What Quilt Batting Should I Use for my Photo Quilt?

Today, we are going to talk about the middle child that often gets ignored or very little attention when we are planning our photo quilt. Sandwiched between your gorgeous photo quilt topper and your specially chosen backing is the middle layer called batting. So let’s take a look at this “middle child” and what you need to know to make sure your photo quilt turns out perfectly!

When choosing batting for your photo quilt, you need to make these five choices: the loft of the batting (low, mid, or high), the maximum distance the batting requires between stitches to perform properly, the size of the batting that fits your photo quilt, what color of batting works for the fabrics in your quilt (natural, white, or black), whether to choose cotton, cotton/polyester blend, wool, bamboo fiber content, and the washability of the batting. Once you decide on the size of the photo blocks for your photo quilt and decide if you are going to quilt over them or leave them unquilted, you can then decide on the batting. This is going to be the most important decision because each batting has a maximum stitch distance listed that tells you how far apart the stitches can be for them to perform properly. If your largest photo block or area to be unquilted is six inches, you will need to find a batting that that allows at least 6 inches of space between stitching. Once you have made all of these decisions you can easily choose a batting that will be perfect!

We are going to dive into each of these considerations a little deeper, so grab your coffee or juice and let’s keep reading. I encourage you to make sure you read this BEFORE you start your photo quilt so you can have a quilt that keeps your memories preserved perfectly!

What is Quilt Batting Loft?

Loft is the thickness of the batting. Batting comes in a number of different lofts. Usually, cotton is low-loft and polyester tends to be higher loft.

Which Batting Loft is Best For a Photo Quilt?

I have made many photo quilts, and the answer to this comes down to personal preference and the desired effect you are looking for in your quilt.

First, are you going to be quilting on your photos or just stitching in the ditch around your photos?

Let’s look at some examples.

This quilt has a low loft batting. The stitching was made to compliment the lines in the photo and add to the movement in the photos. It’s a beautiful effect. A high-loft batting would just get “squished” and be of no benefit in this situation.

This quilt has a medium loft batting in it. The quilting was meant to give the subject in the photo block dimension and make the subject “pop” by quilting down the background and leaving the subject free to shine!

In the next example, we are looking at high-loft batting. If you can’t find a high-loft batting that you like, you can always put two layers of batting in your quilt, which will accomplish the same look! I would use the high loft batting for baby quilts and cozy snuggly photo quilts. High loft batting is a very suitable choice when you are doing a simple blocked quilt and you stitch in the ditch around the photo.

If you aren’t familiar with some of the stitching terms I am using, I think you would love to read this article that explains all the different quilting techniques for photo quilts! This will really get your creative juices flowing!

I think, looking at these examples, you can see that low, medium, and high loft batting ALL have a place in the world of photo quilts! There is just so much fun to be had playing with the different effects you can create with the different lofts!

How Far Apart Can Quilting Stitches Be on a Photo Quilt?

The answer to this question if found on the quilt batting packaging. Most quilt batting packages have a “maximum recommended distance between stitches” on the packaging or in the literature about the batting. These distances can range from 4 inches up to 12 inches!

Why is it important to follow the maximum recommended distance between stitches for quilt batting?

Each manufacturer has tested their batting to avoid the following problems:

  • To stop the shifting of the batting (especially when it is washed).
  • To keep the quilt from sagging.
  • To help keep the stitching threads from breaking.
  • To help prevent the piecing from coming undone/ripping/pulling out when used and washed.
  • To keep the batting from bunching up in the open areas.

So if the batting says that you can quilt up to 10 inches apart, you should be good to use that recommendation and feel that your quilt will be safe.

I must add a little word of wisdom: many quilters go by the “no bigger than a fist rule” for the distance between their stitches. For quilts that are going to be used and washed and loved on, it is best to design your quilting to be closer together to make sure you don’t have any problems with your photo quilt, regardless of what the quilt batting recommends.

I have put together some resources for you about all kinds of quilt batting!


Battings for Photo Quilt by Maximum Stitch Distance Between Stitches

***The most important thing to know when choosing your batting is the MAXIMUM STITCH DISTANCE.

I have put together is a document that has the basic information about the batting organized by MAXIMUM STITCH DISTANCE.

Here is how this works. If I am using a photo block that is 8×8 inches and I know I don’t want any quilting on the photo, I will go to this resource list by max stitch size and look at what batting is available in that has 8 inch or larger maximum stitch distance. This way, when I don’t quilt on my photo blocks, I know that my batting will perform as it should! It has really proved helpful!

Manufacturer Website Links for Quilt Batting Information

Hobbs Company Website

Downloadable Chart for Hobbs Battings

The Warm Company products

Quilters Dream Products

Fairfield Batting Products

Now this next one is a jewel that I will use as a resource forever! I will be laminating this and keeping it handy!

