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Hot Hot Hot - Thermal Fabrics

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It's a good thing Sew4Home doesn't feature any audio feeds or you'd have to put up with me singing Katy Perry's Hot N Cold while you read this article. Lucky for you ... and most of the planet, we'll skip the singing and instead concentrate on a few facts about the available thermal material options for home décor.

There are quite a few home décor projects that call for insulating fabrics to keep hot stuff hot and cold stuff cold, such as: pot holders and oven mitts, table pads, lunch carriers, shopping totes, ironing board pads, outdoor stadium cushions, tea cozies, and lots of other things that have slipped my mind I'm sure.

Thermal Batting

Insul-Bright

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The most versatile material we found is Insul-Bright from The Warm Company, which describes its manufacture as: 'consisting of hollow, polyester fibers needle-punched through a nonwoven substrate and through a reflective metalized poly film. The needled material is breathable and won't break down with washing. The hollow fibers resist conduction while the reflective metalized poly film resists radiant energy. The energy, hot or cold, is reflected back to its source.'

Insul-Bright is machine washable, easy to cut to size, and apart from being just a bit slippery, is quite nice to work with. Most sources offer it by the yard in 22" and 45" widths, and a few outlets offer 36" x 45" pre-cuts. Because there is a metallic component, you can not use Insul-Bright in the microwave.

Even though we've listed this material in the 'batting' category, The Warm Company does suggest you layer Insul-Bright with a standard cotton batting if you are using it for a high-heat application.

A number of sources offer Insul-Bright online, including Jo-Ann and Fabric.com. It's also readily available at many local fabric and craft stores.

Thermal Fabric

Iron Quick

Iron Quick is a specialty fabric made of 100% aluminum with 100% cotton backing. It's designed to protect from heat, but does not have any insulating properties. Sold by the yard, it's 45" wide and machine washable.

When you need insulating and well as heat protection, Iron Quick also comes as a quilted material. This is simply the regular Iron Quick fabric with polyester batting sandwiched in between. It is only 42" wide.

Neither Iron Quick products can be used in the microwave.

Nancy's Notions carries both types of Iron Quick products by the yard.

Therma Flec

Therma Flec is a lightweight, heat resistant cloth similar to the Iron Quick. It is scorch-proof to 390˚, but like the Iron Quick cloth, does not provide insulation. You would need to use it in combination with a heavy cotton batting for items such as hot pads, oven mitts or ironing board pads. Two colors are available, silver and light gold, in 44" width. Again, don't put this product in the microwave.

We found Therma Flec several places online on huge bolts, which is a little ridiculous unless you're going into the oven mitt business. But Craft & Fabric Links, an online-only source, offers it by the yard.

Thermal Interfacing

Thermolam

Pellon makes a 100% polyester interfacing called Thermolam, which is a needle-punched, sew-in fleece with a protective scrim that can provide some warmth. It's available by the yard at a 45" width and is machine washable. It's considered a heavy-weight in the general world of interfacing, however, it doesn't have any loft, so it isn't a choice for projects that call for true insulating and/or padded properties.

There's no microwave warning for this fabric, but then again, I couldn't find anything that said it was okay to use either. Maybe you should just forget the microwave, huh?

Fabric.com offers a good price on Thermolam by the yard.

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Comments (53)

Laura Eckstein said:
Laura Eckstein's picture

My husband drives a work van with a cage that seperates the cab from the back.  It is not necessary to cool or heat anything in the back.  He asked if I could make a thermal blanket- type barrier to seperate the front from the back so that when he is using the heater or air conditioner, he can  cool or heat the cab only.  I will use velcro to attatch it to the cage.  I was just wonder what thermal material might be the best.  I can make a blanket using a batting or use just a material.  Which would have the best properties I am looking for?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Laura Eckstein - not that we aren't ALL about making things yourself, but the first thing that came to mind was to try to get your hands on one of those big thick blankets moving companies use. If you are set on making the whole thing yourself, I wouldn't worry too much about true thermal properties; your main goal is to stop the air flow from front to back. A heavy canvas type of material with one or more layers of standard batting would work or you could even sandwich an old wool blanket between two layers of canvas. 

