The Ultimate Wadding Guide: Glossary
Get to Grips With Wadding
Wadding – it’s the bit you don’t see, but your choice of wadding for your patchwork project can have a big impact on how it finally looks when quilted and then as it is washed over time.
When you have spent hours selecting the fabrics and weeks (or months.. maybe years..) constructing the quilt, it only seems right that you should take the time to ensure you have the perfect wadding for your project.
Historically, quilters used whatever was on hand to fill their quilts, from loose cotton and wool rovings to torn newspaper and pine needles (ouch!).
The selection of wadding available now is so extensive it can be a bit daunting; as one of the largest retailers of wadding in the UK stocking a wide range of brands in all different sizes, colours and materials, we know this only too well.
So, to give everyone a helping hand we have created this in-depth guide to help you get the perfect wadding for your project.
In this first post we are breaking down all the different terms used when discussing wadding.
If you would like to know more about the different materials available, click here. For more information about wadding sizes click here or to find out more about colours and pre-washing advice, read this post.
The American term for Wadding.
The wadding fibres separate and push through the quilt top. This can happen when using a combination of cheaper wadding, fabric and/or thread. Strong, synthetic fibres don’t break off as natural fibres do, causing them to beard on the quilt top.
The flexibility within a wadding. A good quality wadding should have natural drape, but the thickness will impact on this. Poor quality wadding can be too stiff to drape well.
The weight or thickness of wadding. This is a slightly vague term as it doesn’t take into account the density of the material, but in general a high loft means it’s thick, a low loft means it’s thin. Use high loft for warmer bed coverings or tied quilts and low loft for hand quilting and quilted garments.
The base material of a wadding is often one of the most important factors in making a choice. We split our wadding into three categories; natural (e.g. cotton) man-made (e.g. polyester) and blended (a combination of the first two).
Putting the needle through the fabric as you quilt. Synthetic wadding needles more easily than cotton because they are bonded rather than needle-punched (see below). Wool and Silk wadding have excellent needling properties as the natural lanolin of the fibres lubricates the needle as you quilt.
When wadding is washed it may slightly reduce in size. This is unlikely to occur with man-made fibres, but cotton may shrink if exposed to high heat. Always check the manufacturers guidelines. See more on washing wadding in this blog post here.
Quilting is necessary to stop the wadding bunching up and becoming lumpy within the quilt sandwich. Some fibres tend to travel more than others, meaning that the maximum distance between stitches varies. It is best to stay within the recommended stitch distance to ensure your quilt remains nice and flat.
Whatever material is used for wadding if it is not processed in some way it will form clumps or become uneven. To avoid this manufacturer used a number of different methods, here are some of the most popular:
Bonded: The fibres are bonded together using heat or a resin. Thermal bonding uses a low melt fibre to hold it together. This can allow bearding but doesn’t break down with washing as fast as resin bonded wadding. Resin-bonded wadding is made from a variety of fibres including polyester, cotton, and wool. Resin is applied to both sides then dried and cured. This makes it resistant to bearding.
Needle-punched: The wadding fibres are mechanically felted together by punching them with thousands of tiny needles. This is done by passing the blanket through a needling machine called a fibre locker. This causes it to be stronger and denser and lowers the loft (not so good for hand quilting), although the loft still varies depending on the numbers of layers in the blanket.
Understanding these terms will help to make an informed decision on which wadding you choose for your projects.
Read this next post to learn about the pro’s and con’s of the different materials available.
If you have any suggestions for other terms that should be included in this glossary, please let us know in the comments. Don’t forget to share this with your quilty friends!