WARNING: Do NOT try this at home. Any attempts may result in laughter, ridicule and humiliation by friends and fellow quilters at your next guild meeting’s Show & Tell.
I recently completed a project I call The Ugly Quilt. This quilt has a purpose, and I intentionally made many mistakes in order to create an ‘educational’ piece to share with readers of this blog. I’ll sub-title this post…
What NOT To Do
… and have included some suggestions to help prevent you from making the same mistakes when you are working on your quilt.
- Choose only good quality cotton
- Don’t mix fabrics with different fibre content
- Don’t be tempted to use your mother’s stash of old fabrics that may fall fall apart in the first wash
- Use only quality batting
- Polyester batting has it’s place, but not in your heirloom quilt
- Use coordinating or neutral fabric for your batting
- Don’t be tempted to use that large piece of fabric just because you have it, even though it doesn’t really go
- Follow the pattern carefully
- If you’re making up your own pattern – even a scrappy quilt – check all your measurements so you don’t end up with odd sized blocks you can’t use
- Use only good quality cotton thread for your piecing and quilting
- Did you know even threads have a shelf life? If it’s old, throw it out!
- Use a needle to hide thread ends inside the layers of the quilt
- Baste your quilt thoroughly with pins (every 3 inches apart) or basting spray
- Make sure there are no wrinkles in the fabric that you might sew over!
- Practice your free-motion quilting on a scrap quilt before tackling the big quilt – that way you’ll make fewer mistakes when it matters most!
- Continuous movement in free-motion quilting is better than lots of starts and stops
- Try to keep your stitches even so you don’t get what my friend Tricia calls “Toe Catchers”
- Roll both sides of the quilt to allow for ease of handling while quilting
- Pull your bobbin thread to the top of your quilt before you start stitching so you don’t end up with a tangled mess on the back
- Ensure a 1/4″ seam for your binding – if you have less than a 1/4″ the fabric may fray and come away from the seams due to stress and washing
- Trim all the errant threads from the raw edges before you stitch the back layer of binding t your quilt – they have a way of creeping out of hiding!
- When hand stitching the binding down, keep your stitches small and take up just enough of the fabric fibres so that your stitches are almost invisible
- Speaking of invisible, use matching thread!
- If you have used multiple colours in your binding and, choose a neutral thread like gray, that goes with most colours
- Stitch carefully so that your stitches don’t go through and show on the front of your quilt
Bearding – this may be a new term to you, but you are likely to be well aware of it once I tell you what it means. And no, it’s not the act of growing a beard, which is what my husband suggested when I asked him.
Bearding happens when the batting of your quilt migrates through the fabric to the top (or back). It usually occurs at the point where your needle makes the holes when quilting. You’ve seen it – those little white bits of batting poking through the holes after you’ve spent hours quilting a project. How aggravating! Quilting tends to separate the fibres in the batting, allowing them to move around and creep through any hole or opening they can find.
What can you do to prevent it? I’ve learned that two of the best ways to prevent bearding are to: choose the most appropriate batting for your project; and make sure you have the right needle.
The right batting
There are so many types of batting on the market today –polyester, cotton, wool, bamboo, rayon, silk, and more. Not to mention all the blends. How do you choose the right batting so that it won’t beard on your quilt?
Many battings now use scrim (a fine natural or synthetic fibre that adds extra stability), which helps to reduce bearding. Other battings are bonded – meaning that there is a layer of resin to adhere the fibres together and prevent or reduce bearding.
Some battings naturally beard more than others –polyester battings tend to be the worst unless treated. Ever seen a quilt made in the 70’s that is all pilled? That’s the polyester batting coming through. Needle punched battings (in which needles are used to ‘punch’ the batting together) may beard because they are not scrimmed or bonded. And wool batting also has a tendency to beard to some extent.
When purchasing batting, ask the quilt shop salesperson which batting is best for your project. Also, read the label – find out how the product is made and whether the batting is scrimmed or bonded.
Oh, and if you’re making a quilt with dark or black fabric, use black batting. There’s nothing worse than having a beautiful black quilt with little white dots showing all over it!
The right needle
There are several reasons why your needle can cause bearding in a quilt. First and foremost, you need to make sure your needle is sharp. A dull needle will create a wider hole in the fabric of your quilt, and allow for the batting to migrate. A wide needle will do the same thing. A wide needle will stretch the fabric as it enters, and draw up the batting.
What you can do if bearding has occurred on your quilt?
Not much after the fact. But whatever you do, don’t pull or pick at the ‘whiskers’! That will just continue to pull the batting out through the hole. If the bearded pieces are large, use a pair of sharp scissors to trim them down. In many cases, the bearding will just naturally go away after use.
Bearding can also occur during the laundering process. Wash your quilt as infrequently as possible, and never dry a quilt in the dryer (unless it’s a utilitarian quilt and you don’t care what happens to it).