Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A word about wadding

I get asked quite often which waddings (battings) I prefer. Having just had a reordering frenzy, I thought it might be a good time to share my thougts on the subject.

For me there is a clear winner, and were money no object most if not all of my quilts would contain the same wadding. Wool. I was about to say I'm not that picky about which brand, and that is almost true. I do like the big name washed and preshrunk ones. I've used plain carded batts and will do again, but they are not machine washable, by any stretch of the imagination. Trust me. I tried the samples and it wasn't good. Why do I like wool so much? There are several things going for it. I would say everything actually
  • it's wonderful to quilt through and compresses well to fit under the machine.
  • it has amazing loft and quilts down to nothing without getting stiff
  • on the bed it has great thermal properties, it keeps you warm but not sweaty
  • it tends to hold creases less than other waddings
  • offcuts shred to make fantastic trapunto filling
  • it's surprisingly light for it's loft and warmth
The only downside is cost. It has been about 50% more expensive than cotton and up to twice the price of a poly cotton blend. However that seems to be changing. Matilda's Own, which is what I am currently using is now only a couple of pounds more per metre than my preferred blend. Hobbs, is still rather more, but I suspect once the price shifts on one the others will probably move too. I can supply wool wadding to customers for their quilts if they wish.

The wadding I use most of these days is Warm Bond. This is not a fusible wadding, but a blend of 80% cotton and 20% polyester. I've tried quite a few blends, and to be honest they all work. I've stuck with this brand because it's been the most consistant. I like my cutomers to feel they are always getting the same grade of wadding, and I really don't like dealing with complaints (who does). It is the most expensive of the 80/20 waddings (as far as I know please do tell me if I'm wrong) but it's great to work with, has a lovely loft, washes well and as I said is consistant. Obviously, quilting for others I get ti use quite a range of waddings. I really like some of the cheaper blends on the market. They feel good and quilt up well. I have some concerns with the number of inclusions in some of them, and I've noticed they mostly suggest pre washing the wadding now. Personally that isn't a job I would want to do, so I advise looking  carefully at the wadding before buying it. If it has large (think peppercorn size) pieces in it I'd steer clear, if nothing else they are hard and can break needles. Half that size and I would worry about using itwith light colours, but a delicate dusting of specks all over hasn't caused me any troubles. Again if you know differnt pleas let me know.

I do get quite a few quilts where the quilter wants a pure cotton wadding. I have mixed feelings abotu working with the pure cotton waddings. I find that some of them are very fragile. The thinest don't seem to support my quilting terribly well or indeed their own weight. They can be very prone to stretching and tearing. I tend to stick to Hobbs 100% organic cotton and Warm and Natural. The Hobbs is the lighter of the two and most people prefer it. being me I like the Warm and Natural better. It is quite firm which makes it easy to work with, and it has a higher loft which makes the quilting stand out better. I find that once it's been used and washed it softens up nicely as well without going completely limp. Of course if you are looking for the delicate very thin traditional look, this won't be your wadding of choice.  Another cotton wadding which I am a huge fan of is Quilters Dream Supreme. I was lucky enough to get a sapmle pack of all their waddings and when I first saw this I knew it was a marmite moment. This was going to be love or hate. You will never call another wadding board like after feeling this one. It's really thick. Even I wasn't sure how it was going to work. Well it works amazingly. I don't know how it would respond to use on a bed, but for art quilts it is fantastic. It holds quilting really well and stays flat. It really does support art beautifully. I suspect it would also hold creases like nothing else, but I've avoided testing that theory. It's not cheap, it's not easy to get, but if you like making art quilts you might want to give it a go.

