Cotton Batting vs. Wool Batting for Upholstery: What are the Differences?

30 January 2020

Upholstery projects almost seem like magic because they have the ability to transform tired and worn-looking spaces into brand-new looking pieces of furniture – especially when colours, fabric patterns and styles are meticulously picked out. However, what most people don’t see is that the most essential component of a good upholstery project is more than what meets the eye. It is, in fact, what lies on the inside.

One significant component of upholstery is its batting. Upholstery batting is the fabric padding found between two layers of upholstery covering that is typically made from materials such as foam, cotton, wool or polyester. When upholstering a piece of furniture, it is important to consider the intended use the furniture will have prior to selecting the batting material. It is also helpful to know a little about the characteristics of the different types of batting since this will help you select the most suitable type for your purposes. Two of the most common materials for batting are cotton and wool. Below are their differences.

Cotton Batting

Cotton is the traditional choice for quilt and is usually three millimetres thick. Cotton has the great advantage that it is the same raw material as the fabric. The main drawback is that cotton has a tendency to ‘drag’ on the needle which is proven to be a problem in manual stitching. Luckily, there are some cotton battings on the market that have been manufactured with a special finish to make hand stitching much easier.  Being a natural fibre, cotton is also more flame resistant than a synthetic product.

Cotton is the go-to choice for many quilters because it is soft, washable, and can accept very detailed quilting stitches. Most quilting shows and competitions use cotton as their material.

However, cotton will always have a tendency to shrink within the quilt, producing a soft, crinkly effect – when washed. This additionally creates a “well-loved” effect on quilt. Although it is great for bed quilts, it is not the best choice for wall hangings that need to retain their sharp corners and hang straight. If this is the case, the batting must be pre-washed or simply not washed at all.

Wool Batting

Wool is light, warm, lofty and resilient, thus it regulates the body temperature better than any other fibre – keeping you from getting too hot or too cold while sleeping. For comfort, wool batting remains undefeated for it is warm without being heavy, but also light enough to use all year round. It is also know for wicking moisture away so is a practical choice for a regularly used quilt.

Wool obviously has great thermal properties and so lends itself to bed covers, lap quilts and so on. It is crease-resistant and is usually one centimetre thick. The big drawback is that it won’t stand up to frequent washing. Since the main issue with wool is the need for varied and careful washing and drying, it cannot be dried with heat as the heat and motion will ruin it.

Aside from that, some people are allergic to wool and it is more expensive than cotton, polyester and bamboo, though less expensive than silk. The recommended quilting distance for wool is up to 10cm apart. It is perfect for both hand and machine quilting despite a high loft.

If you’re having a hard time deciding which of the two battings to pick, always consider what is most viable for your budget and for your intended purpose. For more information on this and other custom-furniture related needs, consult Absolute Upholstery.

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