If you’ve been thinking about the virtues of using wool batting in a quilt but don’t feel compelled to try it, let me explain why you should.
Advantages of Using Wool Batting
Wool has so many virtues, it’s hard to pick which ones to remark on.
First, wool is a renewable & sustainable natural fiber. Harvesting it from sheep doesn’t harm them, and it grows back.
Wool is warm, but breathable, so it’s great for bed quilts. It’s super-soft and drapes beautifully.
Wool is great for hand quilting and machine quilting. Much of the wool batting being made these days is machine washable, and because manufacturer’s prewash it, it won’t really shrink at all, so it is comparable to 100% polyester (shrinkage from 0-2%.) Edited to add: please check the packaging on your wool batting to confirm that it is prewashed & preshrunk.
Wool fibers are “bonded” to make the batting, and the most common types of bonding are resin and thermal. Thermal bonding is a heating process, where resin bonding is a chemical treatment. I know Legacy uses resin bonding and Quilter’s Dream uses thermal, so I would consider QD to be the more environmentally favorable of the two.
Another important property to consider is how far apart you can quilt using wool, and that’s going to vary by manufacturer. For Legacy it is 4″; QD is 8″. Knowing how far apart you can stitch can help you decide whether your desired quilting motif can be done. I usually quilt the snot out of everything, so I don’t normally pay attention to these factors.
Wool has an open, medium loft (1/4″ – 1/3″), and it’s strong. It also provides really great stitch definition, so people who are quilting to enter shows will often use wool in their pieces to really showcase their stitching. Another great feature of wool is that it springs back, so it resists creases and folds. This is another factor that makes it ideal for show quilts, since those are always getting folded and shipped somewhere.
Disadvantages of Using Wool Batting
Probably the biggest factor that keeps people from using wool on a regular basis is the expense; it can cost between 50-60% more for wool batting than for 100% natural cotton. Actually, when I buy wool wholesale, it’s twice as expensive as cotton, but when I price it for sale to my long arm customers, I narrow that gap so it isn’t as much of a sticker shock.
Another important factor is that lots of people are allergic to wool, so it’s not a good idea to use wool in a quilt you are gifting unless you know for sure the recipient is not allergic. When you use wool, it’s even more important that you label your quilts with the fiber content so that people know what to expect. I wouldn’t ever use wool in a baby blanket; you just never know if it might irritate their skin or cause an adverse reaction. I’m allergic to wool myself, so I don’t snuggle under the wool quilts I’ve made, but it’s not a problem to have it in the house or quilt with it since I don’t have prolonged contact with the wool as I am working.
Wool is typically not going to be pure white, so if you have a quilt with lots of white fabric, it might cause a slight yellowish cast to the fabric that you find undesirable. Also, because of the open loft, if you have a light colored quilt top and a darker quilt backing, you might see the back through the top, especially if you quilt densely like I do. Ask me how I know. 🙂
If you’ve never used wool before, you should try it at least once! You don’t have to invest in an entire roll; get a craft size and make a couple of smaller wall hangings to try it out.
All in all, I really like quilting with wool, so I’ll probably try out what QD has to offer, since I like the fact that it’s heat bonded & therefore more environmentally friendly.
- Machine washable
- Little to no shrinkage
- Natural, renewable, environmentally friendly
- Resists folds & creases
- Great stitch definition by hand or machine
- Can be expensive; many people are allergic
Have you used wool in a quilt before? What did you think of it? If you haven’t, do you think you’ll try it now? Let me know what you think!
Want to know what batting I carry here in the studio? Here’s a link! If you’re interested in trying any of the batting I carry, I will sell batting off my bolts, and sometimes I have smaller leftover pieces you can purchase at a discount.
What batting would you like me to talk about next?