A quilt is a thin bed cover with insulative batting sandwiched between two layers of fabric. A comforter, on the other hand, is a thicker bed cover made up of a fabric lining stuffed with fluffy down, down alternative, or batting.
A seemingly simple task like shopping for new bedding can get downright complex when you look at the array of available options. So, quilt vs. comforter — what’s the difference, and which one should you adorn your bed with?
Let’s put the question of quilt vs. comforter to bed once and for all. We’ll start by defining “quilt” and “comforter,” and then we’ll look closer at which option is best for your personal sleep needs, including your favorite temperature for sleep.
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Because quilts and comforters both serve as the top cover on your bed, you may have always used the terms interchangeably. Truth is, they’re not actually synonymous. So what’s the difference between a quilt and a comforter?
Here’s a quick at-a-glance comparison before we dive under the covers and look at the details.
The main differences between comforters and quilts have to do with thickness, loft, and warmth. Quilts are thinner and cooler, while comforters are thicker and warmer.
A quilt is a bed topper with multiple layers joined together — usually a woven fabric top; an insulating layer of cotton, wool, or polyester batting; and a woven fabric bottom layer. The layers are joined through a process called — wait for it — “quilting.”
Although quilting might call to mind handcrafted designs ranging from homey to stunning, the term simply refers to stitching through all of the quilt’s layers at once to join them. The inner layer of a quilt tends to be thinner, which means that most don’t have a significant amount of loft to make them puffy. Wool batting adds more loft and warmth to a quilt, while cotton, synthetic, or blended fibers are better for keeping things cool.
These days, outside of an artisan’s sewing room, quilts are generally stitched together by a machine. Stitch texture patterns range from clean and simple grids to more elaborate designs. The quilt cover may be made of multiple pieces stitched together (like Grandma’s patchwork quilt), printed fabric, or a single solid color.
A comforter is a bed topper that consists of a thick inner layer of insulative material sewn between a front and back cover. All three layers may be stitched through, usually in a grid formation, to keep the filling material evenly distributed.
If that sounds a lot like a quilt, hang on — we’ll explain the subtle differences.
The inner materials are what make quilts and comforters different. Where quilts have a thinner layer of batting, comforters tend to be filled with thicker, puffier materials. Some comforters are filled with natural materials like down (gathered from the undercoat of waterfowl like geese or ducks) or sometimes cotton or wool batting. Others are made with a synthetic and hypoallergenic down alternative, usually polyester or a poly blend.
To make things a bit more confusing (because who doesn’t need a little more confusion in their lives?) comforters can go by different names in different countries. In Australia, a comforter might be called a “doona.” In British English, it may be a “continental quilt.”
Although “comforter” and “duvet” are often used interchangeably, there’s a difference between comforters and duvets. A comforter is a single piece of bedding while a duvet is made up of two pieces: an insert and a removable cover.
If you’re still undecided about whether to choose a quilt or a comforter, let’s look closer at the qualities of each.
Before you commit to either, it’s worth learning how to wash a quilt and comforter. The care requirements for comforters and quilts vary depending on the materials they’re made with, so make sure you read and follow the care instructions with whatever option you choose.
Handcrafted or ornate quilts may be particularly delicate and require extra care such as hand-washing or dry cleaning. Dry cleaning may also be preferable for some down comforters.
If your quilt or comforter is machine-washable, bulk can be a factor. Most quilts will fit into your home washing machine, but larger or thicker comforters may require a high-capacity washer or a trip to the laundromat to use a large commercial machine.
When it comes to the cost of quilts vs. comforters, quality and materials play a big role. The better the fabric, design, and fill quality, the higher the cost.
All things being equal, quilts may sometimes have a lower price point than comforters because they use less filling material and aren’t usually made with more expensive materials like down. But decorative elements like special trim or elaborate patterns can add to a quilt’s cost. And naturally, handcrafted quilts will come with a price tag to match the level of labor and artistry required to make them.
Down-filled comforters cost more than down alternative comforters or those made with batting. The quality and quantity of down feathers used (and even the down’s country of origin) will affect their price. Some down comforters also include baffling — fabric pieces used to separate the top and bottom cover sections to prevent air pockets — which adds to their warmth and cost.
Both quilts and comforters come in an array of materials ranging from basic and sturdy to opulent and luxurious. You’ll also find them in a variety of colors, patterns, and designs.
Materials matter most if you have allergies or prefer to stay away from animal-derived products. Fortunately, high-quality down alternatives can be just as puffy and warm.
If it’s warmth you need, comforters are almost always warmer than quilts. If you like to sleep cooler, then a lighter-weight quilt should be your bed cover of choice.
If the temperatures change drastically depending on the season, you might even consider having a quilt for the warm months and a comforter for the cold ones. It’s a great way to give your bedroom a whole new look, too.
If the similarities and differences between comforters and quilts still have you a bit baffled (bedding pun intended), here are the answers to some common questions.
We’ve said that, when it comes to warmth, comforters are thicker and warmer than quilts. But when it comes to sheer weight, which one feels heavier?
If you lifted a quilt and then lifted a comforter, you’d find that most quilts weigh more than comforters. That’s because the fabric and fill used in quilts tends to feel heavier than the thinner fabric and fluffy filling used in most comforters.
But even though a quilt feels heavier in your arms, comforters still win for overall thickness and warmth.
Usually. Although quilts tend to use dense fabric and filling, they tend to be thinner than comforters. Comforters have much more filling than quilts, which makes them warmer overall.
It all depends on your needs. A quilt may be a better option for you if you live somewhere warm or you tend to sleep hot, but a comforter will be a better choice if you need to fight off the cold.
If you want to make an aesthetic statement, you may find more artistry in quilts, but comforters also come in a colorful array of fabrics and prints.
Winter-weight quilts may also be described as heavy-weight. They tend to use heavier outer fabric and denser fill, such as wool or a wool blend. If the quilt lists grams per square meter (GSM), heavier-weight quilts start at about 400 GSM, which makes a winter-weight quilt comparable in warmth to a comforter.
No, comforters and duvets aren’t quite the same. A comforter is one piece while a duvet requires two pieces — a removable outer cover and an insert. You can buy both pieces together or separately. You can even insert a comforter inside a new duvet cover to change up your bed’s look without investing in a whole new comforter.
However you decide to dress your bed, Casper’s oh-so-cozy bedding shop has you covered — literally! — with the perfect options for style and comfort.