How Soft are YOUR Quilts? Open Line Friday

Machine Quilting, Lori Kennedy

Good Morning, Quilters!

Do you make YOUR bed before or after your first cup of coffee?

Are YOUR quilts soft?

Machine Quilting, Lori Kennedy

The softest quilts in our house are the quilts I made for our twin daughters when they went off to college.

As you can see, they are very, very heavily stitched.

And yet, they are as soft as butter!

Machine Quilting, Lori KennedyIt is amazing to me how many times I have read or heard people say they don’t want to quilt their quilts too heavily because it will cause them to be stiff. Machine Quilting, Lori KennedyThe College Quilts were stitched on Hobbs Heirloom Premium Wool batting and have been abused by throwing them into college dormitory washers and dryers over and over again.

They get better and better the more they are jumped on by the dogs, slept under, washed, dried and generally…..loved!

Machine Quilting, Lori Kennedy

So why the myth of heavy quilting and stiff quilts?

Is it like blue jeans–stiff right out of the dryer–and then they get softer as the day goes on?


What do YOU think?

Do YOU have any stiff quilts?  What batting did you use?  Are the quilts well-worn or hardly used?

We’d love to hear!


Laurie sent me this photo of her Kitty Quilt and asked for suggestions how to quilt it.

Kitty QuiltLet’s brainstorm some ideas for her.

How would YOU quilt this?

We’d LOVE to hear!

Machine Quilting, Lori Kennedy

I think I’ll take a little nap while I consider the options….


PS…All tutorials, images and information are the property of Lori Kennedy at The Inbox Jaunt and are intended for personal use only.  Feel free to re-blog, pin or share with attribution to The Inbox Jaunt.  For all other purposes, please contact me at  Thanks!

81 thoughts on “How Soft are YOUR Quilts? Open Line Friday

  1. I quilt my quilts to death, but they are never stiff! I use 100% cotton batting, Warm and Natural or JoAnn’s. They may start out feeling stiff, but after washing, they get softer and softer.

  2. I will have to try the wool batting as I just remember wool being scratchy and shrinking when washed, but I read more quilters are using it, also as a second batting. Amazing, the thing about quilts is they really last a long time so the gift of one is worth the time.
    Have a happy day quilters.

  3. Schools of your little fish in the background, Lori, would be so cute. Something soft – feathers or flourishes in the cat bodies. And, I agree with the bling suggestion for the collars! After all, kitties deserve the finest.

  4. The “stiffness factor” isn’t really a myth. If stitching density is the goal/process but a soft “drapey” quilt is still wanted, then a single, or double, layer of wool or silk batting (haven’t tried bamboo) would be advised. Stitching densely on an 80/20 blend will result in a more firm finish that will provide wonderful support/shaping for a wall quilt. Even after many launderings, it will have a firmer ‘hand’ than if wool or silk had been used. In most of the quilts I stitch (my own and clients’), a single layer of a blend is used and the density is moderately dense………so that texture and loft is not lost.

  5. I made a quilt for my mother-in-law, and she really liked the appearance of it. But, one day when she was admiring a quilt on our bed, she noticed that it was softer than hers, and wanted to know why. My husband (her son) told her to launder it. She did, and she was happier with the feel after that! Some people like the crisp look of a brand new quilt, but others like the feel of a much used, much laundered quilt.

  6. In my limited experience I think they soften when they are washed. MANY quilters do not wash before gifting or sending on to their customers. One of my first ones was sent to a long armer and it wasn’t even quilted heavily AND was a t shirt quilt and when I got it back I swear it could have stood alone in a corner. I did the second one myself and they were gifted to the same person and I never heard any complaints on either and they wash them like crazy, having both kids and a boxer. Since then I always wash my quilts and they turn to butter, as you say. Love your blog’s.

    • I always wash my quilts after quilting them and before gifting them. It takes out any random marks and the inevitable soiling that happens when you handle a quilt during the quilting process. Also, my quilts are intended to be used, and thus, periodically washed. By washing them first, I can ensure that the colors are set and the stitches haven’t come undone. Besides, I love the slightly shrunken look – it gives the quilt character.

