Banish those Bearding Blues
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).