What batting do you use is a question I'm often asked. The answer depends on what I'm making and the look I want to achieve; then I choose the appropriate batting.
Crafts: (i.e. quilted bags, table runners, pot holders, wall hangings, etc.) -- flat polyester such as Dream Poly or a cotton batting with scrim (Hobbs, The Warm Co.) Fairfield's new bamboo batting also has a scrim, allowing the quilting lines to be further apart. If a flat, no-shrink appearance is desired, prewash your fabric and presoak the batting. To presoak: fill wash basin with tepid water, lay batting in and allow to soak for 10 minutes; spin out water--avoid agitation--and dry on a warm cycle for 10 minutes.
Bed quilts: Natural fibers such as cotton, wool, or silk are my top picks because they b-r-e-a-t-h-e. Polyester fiber, on the other hand, traps heat and can be quite warm. For a puckered, granny style quilt, do not prewash your fabric and batting. Simply layer, quilt, bind, and wash so everything shrinks together. My favorite cotton battings include: Fairfield's Soft Touch, Mountain Mist Blue Ribbon, and Hobbs Heirloom which is 80% cotton and 20% polyester. Hobbs Wool and Hobbs Silk are quality products--no bearding (fiber migration through the quilting holes), machine quilting friendly, and loft is retained after quilting. Because I like drapability and close quilt lines in a bed quilt I generally avoid battings with scrim. Note: If you plan to sometimes hang a bed quilt for display, avoid using wool and silk battings that can sag over time. Best to use Hobbs 80/20, Fairfield Bamboo/Cotton (50/50) with scrim, or 100% polyester.
Baby quilts: I see more baby quilts with polyester batting because it is inexpensive but it does not breathe. Unless the child lives in an igloo, try one of the natural fibers mentioned above. Baby quilts get more wear and tear than the average bed quilt so a batting with scrim (i.e. Bamboo) may hold up longer. I try new battings by using them in a baby quilt.
College dorm quilts/throws--lap size: Whether it's a quilt on the dorm bed or a couch, Hobbs 80/20 is the universal batting that works well for these items. College kids may not wash their quilts often but they will treasure a soft, drapable quilt that this batting provides.
Test for yourself: The best way to know what you like is to start gathering available battings and quilt some samples. Use different combinations of pre-washed fabric/pre-soaked batting and unwashed fabric/unwashed batting. It's your personal preference that counts so educate yourself on what works for you. For a batting sample square set, check http://www.harriethargrave.com/products_show.asp?cat=batting
Copyright 2008, Sharon Baggs