      • I notice that the colors seem less vibrant after washing. I would prefer that the colors stay the same as when new, but that isn’t possible with fabric. Happens with clothing all of the time!

  7. i recently made a quilt as you go quilt [i needed a baby present quick, she was born, believe it or not, just seconds after my last stitch!!!] so there was almost no quilting at all. all the girls said wow, soooo soft, i would have said flimsy, but after washing, all the quilts turn soft and comfy.
    could you maybe show us a close up of the quilting you did on your daughters quilts, i think theres alot to learn from there.
    thanks for being such a good teacher,

    • I agree with shoshana – I would love to see close up photos of the quilting on your daughters’ quilt.

      • I find I can tap on Lori’s images on my iPhone and use my fingers to enlarge them. Obviously doesn’t work on a regular computer ?.

    • Not only would I like to see a close-up of the quilting on the stripe-pieced quilt, but I’d love to see close-ups of the quilting on the whole cloth quilt that’s acting as the bedspread. More please!

  8. I use Hobbs 80/20 on all of my quilts. Some are softer than others. The softest one I have is quilted to death almost. I has a lot of piecing seams and it is queen size. Washing definitely makes them softer but other than the density of the cotton fabric used, I still can’t figure out what makes the difference on mine. Some are stiffer than others regardless of the density of the quilting.

    I sure hope you follow up on the cat quilt. I would love to see how it comes out. You have already had some very good suggestions. I would stitch in the ditch around the cats and the borders and probably stare at it for a while. LOL

  9. I am considering using a wool batting but after I read the care instructions I was a bit concerned that it would require too much special attention for washing and drying. I want something that can be thrown into my machines without worrying about it. Is the batting you mentioned 100% wool? Do you have any experience using two battings to make the quilt stand out more? I have been using 100% cotton battings lately but I find they are very thin.
    Thanks in advance your advice.

    • I have not experimented with multiple batting in one quilt. I have used several 100% wool battings and washed and dried them and they hold up extremely well. Wool is my only choice for bed quilts now.

  10. One of my daughter’s favorite quilts is one I quilted to death. I did it as an experiment to see if they’d really be stiff or if they’d be soft. It’s so soft and cuddly and she sometimes drags it around when morning comes to early. (She just turned 18.). Now I plan all of my quilting to be more dense. I love the way they wash and drape.

  11. When they are first quilted, they can be stiff. But once you wash them, the fibers must relax and the batting puffs back up (even the low loft ones), and they take on a new life with the puckers and valleys that are created. My bed quilt is getting VERY soft, but also very worn in spots. Like a well-worn pair of jeans, I won’t want to give it up once it starts to disintegrate.

  12. I have found this question and the responses very interesting. My softest quilts are the ones I hand-quilted, even ones from years (and years!) ago using cheap polyester threads and battings. This could be because they are not as densely quilted as my machine-quilted ones, which always feel much stiff to me despite using 100% cotton threads and cotton or wool battings . But, I also don’t wash my quilts nearly as often as others say they do. Perhaps this helps to relax the stitching? I’ll have to experiment and see. Much nicer to cozy up with a soft quilt than than a stiff one.

  13. This post reminds me of my growing-up years at home. I refused a ‘top sheet’ and always told my mom I preferred to sleep with a well-worn quilt right on me. The ones I am thinking of were very soft and lightweight, yet held just the right amount of warmth. Nice memory!

  14. Hobbs 80/20 is my “go to” batting. It machine launders well and quickly, important quality for baby quilts especially. It has also held its shape well in the 7.5’x16′ pictorial quilt I made 15 years ago for our church sanctuary. Have used it in both grandsons’ quilts, and the more heavily quilted one is much softer than the minimally quilted one.

  15. I have a question about softer quilts….. When you wash your quilts, do you put them in the dryer? I have always made sure that I could hang them outside to dry and they do not seem quite so soft and cuddly. Is it the dryer that does the trick?

    • Gosh, I would worry about hanging a wet quilt. I used to put them in the dryer to get most of the water out and then drape them over a drying rack.

