There are many ways to quilt a duvet or comforter and some methods are, quite frankly, better than others. Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about duvet quilting, quality, and performance (and the difference between a quilt, comforter, and duvet).
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If, like me, you never really considered the style of quilting used to construct your duvet, you’re in for a treat.
Knowing just a little bit about different quilting techniques can put you in a much better position to choose a duvet or comforter that will stand the test of time, look great, and perform well for many years.
What is quilting?
My wife’s aunt is an award-winning quilter, but I’ve never quite mastered the art myself. Patti’s quilts are absolutely stunning, featuring intricate stitching and inspiring motifs. These quilts go well beyond the average quilting techniques used in duvets and comforters, but they still have the same basic construction.
Quilting = joining three or more layers of fabric together with needle and thread (mechanically or by hand).
For duvets, the quilting process typically connects the top and bottom fabric covers of a duvet, effectively trapping the fiber fill between. For comforters, the quilting process is more likely to involve stitching together three or more layers of fabric, or a very thin layer of cotton or wool batting between two layers of fabric.
Why do duvets need quilting?
Duvets that have very little quilting or very poor quilting are basically an open fabric bag in which fiber fill can (and will) freely move around. This means your duvet or comforter will very quickly develop clumps of fill and become lumpy, unsightly, and not very comfortable to use.
Similarly, a comforter made up of several layers of material needs quilting in order to prevent the layers from slipping around.
What are common styles of quilting for duvets?
To keep duvet fill evenly distributed, manufacturers employ a variety of sewing techniques. The most common method is box stitch, followed by baffling.
What is box stitch quilting?
Box stitch is the most common duvet quilting technique and is where the duvet has a criss-cross pattern. This method creates lots of smaller boxes that contain an equal amount of fiber fill.
Box stitch construction helps distribute the duvet fill evenly to prevent lumps and cold spots. It’s common for lighter duvets and is also known as ‘sewn-through’ construction.
What is baffling for duvets?
Higher quality duvets are made using baffling or baffle boxes. Think of this as the 3D version of 2D box stitch.
By sewing extra strips of material between the bottom and top of the duvet shell, the manufacturer adds a little height to the overall structure of the duvet. This prevents the fill from getting compressed at the edges of each cube.
Baffling requires more skill, time, and materials, and is usually seen in more expensive duvets and those with a higher tog.
What are some other kinds of duvet quilting techniques?
Other, less common, duvet stitching techniques include:
- Button-tufting – using fabric buttons to stitch the layers of a duvet insert or comforter together; best for low-loft duvets with batting rather than loose fiber fill
- Quilt stitching – similar checkerboard pattern as baffle box stitch but with no fabric strips; best for lower fill power and lighter duvets
- Channel stitching – channels are sewn using parallel seams across the whole duvet; the fill can move up and down the channels, which can be helpful for adding more fill at your feet or on one side of the bed if you or your partner sleep cold
- Gusset stitching – often combined with baffling, gussets are reinforced fabric walls around the sides of the duvet that allow for more fill height for extra warmth.
Some pillows also have a gusset around the edges, the idea being to provide space for extra loft and insulation.
Why duvet quilting methods matter
It might seem very nerdy to consider the specific quilting technique used to make a duvet, but once you know a bit about quilting, it’s hard to ignore the fact that some methods are preferable to others.
For instance, while you’ll pay more for a duvet that is gusseted with baffling, the investment can be well worth it if you sleep cold or live somewhere with very cold winters.
However, if you’re like me and sleep hot, gusseting and baffling can be overkill. Indeed, such techniques may indicate that a duvet will feel too warm for comfort in most climates. I’ve slept under a gusseted, baffled down duvet and found it excruciatingly hot, even in the depths of winter.
If you hate having cold feet but otherwise tend to sleep hot, watch out for channel stitched duvets. Similarly, if you tend to poke your feet out from under the duvet but otherwise like a cozy cover, channel stitching could be exactly what you need for great sleep. Yes, these are opposite situations, but with some channel stitching designs you can shift most of the fill to the top or bottom of the duvet as desired.
Final thoughts on duvet quilting, quality, and performance
Before I wrap up, a note on nomenclature. I grew up in the UK, where we sometimes refer to duvets as quilts. Confusing, because a duvet is not a quilt, and a quilt is not a duvet.
Quilts are, as the name suggests, made by quilting together layers of fabric, usually with a thin layer of batting, such as wool, between the top and bottom. Traditional quilts usually have a single fabric piece for the bottom and a top layer comprising many pieces of fabric stitched together in a creative pattern. Quilts usually offer little in the way of warmth and are mostly for decoration.
In contrast, a duvet is usually very cozy, plain white and simple, and meant to be used with a duvet cover. Duvet inserts are thicker and fluffier and comprise a fabric bag stuffed with filling material (down, kapok, cotton, polyester, etc.).
As for comforters, these are a little like quilts in that they comprise two layers of fabric quilted together with a thinner layer of fiber fill between. Comforters are also meant to be used without a duvet cover but tend to have less ornate patterns. They also usually comprise a single piece of fabric on the top and bottom, rather than lots of different fabric pieces stitched in creative ways.
Still confused? Here’s a handy chart to explain the difference between quilts, comforters, and duvets.
|Extra cover needed?||No||No||Yes|
|Machine washable?||Sometimes||Sometimes||Not usually|
|Layers||Top fabric, thin layer of batting, bottom fabric||Top, thin layer of fiber fill, bottom fabric||Top fabric, thicker fiber fill, bottom fabric|
|Filling materials (typically)||Wool, polyester, PLA, or down||Down, polyester, recycled polyester, silk, cotton, hemp, wool, PLA||Down, feathers, polyester, kapok, PLA, recycled polyester|