Downloadable Comparison Chart of Main Batting Companies

How to Choose the Right Size Batting for Your Photo Quilt

Here is a measurement chart of what the typical prepackaged batting sizes are that you can purchase precut. These really are a wonderful resource if you only make a few quilts a year and don’t want to have money tied up in batting. When choosing a precut batting size, always make sure that the batting is at least 2 inches larger on every side. This gives you space to quilt off the edge of your quilt top and then trim everything up nice!

CRIB28 X 5236 X 5445 X 60
TWIN39 X 7570 X 9072 X 90
TWIN XL39 X 8070 X 9072 X 90
FULL54 X 7580 X 9081 X 96
QUEEN60 X 8090 X 10890 X 108
KING78 X 80108 X 95120 X 120
CAL KING72 X 84102 X 100120 X 120

How to Decide What Type of Batting To Use For Your Photo Quilt

When choosing a type of batting for your Photo Quilt you have several choices: cotton, cotton/polyester blend, wool, polyester, and bamboo fiber content. Fiber content is what the batting is made out of. Here is a little summary that will help you decide which fiber content is right for your Photo Quilt:

  • Cotton – Cotton batting feels like a thick flannel. It is lightweight and very breathable. Cotton is also a natural fiber and usually needs to be quilted closer together unless it has a scrim on it. Cotton washes better without pilling but does typically shrink some when washed. When it shrinks a little, it gives a slightly vintage puckered look that has a lot of aesthetic appeal.
  • Cotton/Polyester Blend – Blend batting typically costs a little less than 100% cotton batting. It also shrinks a little less when washed and is the most typically used batting. If you need your stitches to be further apart for your quilt design, look for a batting that has a scrim felted or needle punched onto it on one or both sides.
  • Polyester – Polyester batting is typically the least expensive, lightweight, and has good durability. This is a good choice if you are hand-quilting your quilt because the needle slides through the polyester very easily. With polyester being a man-made fiber, it adds warmth without adding weight as it isn’t as “breathable”. Make sure to purchase a polyester batting that says that it will not beard (fibers pulling up through the stitches as you are quilting).
  • Wool – Wool is also a natural fiber and has the benefit of being fire resistant. Wool does not burn, so it would be a good protective shield when sleeping. Make sure that the work is pre-shrunk as it shrinks a lot if not. The fibers of wool are like corkscrews and so they nestle or felt up real tight when washed. Wool also resists folding and creasing and shows off fancy machine quilting well. Wool batting is warm and lightweight at the same time. This batting is usually higher priced.
  • Bamboo – Bamboo is a natural fiber which makes it a breathable choice. Bamboo has a nice drape and has a nice texture when quilted.

All of these different fiber types work will for a Photo Quilt. Your main consideration for choosing a fiber blend is truly the end use and personal preference. For my typical photo quilts, I use a cotton polyester blend as I can find these in many stitch distances, they are affordable, light weight, easy to machine quilt, and wash quite well. I have chosen to purchase in bulk a cotton/poly by the yard that has a 10″ maximum stitch distance. This way, I can use it on all of my photo quilts and leave the photo blocks quilting free or do custom quilting on them. If I need more loft, I use two layers of this batting.

Make sure to bookmark this post which outlines by maximum stitch distance for each batting. I will be adding to it as necessary to keep us all updated!

Photo Quilt Block Quilts Can be Washed – So Choose a Batting That Washes Well

Choose a batting for your Photo Quilt that can be washed! When you use Photo Quilt Blocks in your photo quilt, your photo quilt is absolutely washable! Most battings list their washability on the packaging.

This download by APQS is an amazing resource, along with my article here, that lists whether you have to prewash, soak, or can start stitching immediately with your batting. I have never prewashed my battings as I love the vintage puckered look that the small amount of shrinking produces on the photo quilt when washed.

I sure hope this article has been helpful to you and has cleared up any questions you might have when choosing your batting for your Photo Quilt.

  1. Decide on the loft you want for your quilt.
  2. Decide what the maximum distance is between your quilting stitches.
  3. Decide what size you need your quilt batting to be to fit your quilt top.
  4. Decide what fiber content you want for your quilt batting.
  5. Choose a batting that you can wash.

After you have made all of these decisions, you are ready to get quilting with the knowledge that you have made educated decisions for the most beautiful photo quilt ever!

Happy quilting!

May your stitches and photos continue to tell tales

of love and laughter, and keep your memories alive!


Lori McCroskey is the principal creator of PhotoQuiltBlocksBlog.com, a website dedicated to quilts, projects, and gifts created with photos printed on fabric. She also has a business PhotoQuiltBlocks.com where you can have her print your photos on fabric for you! Inspired by her love for sewing, scrapbooking, and family, Lori has a passion for capturing memories in useable gifts, quilts, and crafts that get your photos off your phone, out of the album, freed from a frame, and into memorable keepsakes that your friends and family will treasure. Learn more about Lori here!

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