Although cotton, polyester and wool are used for both quilt and upholstery batting, there are differences in the way the two are made. When you choose batting for your quilt, the thickness, size and type of fiber will determine how well the quilt wears. Quilt batting should be fluffy and provide warmth, since a quilt is essentially a blanket. Batting used for upholstery tends to be firmer and more dense than that used for quilting.
Both quilt batting and upholstery batting come in natural or synthetic fibers. When you choose quilt batting, loft is important. Loft is the weight of the batting, or filling, that the quilt will contain. A heavier loft results in a warmer quilt, while a light loft might be used for a summer quilt. Loft in upholstery batting is heavier, since a fluffy loft wouldn't wear well when used for furniture. Cotton made for upholstery batting is derived from first-cut cotton and finished to be the consistency of felt, since a fluffy, lighter batting such as that used for quilts, is not as durable.
Cotton batting is used in both upholstery and quilting batting. Cotton quilt batting is heavier than polyester batting even though it's thinner. Polyester quilt batting is thicker but lighter than cotton and also warmer. Polyester batting doesn't shrink when washed. Quilt batting also comes in cotton and polyester blends.
Polyester batting is used in upholstery to soften the edges of furniture. It is more of a foam consistency when used in upholstery than the type of batting used in quilting and very common in outdoor furniture and cushions because of its resistance to mildew. Wool batting is used for both quilts and upholstery, but it's more prevalent in upholstery because it is durable and long-wearing. Although wool can be washed, the availability of easy-care batting such as polyester and cotton blends makes them more popular for quilting.
Quilt vs. Upholstery Batting
Quilt and upholstery batting can be made of the same material, but the difference between the two is in the density. Although quilt batting has some uses in upholstery, it's more likely that a denser material would be used for that purpose. Quilt batting is not as durable as the more felted, thicker batting used in upholstery. When quilting, more loft in batting is desirable, so the dense material used for upholstery isn't practical. Quilt batting is usually washable; upholstery batting tends to clump when washed.