A new wadding that I am rapidly falling in love with is bamboo. There are several brands and blends out there. So far all the ones I've tried have been fantastic. They are especially good for quilt as you go projects, being thin, grippy and happy with the iron. They do feel a bit squeaky when layers of wadding rub on each other, but I can live with that. I haven't found it to shrink much with washing and I love it on the bed. In many ways it's similar to wool, but without the loft. I do have some reservations about how it will fare over time. Bamboo is processed quite heavily to get to a useable state and is essentially a rayon (which is made from wood). Rayon is fairly well known for not being durable. Sadly the only way to be sure how it is going to work out is to use it. So that's what I am doing. I'll report back if I notice any deterioration. I'm pretty hard on my quilts so hopefully if it can stand up to me it will be fine for other people.

There are many other specialist waddings available. I have several that I want to try out. I love the idea of an all silk quilt for example, though with 6 cats it's low on my list of things to do. I'm largely driven by the feel of a wadding. If it feels nice I'll buy some and play with it, if not I'll avoid it. Fair? Probably not, but it works for me. One specialist wadding I did try and like was the alpaca blends. However I found they performed in much the same way as the 80/20, so much so I can't tell them apart. At that point they just aren't worth the premium to me. Maybe people more sensitive than me will feel a difference. If I am quilting for you and you would like to try a different wadding, just ask. I usually have several on hand, although I may not have used them much yet.

You may notice one rather large family of wadding is missing. Polyester. In general I don't like it, and I don't use it. I can't deny it is cheap and has great loft, but having made a couple of quilts with it in I can't live with it, I find it gets very hot ans sticky, yet somehow doesn't stay as warm. I do use it when I need heavy faux trapunto on something that won't be on my bed. It can be a real life saver if you have some less than flat blocks. Of course your blocks are always great, but I've had my share of DD, the really curvey ones. Tehy really look great with a thick wadding under them and heavy quilting in some areas. In fact I think sometimes they come out better for having gone wrong.

If you would like to explore some of these waddings and your local quilt shop doesn't stock them there is an online source in the UK. ASDING have bailed me out of more than one tight spot (usually related to black wadding) and are great to do business with. They also offer sample packs so you can give lots of waddings a through stroking before comitting.


Lyn Armstrong said...

Thanks for your info on waddings, I have just bought a load of Matilda's own from Asding and they offer a great service. I have not tried it yet but my next quilt is nearly ready. I have always stuck to Warm and Nat: in the past coz it is never a problem to machine quilt on my Bernina. I tried the bamboo but it dulled my needle terribly half way through and covered me in fibre coz I wear a lot of dark clothes, so won't repeat that experience again.

Ferret said...

I'll be interested to hear how you get on with it. I've done well with it.

I hadn't noticed a needle issue with the bamboo. I would have done the quilt as you go projects with a 60 universal on a domestic machine and I only ever get about 8 hours from those.

On the longarm I use titanium needles and they seem to last forever. It's great but it makes it hard to tell if a wadding is harder on them than usual. I don't remember going through needles, but then, I'm not sure I would.

I did find the two layers of wool with cotton sateen on one side and batik on the other chewed up needles pretty quickly. It was very dense quilting but even so I feel I got through more than I might have expected.

Strangely (as I wear almost exclusively black) most of the bamboo waddings don't shed on me. The whiter ones shed the least and the more natural colours the most. I think the worst was a blend of some sort, but I can't think right now. I find 3M lint rollers utterly invaluable :)

Trudi said...

Some great info on Waddings, thanks for sharing so much :) Asding are amazing! Such wonderful ladies that provide fantastic service. I've yet to play with bamboo, I just can't get over the scratchy/squeaky feel of it. Eeewww! LOVE wool, especially for hand work!

Ferret said...

The blends aren't as squeaky. I think I have a roll of the blend. I've just checked Tudor Rose and Patchwork Corner but neither have it on their sites. If you do want to try the blend and can't get hold of any let me know, I'll see if I can help.

Lady Hopwood said...

Wonderful info on waddings here, I think I just need to win the lottery amd get you to quilt all my offerings in the future, that way you would get to choose the wadding!

Ferret said...

GRIN, I don't think I'm THAT expensive :) I would love customers to let me choose the waddings. It would be scary but oh boy, what I could do with that plan.