Pam H. said:
Pam H.'s picture

Hi there! would you be able to recommend any of these products to make window coverings? I live in the southwest west (temps out here are already reaching over 100 and I face the south and west. I need something relatively inexpensive to make drapes/curtains for these windows to reflect the sun and keep my cooling costs down.

thank you!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Pam H. - We have not made window coverings from any of these products and so can't give you a definitive answer. I would suggest you check with the insulating experts at Warm Company. They have the widest range of products, and specifically have a window system for keeping heat in... which may work in reverse. They website is: http://www.warmcompany.com/index.html

Kathy H. said:
Kathy H.'s picture

I am looking for something to use to make a lining of some sort for the clamshell trunk on my cycle. I want to be able to take my tablet along with me and I need the inside of the trunk to reflect heat so my tablet doesn't get hot while on the road. Would this product work or do you have any other recommendations? Thanks, Kathy

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Kathy H. - As I've mentioned below in response to some others' questions, I don't feel I have the expertise to weigh in on very specific useage - especially when the project's outcome is critical to protecting your tablet computer. In instances such as this, I usually suggest going directly to the manufacturer with the question as they are likely to have experience with how the products perform in different environments. Beyond that, I'd recommend getting a little bit of several insulating materials and doing some tests to see how well each protects. 

Lori Strout said:
Lori Strout's picture

Hi, I plan to use Warm And White or Warm And Natural and Insul-Bright on one side and one layer of Warm and White on the other. It is an old heating pad from the seventies I think because it had a polyester day glow orange cover.It works just fine.I don't believe in throwing away things that work.You should see my egg beater.

Lori Strout said:
Lori Strout's picture

can I use Insul- Bright on a heating pad or should I use two layers of Warm And White?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Lori Strout - InsulBright should work fine for a heating pad. However, without knowing the details of your project, we can't give you a 100% recommendation. In many instances, it's simply a personal choice as to what you like best.

J crafts said:
J crafts's picture

I have some fleece scraps and I was wondering if I could turn them into a hot pad. Will the heat melt them or will they be fine?

Thanks

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ J crafts - because fleece is 100% polyester, it is probably not the best choice for a hot pad - especially if you want to grab very hot trays and pots. 

Quilter Anna said:
Quilter Anna 's picture

I can not tell the right side from the wrong side of Insu-Bright.  Both sides look the same to me.  I don't see a "shiny" side.  Help!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

According to the folks at The Warm Company (the makers of Insul-Bright) there is not a right or wrong side. 

Barbara said:
Barbara 's picture

What material to use for warmth in clothes? I want my bodys heat to reflect back to me.(heat reflective). Is there 2 different sides to this material, and how do I know which side to use where? Do I need 3 layers of material, outside like fleese, inside heat reflective, and liner for softer against skin? Is this material washable? Thanks

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Barbara - the majority of the thermal battings are indeed washable. For your other questions, I would recommend you go directly to the manufacturers for more complete information and instructions. We do not do much in the way of wearables here on Sew4Home and so have not tested these materials in garment constructions. I do not feel qualified to answer your questions. Links are included below for The Warm Company and Pellon

http://www.warmcompany.com/ibpage.html

http://www.pellonprojects.com

Barbara said:
Barbara 's picture

What material to use for warmth in clothes? I want my bodys heat to reflect back to me.(heat reflective). Is there 2 different sides to this material, and how do I know which side to use where? Do I need 3 layers of material, outside like fleese, inside heat reflective, and liner for softer against skin? Is this material washable? Thanks

CateC said:
CateC's picture

Hi, I sort of feel like a dunce asking this, but I can't seem to come to a conclusion in my head. I need something that will protect metal from heat. I'm looking to get a toaster oven, and the only location it can go is on a countertop that is close to metal railings (half our kitchen opens to the living room, and in place of 2 walls we have 2 slightly-above-waist-high metal railings, where we shoved a kitchen island for extra counter space). We come into contact with the railings often, as do our cats, and I'm worried the heat from the toaster oven will warm the railings too much so I want to protect them with something (there will be about 7" between the oven and the railings, but still, metal). Would something like Therma-Flec or Iron Quick be enough, or should I also insulate them as well?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ CateC - you're not a dunce at all... but I may be a dunce in answering :-). I simply don't feel I have the expertise to weigh in on this very specific useage. In instances such as this, we usually suggest you go directly to the manufacturer with the question as they are likely to have a better range of experiences. Beyond that, I'd recommend just getting a little bit of the insulating materials and doing some tests to see how well each protects. 

jean munns said:
jean munns's picture

We are looking for a material to make curtains or blinds which must be scorch proof to go on a narrowboat between chimney and window, would one of your products be suitable.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ jean munns - I don't feel I have the expertise in this area to provide a recommendation for such a specific and more "industrial" use. Perhaps you could go directly to the manufacturer with the question (Warm & Natural) or Therm O Web) or even to a boat or outdoor store. Also, this article is about 3 years old, so there may be other options out there now.

