The Difference Between Quilts and Comforters

By Nicole Gleichmann

When shopping for the perfect bedding sets, you want options that are both comfortable and attractive. When it comes to the look and coziness of your bed, there is nothing more important than a snuggle-worthy bedspread.

Two popular options for the ultimate look and feel are quilts and comforters. But, how exactly are they different from one another? In this article on bedroom basics, we will help you understand quilts, comforters, duvets, and more, so you can find the right bed cover for you.

Quilt

Quilts and Quilted Bedspreads

Quilting is simply the process of sewing together a bottom layer of fabric, a middle padded layer, and a top layer of fabric. Quilted blankets and clothing have been used for thousands of years as protection from cold weather. 

Today, the term “quilt” defines a decorative throw blanket or bedspread made via quilting. While quilting began as a way to keep us warm, over the years it took on greater meaning. Starting in the 19th century, quilt-making became an art and a competition. Quilts then became heirlooms passed on from one generation to the next.

For many of us, the word quilt brings feelings of nostalgia. The fun patterns and rich American tradition have led to an art and style that continues to this day. Most of us would know a quilt if we saw one. Quilts are thinner than other bedspreads, but thicker than most single-fabric blankets. What sets them apart looks-wise is their elaborate stitching patterns or unique patchwork that makes up the top layer. 

The quintessential American-style quilt is a patchwork quilt. Also called a pieced quilt, these are constructed by sewing multiple pieces of fabric together. Patchwork quilts are just one of many styles of quilts. Other examples include appliqué quilts modern quilts, and art quilts. You can also find themed quilts, such as geometric or floral quilts

A quilt’s middle padded layer is known as batting. Batting was traditionally made using wool, down, feathers, or cotton. Today there are many more textiles used, including synthetic materials and cotton blends.

The bottom layer of most quilts is made from a simple, solid sheet of fabric. Typically, the bottom layer will be made from the same fabric as the top layer.  

Quilts are either machine-made or handmade. The latter tend to be more artistic and costly, but that depends on the quality of fabrics used, and the reputation of the manufacturer or artist. When you go shopping for a quilt, there is no shortage of options. You can find quilts great for young kids to grandparents, and everything in between.  

Materials: Synthetic Quilts, Velvet Quilts, and Cotton Quilts

The exterior material used for the top and bottom layers of a quilt are responsible for much of the look and feel of a quilt. 

One hundred percent cotton or cotton blends are the most popular quilting fabric for this layer. Quilts made from 100% cotton are breathable, soft, and durable. Cotton is easy to launder. When used with a machine-washable batter, cotton quilts are easy to care for. 

Velvet quilts have an elegant, draped appearance and a plush feel. Many velvet quilts have a damask-style weave, with a lustrous backdrop behind textured, raised designs. 

Polyester and microfiber are two synthetic fabrics commonly used in quilting. They provide a soft, warm feel with less breathability than cotton. These materials are commonly used to create plaid quilts with fun geometric patterns. 

Reversible Quilt Set

Reversible quilt sets come with a set of matching pillowcases and a quilt that can be used facing either direction. Most commonly, the top of a reversible quilt set will be patterned, and the bottom will be a matching solid color. Some reversible quilts will have unique designs on each side, such as a summer theme on one side and a winter theme on the other.

Comforters

Many people do not consider their winter bedding collection complete without a high-quality comforter. Comforters are warm, luxurious bed toppers. The top and bottom of comforters are each a single piece of fabric. These pieces are sewn together and generously stuffed with cotton, down, or a down alternative. 

A quilting technique is used throughout some comforters to keep their warm fillers in place. This reduces clumping, preserving their plush comfort. This strategy does not, however, make a comforter a quilt. Quilts have more ornate needlework than comforters. Additionally, comforters are warmer, heavier, and loftier than quilts. 

A comforter can be used with or without a duvet cover (a fabric slip designed to cover duvets or comforters). As one of the most popular pieces of bedding around, comforters come in seemingly endless styles. These styles range in cost from extremely budget-friendly to luxurious, with fabrics, filling, and craftsmanship calling for a price tag of well over $1,000. 