      • I have a front loading washer and it is amazing for the amount of moisture it removes by its spinning…..hanging does not seem to be a problem except for it being a little stiffer than I would like, as would any cotton that is hung out. I’ll try the dryer next time…

    • I usually put them in the dryer any get them3/4 dry. Then I hang them over a bannister to finish drying.

  16. Thank you for sharing. To answer your question, I make my bed after breakfast.
    For the quilt that is on my bed I used a wool batting. It is not heavily quilted, just hand quilted in the ditch. It is light and fluffy even after several washings.

  17. I do have some densely quilts that are a bit stiff even after washing. They do get softer with multiple washings. They are all premium quality cotton fabric and have cotten batts but were quilted with premium quality polyester (Isacord) thread.mCould the thread be the stiffening agent? I recently quilted very densely with 60 wt thread and that quilt seems a bit softer, but I also used an 80/20 cotton/poly batt so I’m not sure what made the difference. I will definitely try a wool or silk batt next. Living in the south, the lighter weight of a cotton batt was preferable I thought, but maybe I am learning something new! Thanks for sharing all this helpful info with us, Lori!

  18. First I would like to say I make my bed as soon as I get out unless my husband is still asleep then it is his job to make the bed, LOL!! It becomes my first finished job of the day.

    I heavily quilt all my quilts as I really like trying new patterns and seem to fall in love with the heavily quilted tops. I use to use Warm and Natural batting but last winter I found Dream Green made from recycled plastic bottles. It is half the price of other batting and is wonderful to sew on. My quilts are very soft and after washing they are even better. I have only one quilt that is a bit firmer as I used thin batting because I am making my Lord Of The Rings quilt into a duvet cover for our bed.

    It is due to Lori that I have gotten a passion for FMQing and enjoy it sometimes more then I do designing of my quilts.

  19. Softest quilt is a Cotton and Steele double gauze. As I quilt I name them, “Bookshelf”‘ has silk batting and standard quilting cotton as backing. Light as a feather, soft as snow. Backing needed washed to soften. Other than brain shifting to half inch seams I loved the double gauze. I’m anxious to try a wool batting!

  20. One variable that may have an impact on the softness or heaviness might be the amount of piecing. Lori, your quilt has large pieces of fabric – I wonder if a quilt with many, many small pieces and the additional fabric in all of those seam allowances needs to be considered? Does anyone have experience with both types of quilts and can comment?

    • I think you’re right on in your thinking! Many seams in a quilt will make it heavier with many layers at the seams. I’ve even had my quilting machine needle get hung up/break where too many seams come together. Such heaviness would naturally make a quilt more stiff.

  21. I’ve used Hobbs wool battings in about 6 quilts so far. There are things I like about it and things I don’t like. But one thing I’ve noticed is from my first of these (early 2013) to my most recent (last month), the thickness of the wool batt (out of the package, not the effect of washing) has dropped to about half. I don’t have a lot of confidence in buying these if the quality is that variable, and I don’t like the THIN wool battings I’ve used the most recent couple of times. I’m wondering if anyone else has experienced a change in the quality of batting, especially wool, over the recent few years. Thanks.

  22. I use a long-arm and don’t always have perfect balance between the top thread and bobbin tension. I think washing helps even out the thread tension, so I don’t worry too much if I have the bobbin a little tighter than the top, so that the stitches tend to lock on the back rather than perfectly centered in the batting. I would welcome Lori’s comments on this or other quilters. Thank you for any feedback/suggestions. P.S. I usually use pre-wound poly bobbins from Superior Thread, and Magnifico top thread.

  23. I have only made one big quilt. That was when I had just started to quilt. Because of its size I had it quilted by a long arm quilter. She used Warm and Natural cotton and it was stiff as a board. We tried using it on our bed, but because we don’t have a footboard it kept sliding off the bed in the middle of the night and we would wake up freezing! I ended up putting it on the guest room bed and ( I’m embarrassed to say) buying a nice warm comforter for our bed. I guess I should try washing it a few times to see if that helps, but our area is close to drought condition and we have to conserve water. I am making a scrappy quilt now from a Bonnie Hunter class that I took last year. I hope we figure out the secret to a soft quilt because I would really like to use this one on our bed! I am going to quilt this one myself.
    I always clean the kitchen first and then I make the bed. My mother taught me that. She said if a neighbor pops in in the morning, she will see your kitchen, not your bedroom. I still do it in that order to this day! LOL!