Em Cave said:
Em Cave's picture

I have a sister living in senior housing - the heat (or cold) pours into her unit.  She has vertical blinds and I was wondering if some kind of thermal material could be glued onto these.  There is no room for anything between the blinds and the doorwall so I thought maybe we could alter the blinds somewhat like this. She cannot afford thermal drapes.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Em Cave -This is not an application that we've ever tried. Because vertical blinds do not create a solid barrier (since they are individual strips), I'm not sure if adding a thermal layer will be much help. It seems like you need something directly on the window/door the blinds are covering. A window film might be a good place to start - available at most home improvement retailers, such as:

http://www.homedepot.com/Decor-Window-Films-Heat-Glare-Control/h_d1/N-5y...

mary marysville said:
mary marysville's picture

I want to make heat shields to protect lets from motorcycle heat.  So I want it to be heat reflective/protective yet I don't want it to hold heat in.  Any Suggestions?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ mary marysville - ya got me on that one. I've never done anything even similar to that ;-). All I can say is that these thermal battings aren't designed to necessarily take constant heat like that. I think most motorcyclists tend to favor leather as the best all-around protective fabric choice. 

Terrance Williams said:
Terrance Williams's picture

Alright i have a question can any of these materials help me make food running trays for restaurants thats heat resistant to let stay in hot window then when i go to take it out the window its not flaming hot at the bottom that burns my hand while carrying the tray of food to a guest table in the restaurant?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Terrance Williams - I can't guarantee anything I haven't tried, so I don't know if it would work for this application. I would think there would be a commercial item made just for this task. However, this fabric is used for hot pads, which is essentially what you need. You might want to use several layers. Give it a try -- it certainly couldn't hurt.

Carole M. said:
Carole M.'s picture

Hi, I was wondering if the Insul-Bright can be used to make homemade thermal window shades? I'm thinking of embarking on this project to keep out cold and drafts in some of my windows, and I found a pattern that uses those thin reflective outdoor blankets as vapor barriers in the shades. Do you know if Insul-Bright would serve the same purpose as these blankets? Thanks!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Carole M - Insul-Bright is made by The Warm Company - who got their start in window coverings. Check out their site for more information about the Warm Window products: http://www.warmcompany.com/wwpage.html

Probably a better option than Insul-Bright.

Evan said:
Evan's picture

Just wondering if the 'thermal' fabrics you mention are the kind that can be used to insulate a tote effectively for cold foods? I'm trying to come up with an effective insulating material for a frozen/cold food tote I'm making. Any ideas? What is used in commerical products, do you know?

Thank you so much,

Evan

Brian said:
Brian's picture

Evan, a "container-within-a-container" would probably be the design starting point.  Two fairly similar containers with lids (preferably screw-on, but tight-fitting in any case).  One container must be small enough to fit within the other.  Between these containers you can fill the space with flexible freezer pouches, such as you can easily buy online or in drug stores - ranging from quite small to large. 

Now, freeze the whole thing (both containers with the cold pouches) overnight.  In the morning, place the frozen food into the inner container and cover both containers immediately.  This arrangement should keep the food frozen for 4 to 5 hours. 

If you wrap the outer container with one of the insulating materials noted in this blog post (I'd pick one that includes batting), you should be able to extend the freeze time even longer.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Evan, we used the Insul-Bright product for a lunch bag project we did with good results. The Warm Company site says: " The energy, hot or cold, is reflected back to its source." If you need something to actually stay frozen, I can't guarantee that. You may want to consider using more than one layer of the insulating fabric if your project's design can handle the thickness. I don't know what they use in the commercial products.


Iroses said:
Iroses's picture

I hope someone can help me. We live in Arizona and as everyone knows it gets REALLY hot here in the summer. I am trying to find some kind of fabric that I can make something to cover the kids car seats when we are out. I have tried to cover with just a blanket, still too hot for the little ones. Help!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

Iroses - cotton or canvas in light colors are the most trusted options for repelling the summer sun. However, I don't know that there is any option that, when left inside your car, will remain cool. You'd likely have to keep the coverings inside where it's cool, putting them on the seats right before you put the kids inside. 

EcoCatLady said:
EcoCatLady's picture

I realize this thread is ancient, but I'm hoping someone might be out there who would know the answer to my question. Like some of the other commenters, I'm also trying to make thermal heat reflective cat beds - the thing is, my cat is deathly afraid of the crinkling sound that most heat reflective materials make. So I'm wondering if anyone knows if these fabrics are quiet, or do they make a crunching sound?

Thanks in advance!

kimba said:
kimba's picture

Just bought a bunch of InsulBrite, and like everything else I've used from Warm Company, it's very good quality. However, it is, in fact, crinkly. Quite. 

