Oh my goodness, this turned into such a project! All I wanted to do was decide which wadding I’d like best for my first quilt top. I did a bit of reading (Diary of a Quilter’s Batting 101 was a nice summary), and decided I wanted either 100% cotton or a cotton-rich blend. But which to choose? I’m a scientist by day, so the obvious choice was to try several different types to see how they behaved and how much they would shrink. Armed with a selection pack of batting, several colours of thread and some fabric, I got going.
The first thing I did was cut two 7″ squares from each batting sample. This is where the coloured thread came in – I tied a loop of thread in the corner of each square, and also on my handy batting list.
One square of each batting went into the wash (cool, gentle cycle, low heat drying). I compared the washed and dried squares to the unwashed squares, and took measurements:
Top row are unwashed, bottom row are washed and dried. All three battings are Hobbs Heirloom brand. Left to right: Premium (80/20 cotton/polyester); White (100% cotton); Wool (100% wool). The Premium didn’t shrink much – no shrinkage in width, and 3.5% shrinkage in height. The White had no shrinkage in width, and 7% shrinkage in height. The Wool was just a big mess, very distorted. On average, there was 3.5% shrinkage in both directions, but it was anything but square.
Top row are unwashed, bottom row are washed and dried. All three battings are Quilters Dream brand. Left to right: Cotton Request (100% cotton); Cotton Select (100% cotton); Orient (silk/bamboo/tencel/cotton). Request had 7% and 3.5% shrinkage, width and height respectively. Select had no shrinkage in width, 3.5% in height. Orient was the same as Request – 7% and 3.5%.
Top row are unwashed, bottom row are washed and dried. Left to right: Quilters Dream Blend (70/30 cotton/polyester); Warm and Natural (100% cotton). Neither the Blend nor the Warm and Natural had any shrinkage at all.
All those stats are summarised here (same layout as above, numbers refer to shrinkage in each direction):
The next step was to turn these batting squares into tiny quilts. Yes, I made 16 very mini quilts! This seemed like a good idea at the start, but I’ll say right now that doing anything 16 times in a row gets old, fast. I made 6.5″ blocks for the fronts because I wanted to practise my piecing skills. I made bigger blocks for the bag, because I wanted the practise and also so I could incorporate a stripe of coloured fabric the same colour as the ID thread, so I’d know which batting was which when it was all finished. So I pieced my blocks, made my little quilt sandwiches and quilted them on my machine (using that popular beginner’s technique, ‘Quilting somewhere near the ditch’), then bound them. I experimented a bit with various ways of attaching binding on the machine, while I was at it. I then washed and dried my little bitty quilts as before (gentle, cool wash, cool dryer), and compared as above:
And here’s your summary table, layout as above:
Interestingly, almost all of the pre-washed battings had further shrinkage when washed the second time, so pre-washing may not be worth it. As for the practicalities of quilting them, well. I hated the Hobbs Wool. It was very thick and difficult to manoeuvre under my sewing machine foot. The others were all very similar to each other. I’ll probably be going with either the Hobbs Heirloom Premium or White – they didn’t shrink much and have a nice drape/feel to them.
That will do for now. I have more to say, but this got long and it’s lunchtime here!