    • Rebecca… I had a similar experience. The ONLY quilt I ever had long arm quilted also came out very stiff, and it also had warm and natural inside it. We call it the ‘cardboard’ quilt. It’s a king size so it was really too large to quilt on a domestic sewing machine.

      It really saddens me because I spent so much time making it and it’s so pretty. Now we only use it occasionally and it’s all folded up in the linen closet. I should try washing it and see if that helps. The pattern is Glorified Nine Patch so it’s all blocks, no borders with scalloped edges. I don’t know if that makes a difference in the stiffness or not.

      I use Dream Poly and it’s nice and soft. I used it many years ago to hand quilt and my needle went through it like butter… I LOVED it. Right now I have several tops ready to quilt and I’ll use the Dream Poly. I use Warm and Natural for art quilts and charity quilts and I’ve never had the stiffness that the Glorified Nine Patch has.

      I always make the bed soon after getting up, then it’s done. It only takes 5 minutes. I clean up the kitchen in the evening so it’s all done.

  24. I do the same thing Rebecca. I make breakfast, clean the kitchen and then make the bed. My mother said the exact same thing.

    I find that washing and drying my quilts in the dryer makes them softer. Nothing as good as snuggling underneath something handmade. Yummy!!!!

  25. I make my bed right away, while the cats have run on ahead in eager anticipation of breakfast. (Feeding them is the second task of the day.)

    I would try to work in some cat’s paws into the background (with the fish). That’s a sailing term, to describe the little ripples that a light breeze makes on the water.

  26. Hi Lori, I LOVE the quilts you made for your daughters! I love the simplicity of the piecing of the wide strips of solid colours (or is this actually all one gradient fabric?) so that all your beautiful stitching work shows up so well. I am definitely a FMQ lover and not a fan of piecing because the most fun I have is quilting and a bunch of pieces and different prints etc. just get in my way, not to mention all that piecing takes away quilting time! LOL I am saving your picture for inspiration 🙂

    • oops, forgot to talk about quilt softness … I am still experimenting with batting and I’m enjoying reading all the opinions here. I haven’t tried wool yet, but I have a Hobbs one on hand so I’m going to get to it and see how it compares to my bamboo/cotton and 100% cotton ones for quilting and for softness. So glad to hear that yours have been laundered over and over – wasn’t looking forward to the laying flat to dry thing described on the bag!

  27. On the cat quilt, I would play with the idea of quilting in some facial features in the head and some body structures in the lower portion (could you do something to separate legs from body?). If this doesn’t work, I would be tempted to echo inside the cats. I would like to see a pretty curvy design in the background areas and a row of swirls in the collars. I would stitch in the ditch around all of the cats first. Wool is very expensive so I haven’t played with it. I mostly use 80/20 blend, but also all cotton. Different battings require different amounts of stitching so this also plays into my decision of which batting to use too. It is true that quilts with multiple seams (like the Bonnie Hunter type) are much heavier quilts to begin with (I do these type and ones with fewer pieces). My quilts do soften with use. I typically don’t wash them often. I have lots of quilts and I rotate them. I agree with the soften like a thick drapery description of heavily quilted quilts! I think everything plays a role (piecing amount, thread type and thickness, batting choice, size of quilt and amount of quilting). I once read somewhere that denser quilting allows less air trapping which plays a role in warmth, heaviness, and texture. There are some interesting comments here and I love to hear about everyone’s experience. Lori, your blog is wonderful, instructional and thought provoking.

  28. This is a great topic! My mom always asks me how to make the quilt I made her softer, and I say wash it! lol 😀 I guess there is a fear of “ruining” the quilt by washing it, but it’s really quite the opposite (as long as it’s washed properly).

  29. The ones made for my grandchildren with heavy quilting are now very soft from washing and use. They were stuff originally. I used a very light weight cotton batting.

  30. I’m curious. I’ve never used wool batting because wool sweaters make me itchy. I’m not allergic, I just don’t like the feeling. So, I’m wondering if there would be the same issue with a wool batting. My fave so far has been Warm and Natural and my quilts are very soft and cuddly.

