June 2020

Quilting methods on mattresses explained

Mattress quilting is the first thing you see in bed showrooms. There are literally thousands of mattress quilting styles out there. They may look lovely o the surface but the majority of them are there to disguise an otherwise poor quality mattress. We explain the different types of mattress covers and quilting methods so you know what to avoid.

Updated 2020: Quilting is by far the most prolific method of mattress cover finishes. It is used the most frequently as it offers the manufacturer and retailer the opportunity to provide more of a ‘difference’ between mattresses. Even though the insides will be pretty much be identical. Once you steer away from looking at a design and how the mattress physically looks (be in no doubt they can be made to look very appealing indeed) and concentrate your efforts on what is actually inside, you will be far less inclined to make a mistake.

quilting john ryan
Quilting is usually found on cheaper entry-level mattresses

Quilting should be considered as the last component of a mattress. Don’t be swayed by fancy patterns as you should know by now its what’s inside the mattress that count! Given that its the first thing you’re going to see when buying a new mattress you really do need to understand what constitutes a good mattress cover.

What is mattress cover quilting?

Quilted mattress covers are those that have been stitched to give a padded design to the top cover of a mattress. This applies to the outer surface of the fabric. Fabrics obtained by the manufacturer from various sources can come in either pre-quilted or plain. Many manufacturers like to buy in their fabrics ‘plain’ which gives them the opportunity to produce short runs of various designs. The quilting machines they use can be altered at a flick of a switch to produce completely different designs within minutes.

Mattress quilting gives the mattress cover a nicer finish both to look at and to feel. However, it also acts as a deterrent from asking what’s actually inside the mattress. Which if you’ve read other parts of our site, you will know is essential to find out before buying a new mattress whether online or in a shop.

White bed and pillows in a bedroom
Understanding your mattress cover helps you spot the great from the fake!

There are just three methods of mattress quilting

  1. Deep quilted
  2. Light quilted or micro quilted
  3. Tack and jump

Deep quilted

This process involves making quite a deep surface layer by stitching the fabric to polyester sheeting and other wadding to create a surface that looks deep and sumptuous.  This is the process that will more often than not be used on a mattress to be ‘perceived’ by you as mid-range.  This will be laid on to further elements of upholstery (usually polyester) to give a further element of substance.

Light quilted or micro quilted

This process is used for budget or economy models.  The outer fabric is quilted to a minimal layer of polyester or at the very worst a recycled material ‘Polypad’.  To add an element of comfort there may be a minimal layer of polyester between this ‘top’ and the springs, but the actual weight of polyester used will be in the region of 600gsm or 800gsm. You can read more on GSM in mattresses here.

The actual quilting pattern on these models is the giveaway to the value (as it will usually be basic diamond-shaped or circular-shape) using the least amount of thread to speed up the quilting process.

Tack and jump

This is another process to add visual value to a not so good product.  Whereas in Deep Quilting you can follow the pattern continuously, this method gives separation to the design.  The machine will stitch a section (tack) and raise (jump) to start another section.  Descriptions that describe a mattress with ‘concealed tufting’ will also be utilising this method.

Mattress quilting types
From left to right: Deep Quilt, Lightly quilted Tack and Jump

Like Deep Quilting, this is a technique to give you the impression of a well-made mattress.  When viewed in the store it is more likely you are going to be basing your selection on how a mattress looks rather than how it is going to perform. Incidentally, certain ‘branded mattresses’  shows a mattress that utilises this method.  We have seen that when the layers are peeled back the whole top section is in one piece held together by the tacks.  The ‘benefit‘ of this type of finish is that there are literally hundreds and hundreds of design combinations which is why it is a popular method of construction by nearly all major mattress manufacturers.  It enables them to be able to sell ‘exclusive’ models to a variety of retailers.  The difference is only in the fabric and the design of the tack and jump.  The insides will, usually, be the same!

Don't be fooled by rows of deep quilted mattresses. It's whats inside them that really counts and what retailers don't want you to know!

What’s the best mattress cover?

When it comes to mattress covers and quilting there certainly are winners and losers which you need to carefully look at.

  1. Damask / Viscose (Plant-based) is the best quality
  2. Quilted polyester covers mid range
  3. Stitchbond the lowest quality
artisan bespoke 003 mattress
A woven plant-based Belgian Damask is the highest quality mattress cover. Used by Vispring, Savoir and ourselves. With no quilting to interfere with the natural fibre upholstery beneath it.

Most mattress manufacturers that use quilted covers are doing so to reduce costs and manufacturing complexity. Quilted covers are nearly always polyester-based, stretchy and easy to quickly produce and then machine stitch onto a mattress to cover it. Stitchbond will only be found on those bottom end mattresses. It neither feels nor looks nice and is usually a recycled synthetic fibre made from old jumpers, socks and clothing that’s been repurposed.

For example, you may see space-aged fabrics with all sorts of hypoallergenic properties or heat reduction claims. But did you know that these are nearly always 100% polyester? That by its very synthetic nature polyester is hypoallergenic and nothing to do with natural breathable fibres. Surprising eh! We’re not saying that a polyester cover is bad but it shouldn’t be costing a premium when there are far better covers to choose from.

The following mattress fabric examples all contain different amounts of polyester:

  • Outlast
  • Coolmax
  • Slumbercloud
  • Airflow

In our experience, the best mattress cover is a Viscose Plant-based Damask that has been woven. This fabric is then usually hand-stitched to a pocket spring mattress before it is tufted.

Not only is this far more breathable than polyester covers but it also is far more durable. It’s woven not just quilted so has a far nicer feel to it. The reason why high-end beds use quality Damask is that it will stay like new far longer than a synthetic cover. It’s also much harder to upholster with so when you see it being used on a mattress, you know some skill has gone into making that model.

Tufted mattress cover
A quality viscose damask will have a soft sheen and matt finish

Choosing the best mattress cover

One final word on choosing the best mattress cover. Whilst the mattress cover will give an indication of the quality of mattress you’re looking at, you really need to dig deeper to know exactly what’s inside the mattress. The mattress cover, particularly if quilted like 90% of all mattresses can hide a thousand sins inside! A damask viscose cover will indicate a higher quality mattress but you need to know the following to truly know whether a mattress is suitable and worth the price being asked for it.


The finish and look of the mattress are a retailer’s best friend, knowing that it is this look that will sway you towards a particular model without giving too much thought as to what is actually on the inside!

If you keep in mind that all quilted mattresses can be deemed to be a cheap method of manufacturing you will not go far wrong. This is not to say that all tufted models are ‘better’. They too can be just bags of springs, or all fur coat no knickers, as my gran would say!  The message here is to be aware of what you are looking at and not be taken in by the look.  Be careful out there and if in doubt give our friendly team a call on 0161 437 4419 for more advice.

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