When you shop for a comforter, many will come as part of a set with matching pillow shams or euro shams, bed skirts, and sheets. By finding other sheet sets to match these decorative pillows, you can create a fun or trendy aesthetic. 

Materials: Cotton, Down, and Alternative Down

When comparing comforters, the fill material is the primary concern as it determines a comforter’s feel and cost.

Down comforters are considered the utmost in luxury. When you wrap yourself in a down comforter, you’ll feel enveloped in a lightweight warmth. Made using the lower layer of insulating bird feathers, down yields an incredibly lush feel. 

Cotton and down alternative comforters are the most affordable options. They offer fluffy comfort without the need to dip into your savings. Alternative down comforters (made using synthetic materials) are designed to mimic the feel of down. Cotton comforters are slightly more breathable than synthetic down and tend to sleep cooler than both down and alternative down comforters

Reversible Comforter Set

Many comforters are reversible, offering you two patterns or colors to spice up your decor. For anyone who likes to change up styles often, use a duvet cover for even greater variety.

Duvets, Matelassé Coverlets, Coverlet Sets, and Other Bedding

Quilts and comforters are only two of many types of bedding covers to choose from. Some other common choices include

  • Duvets (or Duvet Inserts): The only difference between duvets and comforters is that duvets are meant to be used with a duvet cover
  • Coverlets: Coverlets resemble quilts, but they are woven from a single fabric on a loom. Because coverlets are thinner than quilts, you can pair them with a blanket on cool nights. 
  • Matelassé Coverlets: Matelassé coverlets are a type of coverlet made using thick fabric.
  • Blankets: Blankets are single layers of material that are thicker and warmer than sheets.

Quilts vs Comforters: Pros and Cons

Warmth

Because comforters are filled with more stuffing, they are almost always warmer than quilts. Due to their warmth, comforters are best saved for chilly months. 

Quilts are thinner than comforters and tend to allow greater air circulation. Thanks to these attributes, quilts can be used year-round. They are commonly used in guest rooms because they can be layered on top of blankets or other quilts during winter to adapt to seasonal temperature variations. During the summer, quilts are an attractive but not overly warm bed topper

Aesthetic Appeal

There are comforters and quilts that go with most any interior decor. That said, there are more varieties of comforters on the market today. With new arrivals of comforters in stores often,  finding what you’re looking for is simple.

On the other hand, there is nothing quite like the look of a quilt. For anyone going for a homey or rustic look, quilts are an excellent choice. They are also an adorable addition to nurseries or kids’ rooms. 

Versatility

When it comes to visual versatility, comforters win. Even though comforters can be used without a cover, you have the option to pair them with duvet covers to change things up. This means that one comforter can be used to provide an endless variety of styles by simply buying a new duvet cover

But when it comes to the versatility of use, quilts come out on top. When compared to a comforter, they are lightweight and less bulky. Because of this, quilts are easily used in living rooms or anywhere around the house. Not to mention, quilts are sometimes used as decorative art, another potential use. 

Cost

There are affordable and luxury options for both quilts and comforters. On average, comforters are less expensive than quilts. This is partly due to more quilts being hand-stitched, which increases the cost of production. 

Ease of Care

Quilts tend to be easier to care for because they are smaller. This small size makes it possible to wash some quilts at home (but always read the care instructions). Particularly large comforters require industrial-sized machines. But they do have the benefit of being paired with a duvet cover to keep them clean.


Summary

When it comes to bedding basics, comforters and quilts are two popular bedspread choices. Quilts are less bulky and sleep a bit cooler. They pair well with other blankets, allowing for year-round use. And with fun patterns and elaborate needlework, quilts bring a rustic or artsy feel. Comforters are much fluffier than quilts. For exceptionally chilly nights, comforters are the way to go. And, since they can be used with or without a duvet cover, you can change up the look whenever you’d like.


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