Jess said:
Jess's picture

I recently purchased Butterick B5338 (reusable shopping totes) and am thinking about making them for Christmas gifts. The pattern says to use "Hot or Cold Quilted Fabric" for the lining. Would the Iron Quick Quilted work for this? Or would Insul-Bright be better? And if I use Insul-Bright would I have to use another fabric for the actual lining of the bag? If so, what would be suitable? I know this is a lot of questions, but I could really use the help! Thank you!!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Jess - I can't give you 100% accurate advice on a purchased pattern. They often specify things for a reason, and so I can't guarantee I know the theory behind what they suggest. We did an insulated grocery bag (Ha! you should have used our online project ;-)) with a thermal lining, and found it best to sandwich the Insul-Bright between two layers of fabric. You can see our project here:

http://sew4home.com/projects/storage-solutions/nature-brights-kitchen-in...

Jess said:
Jess's picture

Thank you for your help, any info is appreciated!! Maybe I will use your project instead. I just found this website and I think it's wonderful! I've read through a couple of your projects so far and the instructions seem clear and easy to follow even for a novice like myself. Thank you again for the info!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
@ K-koira - You are referring to this pet bed tutorial, correct?

http://sew4home.com/projects/pillows-cushions/506-nature-brights-kitchen...

Our S4H team makes all our own samples, so yes, we designed and made this bed. However, it is quite different than the bed you are describing - so you'd need to adapt it to best fit your needs. As I mentioned, I think the Insul-Bright would work for what you want to do, but I've never tried it, so don't consider myself the definitive expert. Regarding right versus wrong side on the Insul-Bright, I don't have a piece in front of me at this very moment, but I believe one side is kind of sparkly and the other side is plain. The sparkly side is the "shiny side" - or the reflective side. You can also carefully peel apart the layers at one corner to help you see at well.
Cat-beds said:
Cat-beds's picture
K-koira
Have you made your cat bed? I am looking into the exact same thing. My beds are basically a layer of polyester batting inbetween the fleece, so now a friend asked me to try and recreate the reflective beds avl via retail. I'm not sure if the Insul-Bright has a right or wrong side (the instructions with the fabric says there is, but I see no difference in shininess that supposedly determines right side). So I was wondering if you made it and whether it's working the way you thought it would. I would just add the layer of Insul-Bright to my 3 original layers, so not sure which side would be the most effective side.
moore0530 said:
moore0530's picture
Just wondering if this would be used for lining a lunch bag? Thinking about making each of the kids their own or lining the one they already have smilies/shocked.gif
Linda C said:
Linda C's picture
can you use thermolam in the construction of potato bags for the microwave?
k-koira said:
k-koira's picture
Thanks, Liz. I picked up some of the Insul-Bright at the local sports fabric shop (super lucky to have an outdoors related sewing and fabric store right here in town, with awesome high quality stuff available). I'm going to do the sewing tomorrow, sandwiching the piece between some fleece, then let the cat try it out. I'll report back on how she likes it!
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
@ k-koira -- wow, you got me on that one. I haven't seen the beds you describe, but the properties you describe sound the closet to what you might get from the Insul-Bright. It is a washable product, so you could certainly sandwich it between fleece. I'm always one to vote for trying to make it yourself before buying smilies/cheesy.gif
k-koira said:
k-koira's picture
Hey, I might be a bit late to the party for commenting, but have a question and figured it wouldn't hurt to ask.

I want to make a cat bed that reflects back the cat's own body heat to help keep them warmer. A number of commercial sites now sell beds with a thermo-reflective material inside them that increases the heat, making it an electricity free, heated bed. Would any of these fabrics work for that? Which would be recommended? Would it work if inside of a fleece cover (so it is comfy and can be washed)? Or do I need to give up and buy the specialty cat bed instead of making one myself?
alicia.thommas said:
alicia.thommas's picture
V Willis, Insul-Bright is washable. You can visit their site from the link above to read about it. You don't need to quilt such a small piece; although you can if you like. I wouldn't use bleach on Insul-Bright. When I wash pot holders, I use cool or warm water and a more gentle cycle. They'll last longer and come out looking better. We've use Insul-Bright for many, many projects without a problem. I'm not sure what happened in your crafter-friend's experience, but it I'm unaware of any problem like that.
V Willis said:
V Willis's picture
I plan on making some two-handed pot holders for gifts and wonder if it is necessary to quilt the pot holder after it is sewn? Or should I just quilt the batting and Insul-Bright? A crafter I know told me the Insul-Bright will come apart when washed even though blogs I have read don't indicate that it will seperate. Thanks

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