The Free Motion Quilting Project: Testing Batting and Fabric

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Testing Batting and Fabric

I'm testing batting today!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

free motion quilting | Leah DayI've been wanting to do this for MONTHS, but haven't found the time, or the project to do it with. I've had this huge stack of batting in the corner of my sewing room and I've wanted to test each one to know how they will feel and look after quilting.

At this point it's just too risky for me to go throwing some random batting into the middle layers of my quilts. I certainly did this in the beginning when I first started quilting, and I rarely thought anything of it.

These days I know that it's not the piecing, or the quilting that truly determine the feel and look of a finished quilt - it's the BATTING.

This super important squishy layer determines the warmth, weight, drape, shrinkage, softness or stiffness that your finished quilt will feature. There's no getting around the batting - quilts must have it to be a quilt, and this is also something that you really, REALLY don't want to screw up.

I've had a stack of small battings to test for awhile now, but no time or project they would work with. Because each batting will shrink differently, I can't really make this into a quilt. I also need to write down the names of all the battings so I remember which is which, which will probably not look so great.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Finally I gave myself permission just to test for the sake of testing! When all my squares are quilted and washed a few times, I'll pop them into a binder to store them for future reference. This way when I'm looking for a super lightweight batting that creates a cute crinkly effect on the quilt surface, I won't have to guess and wonder which batting is the best for that purpose.

And since I love killing multiple birds with one stone, I'm also testing the limits of my Quilt Me! Fabric line.

Making fabric that could be quilted on the lines has been fun, but I didn't understand some limitations that this would create. Like the difficulty (or necessity) of matching straight lines together in the corners...definitely didn't see that one coming!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Also when two fabrics that are the same quilting design are next to each other, it might look a little weird after the block is quilted...

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Orange Pebbling right next to Blue Pebbling? Hmmm....
I didn't account for these issues when designing the fabric, but now having cut it and pieced with it, there's definitely some considerations to be made. Like for borders and sashing, instead of carrying this fabric to the corners and trying to match it together, you'd probably need to insert cornerstone instead to break up the print / design.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Here I've added cornerstones so the lines in the sashing fabric don't have to match perfectly.
Finding out these little tips has been fun! The point and purpose of the fabric was for teaching quilting and helping students practice, but I'm getting to learn a lot through this process and it's both exciting and challenging at the same time.

Once I'm through with all the testing and playing with both the fabric and different battings, I'm going to pick a new batting I like to go into the little feature quilt above. This quilt combines both some Building Blocks Cheater Cloth blocks and Quilt ME! fabric to make a bright, beautiful throw sized quilt.

So that's what I've been working on today! I've finally let go of my worries of "wasting time" with this batting test idea. It's definitely not a waste of time if these squares help me make better batting decisions in the future. After all this work my motto has truly become - Don't Guess - TEST!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

39 comments:

  1. Can't wait for your results! I've been wanting to do the same thing. I'm hoping you'll test some 60/40 polyester/cotton and 50/50 polyester/cotton, as I've been leaning towards wanting to try these battings (thinking it will be a way to get the best of both worlds).

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    1. I believe I have some Hobbs or Warm and Natural 50/50 in the stack. If not, I'll find some and add it! I MUST expand beyond the same battings I've been using for years. They're great and all, but really only produce one effect. I'm looking for softer, crinklier effects now so all fibers are fair game as far as I'm concerned!

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  2. I'm right there with you on the importance of batting. I'm still in the process of figuring out which ones I like best. I'll be eagerly looking forward to your testing!!

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  3. Will you be posting your batting findings?

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    1. Yes, of course! I'll begin posting the results here next Wednesday.

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  4. I'm very interested in the results of your test. I'd also like to see a future post about using a double batting. Some machine quilters do that, and I've always wondered why. Thanks!

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    1. I've never tried it either! From what I understand quilters do it either to increase loft, or to combine the effects of two different fibers like the crinkliness of cotton with the softness of bamboo. Just after quilting one block with a doubled batting - it certainly is a lot squishier and a different experience to move and manipulate than a single layer.

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  5. Yes! The saying around our house/business is "Test it!". I've finally learned to listen to my husband.

