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Stiff Quilt - how do I soften it?

by Marion

This quilt is constructed with wool batting.<br><br>Click on each thumbnail below for a larger image<br><br>

This quilt is constructed with wool batting.

Click on each thumbnail below for a larger image

The pattern of machine quilting that I chose made my quilt stiff.

How can I fix this?


My suggestions for softening the quilt are:

  1. Wash it, and...
  2. Use it

The wear and tear of use should soften it somewhat. But the best advice is to prevent it from happening. Next time chose a batting that works better with the chosen quilting design.

I'm assuming that you've got a lot of dense quilting on your quilt. If that is correct, I recommend that you use a wool batting like Hobbs Heirloom which is a washable, (cool water, little agitation) 100% wool batting.

The advantages of using wool are:

  1. It can handle uneven stitching across the top of your quilt.

    When I took my very first machine quilting class, I was told to quilt evenly across my quilt so that it would lay flat once it was finished.

    To this day when I teach, if my students are using a cotton batting, I recommend the same thing.

    The reason is you can't block a cotton batting into a square shape. The fibers just don't have that kind of memory.

    On the other hand, a wool batt can be dampened and pulled into a square shape (held with pins). Once it dries, it will hold this shape. (Think of how knitters will block the pieces of a sweater to shape them.)

    If you've got uneven quilting across your quilt, just block it out.

  2. It's incredibly 'smushy'. It compresses down so much smaller than a cotton batt. That means there's more room for your hands under the arm of your sewing machine. A huge help if you're working on a quilt 'the size of Egypt'!

  3. It adds dimension Wool puffs up where there's no quilting, and again, it smushes down to nothing where there's dense stitching. A lot of dimension without the additional work of trapunto. You can't get that effect from cotton.

    I've tried a silk batting in one of our patterns (the red quilt above), and though it stayed pliable and has a nice drape, if you're after dimension for your feathers, it isn't as good as wool. I couldn't justify the additional expense.

If there wasn't a lot of dense stitching and you aren't interested in the texture, then move to a lighter weight cotton batting like Quilters Dream in the Select or Request weight. Both will create flat looking quilts (I really like that for my reproduction fabrics).

Readers, what do you say?!

How would you handle a finished quilt that's too stiff for your liking? Please share your thoughts and experiences using the comments link below. Thank you!

Marion, I hope this information has been helpful.


Julie Baird

Comments for Stiff Quilt - how do I soften it?

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Softening a stiff quilt
by: Anonymous

Try washing it with tennis balls or a pair of cheap white sneakers. (Remove the laces). Use white vinegar as you would fabric softener - about 2-4 tablespoons. This is a great natural fabric softener and keeps the fabric looking new. Will not leave an odor.

If it’s a well-made quilt it can handle the dryer once in a while and throw the sneakers or tennis balls in the dryer with it as well. It should make a significant difference after one time.

I’ve done this with several quilts and also to soften thick stiff linen duvets to the silky soft butter feeling the fabric is known for.

Good luck!

From the Editor: Terrific suggestions! I hadn't known about the vinegar.

Thank you for sharing!


Julie Baird

Stiff Quilt
by: Marion

Thanks for your ideas.

I actually paid a friend to machine quilt my quilt for me. When I got it home, it was beautiful. but would not stay on a bed and NOT warm at all. Too tight. All the batting had been sewn down flat. It was a Christmas gift a few years ago but my daughter told me it was not warm or comfortable. I will suggest she try washing it to loosen up the threads and batting.

Thanks for commenting.


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