Used to be the main players in batting were flat cotton and super lofty polyester, but the field has expanded and choices abound.
Polyester: Super loft is great for hand quilting and tying quilts; however, it creates a slippery feel for machine quilters. I can only quilt on the puffy stuff if I use basting spray. There are some flatter, denser polyester battings available now, such as Quilter's Dream Poly, which are much easier to machine quilt and are particularly suitable for wall hangings and trapunto work. A bit of polyester (10-20%) is sometimes blended with cotton or wool to create a batting with added stability and less fiber migration. Polyester doesn't shrink or breathe like a natural fiber will.
Cotton: An excellent choice for machine quilting. It adheres to cotton patchwork, lies flat, and rolls up easily under the arm of the machine. A cotton batt such as Hobbs Heirloom (80% cotton, 20% polyester) is a good choice for lap and bed size quilts. Use 100% cotton batting without scrim for authentic looking antique quilts that will be quilted closely and shrink after washing (i.e. Mountain Mist Blue Ribbon or Fairfield Soft Touch). The 100% cotton batts with an inside layer (scrim), such as Warm and Natural/White are more rigid with a quilting density of 8-12". Beginning quilters may be starting with this but it best for craft projects. Try this: take two squares of cotton batting--one with scrim and one without. Compare tugging on them and you'll see the difference.
Wool: Another natural fiber that breathes, keeping you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Comfortable to sleep under. Wool has a loft that gives a trapunto look. It machine quilts like a dream is washable.
Silk: Another fine feel batting that resembles wool, just not as lofty. Good for lightweight quilts and quilted garments.
Bamboo: The new kid in town being touted for its environmental attributes, made of 50% bamboo fiber and 50% organic cotton. It does contain a scrim but it is soft and cuddly for a baby quilt or any craft projects. Check out this product at http://www.poly-fil.com/
Corn: Another addition to the environmentally friendly family of battings, corn is a natural fiber that prides itself as an alternative to the use of polyester fibers in battings. Look for Eco-Friendly Batting (100% PLA Fiber) and Eco-Friendly Batting Blend (50% PLA and 50% Cotton Fiber) from the makers of Mountain Mist. Both are soft, durable, and can be quilted up to 4" intervals.
Copyright 2008, Sharon Baggs