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  6. Great to see your Quilt Me! fabrics at use. I definitely love these and would probably buy yardage and use it as backing fabric!

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    1. You could even baste the quilt upside down and put the Quilt Me fabric on the back of the quilt and quilt it from the back! The pattern would create an all-over effect, but if you really didn't want to mess with thinking about the quilting design, it would be a great option for a simple quilt.

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  7. Do you have some wool in the stack? I've wanted to use it, but I have no idea how it'll behave. Looking forward to the results!

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    1. Yep! I've been wanting to try wool for awhile too. I've heard from so many quilters it's so great, so here's my chance to see what all the fuss is about!

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  8. I'm really curious to see the batting you have chosen and the verdict! I'm on the hunt for my favorite batting...I just tried quilters dream cotton for the first time. I quilted with ease.I will use it again:) I'm not a fan of warm and white-to stiff. My go to batting for an inexpensive batting that has a good drape is Pellon Natural, BUT, with my current quilt, I bought a package of this and was VERY disappointed. It had a huge blob of scrim(is that what you call it) on it. About an 8" x 10" spot, and then another small spot. I was going to go ahead and use it but then as I smoothing out, I noticed that the over all batting had thin and thick spots everywhere! NOPE! I took it back which is how i ended up with the Quilters Dream. I also like Fairfield's bamboo, but my local Joann's quilt carrying all sizes besides craft size :( I was going to buy the bamboo batting from my LQS(not sure of the brand) But it was $20 bucks a yard ! Needing 2 1/2 yards, it wasn't an option. But I really like bamboo for the drape it gives(so cuddly).

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    1. I'm mostly testing Quilter's Dream this time around, but I think there might be a little Hobbs batt somewhere in that stack too. I'm open to anything, but Quilter's Dream has been my go-to batting for years now. I just need a bit more variety in the fibers to get different effects for different quilts.

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  9. This will be an interesting post. Fun fabric range name.....the name of my quilting business is 'Quilt Me!"

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    1. That's a cool coincidence! Great name!

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  10. What a great idea, I can't wait to see your results and it sounds like something I should do for myself.

    Love your fabric!

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  11. Good decision taken, Leah! Those tests are really very well spent and not lost time! That it wonderful to see all variety of batting you have at your disposal! Here we only got a type, Poly, which isn't the best, but is all that there is. I will watch the results that you get to learn, as always! Have a beautiful day!

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  12. Hello Leah - so excited you are going to give all the Quilters Dream Battings a good test run! Yes, I'm a fan of yours and also a #battgirl at Quilters Dream Batting. We would love to have you as a featured #battgirls. If you do not have a piece of Quilters Dream Wool in your stash we would be happy to send you some to try. We've heard from Master Quilters like yourself that a bottom layer of Poly Select and then either Dream Wool or Dream Puff on top really gives added definition to stitches. Oh - the Poly does not hold a crease, so many show quilters like to use it because it makes their quilts look 'brand new' fresh out of a suit case or a shipped box. Then we have quilters that do love that heirloom or 'crinkly' look and the Cotton is perfect for that, because if you do not prewash your fabric - when you finished your quilt and give it that first good wash and dry - the fabric and cotton batting shrink together up to 3% max and that's what gives the quilt that crinkly look. Truly am looking forward to your testing and mixing and matching up the lofts and fibers. OH - for your fans that might like to try some of our recycled batting - Dream Green - they can send us an email to QuiltersDreamBatting@juno.com and share their mailing address and we'll send them a sample to try. If you felt the batting without looking at it, you would really think you were feeling cotton! Excited for your results.

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    1. Wow! What a wonderful offer for everyone to try the Dream Green! I also have that in my stash as a test subject and can't wait to see what it feels like! Thanks so much for the offer and everyone - make sure to take Quilters Dream up on the sample offer!