    • I think I know what you mean, as wool sweaters give me a “TAKE IT OFF!!!!!” feeling. On over something else, they are great, but not against my skin. I have one quilt that is mine, with wool batting. It is soft, light, and luxurious feeling. It does not bother me a bit.

      • I took a class to make a Lone Star quilt at a quilt store. We were rushed to choose fabrics that we liked and thought went together. At that time, I hadn’t had much experience in fabric selection.
        I chose batiks. We were to finish piecing at home. I decided that I didn’t like some of the fabrics, so did some “reverse sewing” and put others in. That didn’t seem to help.
        It never did look good to me. I had it quilted. I took odds and ends of batting to the quilter.
        I still don’t like it. It is very stiff even after being washed.
        What to do? It’s in a closet.

  31. I am still using Windows 7 oin my desktop. I right click on the image, choose view image, the them the image appears in a separate window. On the menu bar at the top of the screen, you can adjust the image, i.e. zoom in (Ctrl++)…or you can save the image as a picutre, and then enlarge the picture.

  32. I used 2 layers of Cotton batting on my bed quilt circa 1996. It is very soft. It was an early quilt and I thought 2 layers would make it warmer. It did make it very heavy. Today I would use wool. I love how wonderful it makes the quilting look.
    I know when I do heavy quilting the quilt gets softer as I manipulate it.

  33. For the cat quilt, I think I’d do swirls in the cats – for nice curly fur – and then just gently wavy horizontal lines in the background, with the occasional fishbone thrown in. And yes, definitely bling for the collars – maybe stitched in “The Twist” or ribbon candy design. OR if you don’t like the idea of curly fur then a flames design could perhaps give the impression of fur??

  34. My grandmother pieced and hand quilted three quilts for each of her three daughters. I have two sets of these antique quilts. One set, my mother’s, was well washed as we used them for cover to keep warm. The other set, my aunt’s, never saw any use and were stored in a cedar lined blanket chest for years and years. Mother’s quilts, though well worn, are much softer than my aunt’s quilts. Also, auntie’s quilts were dry cleaned occasionally. I think this added to the stiffness. What should I wash those previously dry cleaned quilts in?

    • I think I will ask that as an Open Line Friday question next week…I have never really “studied” this–I just know what I do.
      So tune in on Friday, Sept 1

  35. I have one quilt that I made that just never did soften up – it was a quilt I made for my youngest daughter. I had made many quilts just like it before, more of a comforter – pieced top, double layer poly batting and tied. All the others are soft and snuggly and warm. This one is just stiff, despite multiple washings. I have never been able to figure out whether it was the fabric I used for the backing or the type of batting. Quite a mystery! I love how my machine quilted quilts feel after washing, even heavily quilted they have such a nice drape. I generally use Warm and Natural and they get better and better as you use and wash them!

  36. Great topic! I’ve used lightweight bamboo batting for a summer quilt – drapes beautifully, soft as butter with medium density quilting after one wash. A 25 year old densely quilted 9 patch using warm and natural cotton is also butter soft; laundered many many times. I’ve also been hesitant to use wool batting on a quilt that will be washed often but now I’ll go for it!

  37. I make my bed after breakfast. I learned on the Today Show a few years back that you should wait 1/2 hour to make your bed so any night time sweating will have time to dry. Well, I do fall into the night time sweats category, so I let the ceiling fan do it’s job while I eat breakfast. Sorry if this is TMI.
    My quilts are stiff. Probably because I am afraid to wash them. I should check with people I have gifted them to to see how theirs have fared.
    I have only used cotton or poly or a blend in my quilts. The wool sounds wonderful but I can’t even go into a knitting/yarn store without my eyes being bothered by the wool fibers floating in the air.

