quilt. I would only do this if you really don’t want any puckering on the finished quilt, otherwise, it really isn’t necessary (and I warn you that I’ve never done it myself, so I cannot guarantee good results!).

Make sure you read the label, though, because many 100% quilt battings cannot be prewashed. When there’s scrim, you can usually pre-wash without any issues. Without scrim, there’s nothing holding the material together, so it could all just fall apart. Not a good idea.

What is scrim in quilt batting?

Scrim is a layer of stabilizer, usually on one side of the batting, which is used to prevent the fibers of the batting from separating and stretching. It is used in cotton and cotton-poly blend battings. Batting with scrim allows for the quilting stitches to be further apart (as far as 10’’ apart). Make sure you always face the scrim layer towards the backing fabric (and not the quilt top).

Polyester Batting

Polyester batting is your go-to if you’re looking to save some money. It’s probably the least expensive option, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a bad choice. 

Polyester batting is lightweight and low-maintenance. It’s usually very warm without feeling super-heavy (like cotton batting can).

Is polyester batting good for quilting?

I’ll be honest. I don’t use polyester batting for blankets, but I do find it to be a great (low cost) option for wall hangings, where I want a flat finish and the feel of the finished piece isn’t that important.

Bearding in a Quilt

One thing to be aware of is that polyester batting can be prone to bearding. Wait, what is bearding? It’s when fibers of the batting come through the quilt top or the backing fabric to the outside of the quilt. To prevent bearding I recommend using a tightly woven fabric for your quilt top and backing, as this will make it harder for the batting fibers to travel through to the outside of the quilt. Also, make sure you use a sharp needle for quilting.

Cotton Polyester Blend Batting

And now we’ve come to my favorite. This is what I use the most and I’ll tell you why. A cotton-polyester blend batting gives you some of the great natural properties of cotton batting at a lower price point. This means it won’t break the bank AND you’ll get a great-looking quilt!

What is cotton-poly batting?

A cotton-poly blend or a cotton-polyester blend batting is exactly what the name suggests. It’s batting made of two fibers – cotton and polyester. The ratio between the two materials varies from 80/20 (80% cotton and 20% polyester) to 60/40 (60% cotton and 40% polyester).

Cotton-poly blend batting is pretty easy to work with and it doesn’t shrink as much as 100% cotton. This is great news if you’re looking for a very flat finished quilt without crinkle. 

Wool Quilt Batting

When you think of something warm to wear, a wool sweater probably comes to mind. And it’s the same with quilts. If you’re wondering what the warmest batting for a quilt is, wool is your answer. It is super warm, soft, and cozy (and all-natural!).

Wool batting is pretty easy to work with and it resists creasing. This is great if you keep your quilts folded for a few months at a time. With wool batting you know they’ll be good as new when you unfold them!

Like all natural fibers, wool tends to be on the pricier side. Also, it has a tendency to beard (like polyester batting), so make sure you read my tips on how to prevent bearding above.

Can a quilt with wool batting be washed?

Most of the wool batting nowadays is machine washable and has even been pre-shrunk, so washing it is not an issue. (Read the label though to make sure the batting you’re working with has been preshrunk!)

Is wool batting warmer than cotton?

As I’ve mentioned, wool is your go-to option for warmth. And what’s great about it’s much lighter than cotton, so you’ll get a very warm blanket without the added weight.

Bamboo Batting for Quilts 

Apparently, if there was a batting competition this would be the winner. Bamboo batting. Why? Apart from the fact that it’s an all-natural option, which is nice on its own, bamboo has some amazing properties quilters love.

Bamboo batting is super soft and drapes amazingly (even when it’s very densely quilted).

The downside? It’s expensive. So if you’ve got endless funds for your quilting addiction, by all means, go for bamboo for every one of your projects. The rest of us will have to make do with other options and keep bamboo for super special once-in-a-lifetime heirloom quilting projects only (shuts the computer and goes to sob in the corner).

These are your main batting choices right here. As I’ve said, it’s impossible to say which is the best as all have their pros and cons. But hopefully, this guide will help you choose the next time you’re standing in the batting aisle in your fabric shop.

Happy quilting!

Further Reading

Finish a Quilt in 3 steps

If you’re new to quilting and you’re overwhelmed with how to finish a quilt, here are the 3 basic steps with links to useful tutorials:

How to Baste a Quilt >

Machine Quilting for Beginners >
Inspiring Straight Line Quilting Designs >

The Ultimate Quilt Binding Tutorial >

If you prefer, you can follow our beginner-friendly tutorial on How to make a quilt from start to finish.

Quilt Batting FAQ


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2 thoughts on “How to Choose Batting for a Quilt”

    1. Ula | Designed to Quilt

      Hvala za prijazen komentar. Naju zelo veseli, da naju spremljate tudi slovenski bralci 🙂

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