Andrea Funk

By: Andrea Funk on April 30th, 2018

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Is the batting used in a T-shirt quilt important?

Materials Used In T-shirt Quilts

This is the end of a roll of cotton batting. YES! It is important.

Although you don’t see the batting in a quilt, it is very important. The type of the batting used influences the look, feel and longevity of your T-shirt quilt. 

Definition: Batting or wadding is the middle stuffing of a quilt. It is the insulation that goes between the quilt top and the backing fabric. There many types of battings such as polyester, cotton, cotton/poly blends, wool, and bamboo.

my dogs love to pull the batting out of a stuffed animal.

Batting Types

100% Polyester

This batting is comprised of finely stranded plastic fibers wadded together. You may be familiar with this type of batting. You can find polyester batting in many commercial blankets or comforters, coats and stuffed animals. (My dogs love to un stuff stuffed animals for fun!)

100% polyester battings have two major issues.

batting, area too largeThe first issue, quilting distance. Most batting come with directions on how close it needs to be quilted. For example, some battings say that you can leave areas of up to 3 square inches un-quilted. What happens if a polyester batting isn’t quilted close enough? After a number of washings, the batting may wad-up in the areas in between the quilting.

In the photo here, you can see a large un-quilted area in this T-shirt quilt. This area is huge! The batting in that area will bunch and wad up over a number of washes.

Bearding is another issue. Polyester fibers are sharp! Sharp enough that they are able to work themselves out through the back of the quilt. Over time, the fibers will poke out the back of the quilt. This gives the back of the quilt a slightly fuzzy look.

100% polyester battings are inexpensive. They can help reduce the cost of a quilt. 

This isn’t the batting used for heirloom quilts. They are for quilts that have a limited “shelf life.”

80% cotton/20% Poly Blend

This photo compares cotton batting on the right with polyester batting on the left. The polyester batting is very see through.

A blended backing contains a combination of two materials. The most popular blend is needle punched 80% cotton /20% polyester. This batting feels like a 100% cotton batting. But the 20% polyester makes this batting strong and stable.

Needle punched is a manufacturing process. During this process, the cotton/poly fibers batting run through a hot roller drum spiked with needles. The needles go into the fibers and melt the polyester. As the needles come out, the hot melty polyester fibers pull through the cotton fibers. This process binds the cotton fibers and makes a strong batting. It won’t rip like 100% cotton battings. 

This is the preferred batting for a T-shirt quilt.

In the photo here, we have held up polyester batting on the left and cotton batting on the right. You can see how much thinner the polyester batting is. 

100% Cotton

batting in a quilt

100% cotton batting is made from cotton. When unbleached, it’s off white and you can see the cotton fibers.

The one major drawback is that some 100% cotton batting is unstable. Nothing holds the fibers together. The batting is more likely to rip and tear while you work with it. Thus, is more difficult to work with.

This also means the quilt needs close quilting. If not, the batting may wad up in the areas in between the quilting after you wash it a number of times. But, most experienced quilters know this. Thus, they quilt close enough that this doesn’t happen.

This is also a good option for a high-quality T-shirt quilt.

This photo shows the quilt "sandwich" of cotton backing, cotton batting and a quilt top.

100% Wool

this is a comparison of wool and cotton battings.

100% wool batting is made from wool fibers. It looks like a combination of a fluffy polyester batting with the color of a cotton batting. Wool batting is expensive. Some people may be allergic to it.  

Wool does have the advantage of being light weight. It’s cooler in the summer and warm in the winter. It’s weird stuff!

A T-shirt quilt can use wool batting. It will cost more than cotton or a blend.

This photo here shows wool batting on the left and cotton batting on the right. 

Bamboo

Bamboo batting is an up and coming new batting. I have not tested this on a T-shirt quilt, but it’s touted as long lasting, breathable and warm.


To learn more about having a quilt made from your T-shirts, download our free T-shirt Quilt Buyer's Guide. 
It's a great place to learn about the different styles and quality of T-shirt quilt.

T-shirt Quilt Buying Guide


Loft or Batting Thickness

This photo shows a comparison between high and low loft battingThe loft of a batting is how thick it is. Many people confuse the loft of a batting with its warmth. They assume that a thick batting is warmer than a thin batting. But this is untrue. Batting technology has made it so that a thin cotton batting is as warm or warmer than polyester battings. 

The photo here compares a high loft and low loft batting.

How a batting’s loft effect your quilt

A T-shirt quilt made with high loft batting. The low areas are where the stitching is and the high areas are where there is no stitching. THICK/HIGH LOFT - The thickness of batting will affect your quilt. A thicker batting will make the quilt appear puffier. You see more high and low spots on the quilt. The low spots are where the stitching is. The high spots are where there is no stitching. A thick batting also makes it difficult to fold and store your quilt. 

A thick batting will bunch up after you wash your quilt.  

THIN/LOW LOFT - With a thinner batting, you see less highs and lows in the look of the quilt. It will have a flatter and smoother appearance.  A thinner batting will also make it easier to fold your quilt. And you can store it in a smaller space.

If quilted properly, a thinner batting won’t bunch up after washing.

Quality

quilting compare cq vs tc What a quilter pays for batting has a direct impact on the cost of your quilt. Batting is one of a number of costs a quilter passes on to customers. 

If you need a low-cost quilt, expect a lower quality of batting. If a quilter uses 100% polyester batting, expect a low-end quilt. 100% high loft polyester batting is at the low end of the quality and price spectrum. Beginning quilters often use polyester batting because they don’t know yet.

If you want an heirloom quality quilt, look for a quilter using a high-quality batting. A batting such as needle punched 80% cotton/20% poly, 100% cotton, wool or bamboo batting. These battings are expensive for good reasons. They are quality batting that will stand the test of time. 

In the photo here, the quilt on the left was made with high loft polyester batting. It also doesn't have enough quilting. Compare that quilt to the one on the right. This was made with low loft 80/20 batting. There is also enough quilting so the batting won't break up over successive washes. Read more about the comparison of these two quilts here. 

Longevity and Durability

An heirloom quality T-shirt quilt being seen for the first time by a young woman graduating from high school.The batting used in your quilt is a factor in the longevity and durability of your quilt. 

Longevity refers to the life expectancy of a quilt. Every time you wash any cloth item, it takes a little life out of that item. This is true for quilts. A quilt washed once a week will have a shorter life expectancy than one washed once a year.

Durability considers how you use your quilt. The more you use your quilt, the more rugged you want you quilt to be. And the more washes the quilt will need to withstand.

100% polyester battings bunch up over repeated washings. Eventually, your quilt will have lumps of batting and areas without batting.

If you plan on really using your quilt, it needs to be tough. A needled punched 80%cotton/20%poly batting is tough stuff. It’s difficult to tear. It stays where you put it. It will last.

The batting used in a T-shirt quilt is important! It will influence the look, feel and life of your quilt.


To learn more about having a quilt made from your T-shirts, download our free T-shirt Quilt Buyer's Guide. 
It's a great place to learn about the different styles and quality of T-shirt quilt.

T-shirt Quilt Buying Guide


red white and black quilt 

About Andrea Funk

Andrea Funk is the inventor of T-shirt quilts made with multiple blocks sizes. The modern method of making T-shirt quilts. In 1992 she founded Too Cool T-shirt Quilts. Her life has been immersed in T-shirt quilts ever since.