    • Pam, me too… I only wash sheets, etc.. once a week. However things have changed in our house.. I bought fabric to sew for a friend and my husband fell in love with it. I started to design a quilt for him and he said, “Don’t piece it or quilt it…leave it whole and one layer of fabric.” Thus I ran wide fabric borders down each side with some decorative stitching and across the bottom and it became a bedspread. He loved to take naps on top of it. Being single layer, even tho queen size, it goes easily in washer/dryer. Then in April he broke a leg bone down in his ankle and was put in a hard boot cast, 24-7, for 4 months from knee to toes. After the first week, he asked for his flannel quilt from the sofa to be used on his bed. He was getting tangled up with the boot. And so it has gone..sleeping under quilt and on top of bedspread. The quilt was batted with flannel also for maximum drapability..LOL,,, how do you spell that! And as long as I can wash/dry the two, he has left sheets behind forever, And the boot when his ankle healed. And for inquiring minds, we have two double beds side by side due to history of his hip surgeries with restless sleep.
      I have really needed this discussion for years I see, Thank you all, for the informative discussion. I have another story but for a different post.

  38. I think heavy stitching does make a quilt feel firm. I densely quilted one for my Partner who uses it only on top of another — he says it isn’t as soft. I took a long arm class last year and was told if I keep my stitch length at 10 or less , it will always be soft.
    so I have been doing that ( btw the not so soft quilt has been washed many times–our cat likes to “play hairball” with that quilt)

  39. About 2 years after starting to quilt, a very close friend asked me to make a quilt from her deceased beloved’s plaid shirts. She showed me pictures from the web….just 6 inch squares with quilting 1/4 inch from and along the sides of the squares. Looked very easy! She wanted double bed size and paid for all supplies. Being friends for 30 years with them, I couldn’t charge for my work. I was surprised that the 9 shirts yielded enough squares for 2 quilts. One would to go their son and the other to their daughter, both middle aged. The daughter decided she wanted hers to be extra
    soft and for me to use 3 layers of batting. (Skipping some nitty-gritty part of story here.) My friend had wanted 2 layers of 100% cotton Warm and Nat. I made up 15″ square sample quilts, one with 2 layers and one with 3 layers. Daughter insisted
    on 3 layers.. I was sooooo ignorant. The first one for son turned out just fine and my friend was very happy with it. My Dear Spouseman had helped me hold and turn and turn at my sewing machine until it was finished. Give him a medal !
    I didn’t have the money to employ a longarmer. For the 3 layer, I eventually turned
    the sandwich over to my friend and just told her the disks in my neck could not do it.
    She took it to a store and paid for it to be done. But they used a jigjaw puzzle overall
    pattern in their quilting long arm and my friend and daughter didn’t like it. The squares were obliterated instead of being emphasized. The quilt was so stiff, they had a hard time folding it to transport in her car. I have not asked any questions since ! Thus I have no follow up info. My friend took the samples I had made and had them framed in nice wood frames for the 2 grandsons. The shirts were mostly red, white, and dark blue with some white and taupe. I used navy for the backing. Story done…You can laugh now !!! Ok, you can guffaw ! We do…now!

  40. I am new to longarming and just finished a baby quilt for our niece and nephew. It has large pieces, so not too many seams. The fabric is cotton, which i prewashed. I used Nature’s Touch cotton batting and Aurifil 50 weight cotton thead. The thing is a beast…more like a playpad than a cuddly quilt. It is fmq’d all over. Do i wash it and hope for the best? Or gift it and not think about it? So disappointing!

  41. Pingback: Open Line Friday–What’s YOUR Choice of Batting | The Inbox Jaunt

  42. yes i have one quilt that I quilted very heavily, it was mostly a white quilt( it was an exercise in negative space for me) . The batting was a wool /poly mix which i actually like a lot. The problem is it is a white quilt and in some parts i quilted green feathers , and so you could see it I had to go over it a couple of times to make the featured feather stand out. In my last quilt i used an old piece of poly batting i had laying around and calico, I quilted it in a much more open style and it is a lot softer. I dont think the batting has a lot to do with it , although i personally dont like bamboo. I think it is how much thread you are overlaying the layers with , making it denser and stiffer.

  43. i noticed on the close up of your daughters quilts, there is a motif that is kind of a leaf design, I am thinking of doing a quilt that is kind of a modern welsh inspired quilt and that motif is quite prominent in a lot of welsh quilts. I was wondering if you have been inspired by welsh quilts in your quilting adventures??

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