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  13. Thankful, thankful to you for testing......waiting with quilty breath to learn the results! shelly beth

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  14. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Quilter's Dream Puff for so many reasons -- no shrinkage, no creases, maintains its shape after washing/drying, adds body to the quilt without being bulking, can stitch up to 10 inches apart (although I haven't needed that feature). I would not buy anything else! Just wish it were more easily available in my local quilt stores. I end up buying it online

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  15. Love all the Quilters Dream battings! Next test for you, Leah - all the different and specialty threads for quilting, trying out those "bobbin work" threads on top and seeing how they work there. I'm going to make myself a binder of little sandwiches and batting options. Since I quilt for others, this is a great idea!

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  16. I love wool batting and pretty much use it in most of my quilts now. Forget bamboo and cotton, they just aren't warm enough. Polyester is okay for dogs

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  17. I am so looking forward to your results. I just finished a roll of Warm & Natural and have been wanting to branch out and try some new battings.

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  18. Leah - such a good idea. Like you I have not taken the time to do but you have inspired me. What size are your blocks?

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  19. My longarm quilter uses Hobbs 80/20 exclusively. I have also used the bamboo batting and it is very nice. Will also be waiting for your results as I am planning to purchase another roll of batting. Your idea of making a batting sample binder is a good one.

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  20. Quilter's Dream Wool is my go to batting. Cannot beat the loft and no matter how dense it is quilted, it is still soft. LOVE this stuff! I have used bamboo (drapes well but is NOT warm at all) and Quilter's Dream Orient (drapes very well, not warm and no loft) and 100% cotton (I like the loft of wool better). I recently tested doubling wool and cotton. I didn't like how stiff the cotton made the more dense quilting. I have to admit, I did not wash it so I don't know if washing would make it softer. I can't wait to see what you think after you finish testing!

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  21. Can't wait to see your results. I really want to like cotton batting and I've used it a bunch, but so far my favorite quilt I've made has a 70/30 blend and it's my favorite finished piece because it's so cuddly. Love the binder idea, that's genius.

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  22. I only use wool now for the warmth and how it feels in the quilt. I look forward to seeing your results.

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  23. Seguiré con interés estos ensayos. Aquí no es fácil encontrar tantos tipos de bateo y sí, cada bateo da un resultado diferente. Ahora falta saber cual da que resultado.

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    1. ¡Exactamente! Estoy cansado de adivinar y con ganas de probar cosas nuevas, pero nunca se sabe lo que se vean bien en cualquier proyecto. Espero que esto finalmente resolver todos los misterios!

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  24. I have a question about batting, is there a right and wrong side. especially in cotten batting often one side will have different texture, and doe sthis matter in the quilting process. I am just wondering because sometimes when I quilt I will have new needle, set the machine as I always do and I end up with breaking threads and other times not so much.

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    1. Turns out there is a right and wrong side to some battings! Some batting has a scrim that the fibers are punched into. You need to baste with the scrim side to the BACK. As for identifying which side is the scrim, you'll need to check the batting website to see if they post a photo or video guide. Every single batting is different as I'm coming to find!

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  25. I am so looking forward to your batting reviews. Jenny at SewKindOfWonderful says she thinks she has found her perfect batting -- it's a bleached 50/50 from Pellon. I haven't been able to find it to try it myself. I'm also curious whether you think two layers of batting is manageable on a domestic machine even though I love the stitch definition. Thanks for doing this test. Will you be carrying your favorite battings in your store? Hope so.

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  26. My inexperience with battings have led me to wonder if all can generally be ironed - I'd be skeptical about something made from plastic bottles (Dream Green) - I like to do quilt-as-you-go and press my blocks before "squaring up" and sewing them together - so have always used cotton battings I figured I could iron with abandon. Can you iron poly and poly blends? I once had a batting melt on my iron, but don't know exactly what it was.

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  27. Bamboo batting - I think its actually a 50/50 blend with cotton is SO soft and drapey.

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  28. I love wool! So light and puffy, but if you do a lot of quilting it does flatten out. It drapes beautifully. And doesn't crease as much as others when folded.

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  29. I wrote an article about how to choose quilt battings on Quilting Focus, a quilt directory site, and I pointed people to this blog post because I think it's really important that people test out battings to find what they like for themselves. Thanks for the great info!
    https://quiltingfocus.com/2015/10/how-to-choose-quilt-batting/

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