Batting: The Basics, and How to Sandwich Your Quilt

“What kind of batting do you want?” “Wait, there’s more than one kind?!” That’s what I first said when I was a beginner quilter attempting to finish my first quilt. If you’ve only used one type of batting for all your quilt projects maybe it’s time to try something new!

If you are just learning about quilting, batting (also known as wadding) is used in various sewing and quilting projects as a layer of insulation between fabrics. It provides warmth and, depending on the type used, can make the quilt light or heavy. It’s usually manufactured from cotton, polyester, wool, silk, or even bamboo fibers; often consisting of a blend of different fibers.

Synthetic battings (polyester) have nice durability, they are good for kid’s quilts that get washed a lot; however, they can become quite warm as there is little breathability. It also has a nice drape to it, and often have a higher loft. 

For a beginner, cotton blend is a good choice because it might hide some of the imperfect stitches you’ll likely have if you are machine quilting on your own. The cotton batting is much flatter, doesn’t bounce, and is great for wall hangings and table toppers. Cotton blend battings are also great for making the quilt look antique with puckering after it’s been washed and dried due to the slight shrinkage. I personally love the way cotton blend batting feels because I like a soft, thin quilt. 

Another part of choosing the right batting is to keep in mind how far apart your quilting stitches will be. For each batting there are different stitch minimums. For example: On the packaging, you will find “Stitch up to 8 inches apart.” This means the batting should not bunch up as long as your stitches are no farther apart  8” in any direction.

How to Sandwich your quilt together for domestic machine quilting:

A big quilt is harder to baste because you may be working on your hands and knees if you are basting on the floor. (Make sure to protect those knees by having a gardeners knee pad handy!) If you have the room, you can also work on a large table with extra large clamps to secure the layers. Begin by laying your backing fabric face down on a large flat surface like a clean, solid floor. (Make sure your backing is about 3-4 inches larger all the way around than your quilt top; you don’t want to try and match up corners.) You can use painters tape all around the backing to make sure it doesn’t move around. Don’t stretch it! Just make sure it’s as smooth as possible. 

Once you’ve done that, you can layer your batting down. Make sure your batting is also larger than your top. Finally, lay your quilt top over the batting. Smooth it out, and then go around all the corners to make sure the quilt top is within the backing and batting areas.

The next step is to spray baste or pin your quilt sandwich together before you quilt it yourself. I like to use 505 to spray baste the layers down in a well-ventilated area; it’s just much quicker! Start by folding over half of your quilt top and batting. Spray your backing fabric lightly and then fold back down the batting. Smooth out with your hands. 

Wait a few minutes, then spray the back of your quilt top. Smooth the quilt top down without stretching it. Repeat the steps for the other half of your quilt.

If you want to try pinning, the Curved Brass Basting Pins are nice because they are slightly larger and the curve makes them easier to put them in and close when up against a hard surface, like a floor. I start pinning from the center of my quilt and work outward in one horizontal line. Then I pin in a vertical line. Then all I need to do is pin each quadrant out towards the centers. Be very careful not to stretch anything. There’s not a right or wrong number of pins you use, just enough to make sure it doesn’t shift. YOu can use your fist as a guide to measure the pins to be spaced out every 4″ or so.

That’s how you prepare your quilt for quilting on a domestic sewing machine. You are layering together the backing, the batting, and the top, and holding those layers together. Another option is to hand-stitch large basting stitches. 

Then you are ready to quilt it! If you would like to read up on a past blog post about how to choose the right quilting design for your quilt, click here

Want to learn more? I really recommend reading our wonderful and informative tutorial about all the different aspects of batting here.

I wanted to know what your favorite batting is, and if you have any tips or tricks to share with us? How do you choose the right batting? 

I asked the ladies here at work and they said, 

“I use my quilts, so I like ones with polyester batting because it keeps me super warm. The most beautiful drape that I’ve ever achieved (while longarm quilting) is with wool batting.” -Mari

“I choose my batting based on what I’m making…I love 80/20 blends in bed quilts because of the loftiness and softness.” -Judy

“I love whatever’s on sale!” -Teri

“Silk & wool have a lovely drape and are supposed to breathe well enough to keep you warm in winter and cool in summer. Wool has the advantage of keeping you warm even if a little wet… it would work well for quilts used in stadiums or for campling.” -Ann

Also, if you are a beginner wanting to learn how to quilt with your home sewing machine, click here.

Happy quilting!


  1. Anita - March 13, 2014

    Awesome Jenna. So glad you took on this topic.

  2. Kathleen - March 13, 2014

    I’m curious what collection the brown tone on tone fabric is from. I have 20 quilt blocks done using those Urban Odyssey prints you’re showing and I used a brown mirage for the background. I still need something for sashing, but not necessarily brown. I’m new to quilting and don’t know what color to use to compliment the Urban Odyssey prints with the brown background. Thank you for your help.

    • Jenna - March 17, 2014

      Hi Kathleen. Yep, you are right! It’s Urban Odyssey from a couple of years ago…and I am using Mirage Brown for the sashing. You could use Mirage Olive 3891, or Peridot, 3876…or Solid Turquoise 3954, any of those would look good!

  3. JoAnn - March 13, 2014

    What type of batting do you recommend to use when making bags? I am going to make a weekender bag, and it calls for upholstery batting. I’m not sure what it is, and can’t find it in the stores.
    Thank you.

  4. mary anne williams - March 15, 2014

    If any part of my stash is lacking, it is my threads. I have lots of embroidery threads, but very little for quilting my tops. I really really need to win some of this thread.

  5. Pamela - March 23, 2014

    I didn’t know about the stitch lengths labeled on the the batting. *rummaging through batting* Thank-you for a great article!

  6. Lori - March 30, 2014

    I am using applique, does it matter what stitch I use to sew on the applique?

    • Jenna - March 31, 2014

      Hi Lori, it all depends on what kind of look you want to create!