Usually the batting of choice at the home office is Warm and White Cotton batting. Why? Because it’s readily available at Jo-Ann’s Fabric and can be bought either discounted on sale, or with a coupon. I buy more than I need for 2-3 quilts and chop off what I need as I need it so I don’t have to run to the store every time I make a quilt top. I buy white instead of natural because I don’t want the darker natural color showing through white sections of my quilts – and I think about 50% of the quilts I’ve made recently have white in them . I keep the larger scraps of the batting stashed away and patch the scraps together to make quilt size pieces to no ill effect, and because I am consistent about the type of batting I use, I can do this without worry that I’m patching together different fiber contents of batting.
Despite all that, I’d heard that some folks swear by wool batting. I saw some wool batting at Jo-Ann’s on sale and decided to give it a try on a whim. I probably should’ve surfed a bit on line to see which wool batting people were loving – Quilter’s Dream seemed like the winner based on comments I find on line – before I bought the stuff, but oh well, I had a bit of Fairfield Wool Batting and decided to experiment.
My test consisted of making a small quilt top with not-prewashed 100% quilting cottons, backed and bound with the same; machine quilted to an average of stitching about every 1″ or so with polyester thread; washed in warm water at normal setting; machine tumble dried on normal.
Here’s what the quilt looked like before:
No doubt there was shrinkage. Doing the math, the shrinkage was 7.4% lengthwise, and 6% widthwise. Based on the puckering in the fabric, my theory is that the batting shrank more than the fabric although from past experience I’m sure the fabric shrank as well. I haven’t done this experiment measuring pre and post wash with the cotton batting, but just looking at it, I’d say that the wool batting shrank more than the Warm and Natural usually does. (Hey, is ‘shrank’ even a word, or am I just messing up the English language?)
Overall, I don’t mind the amount of shrinkage and the feel of the quilt is nice after wash. The batting is not at all stiff and boardy. I was worried that wool batting would wash terribly, that it might just turn into felt, and that it might need dry cleaning, hand washing, air drying, or worse, couldn’t be washed. I feel like I subjected it to the worst handling I’d be likely to give it in the washing and drying in that it survived getting the same treatment as 95% of the washing and drying done in this household. Quilts that live in this house need to withstand all that or they’re too precious to stay here for long.