Friday, April 20, 2012

Bearding and Pokies, the Bane of Quilting


 If you have ever had a quilt beard, you know how frustrating and heart-wrenching it can be.  Once that soft, wonderful batting is in the quilt, the last thing you want is to see little bits of it appear on the top.  Bearding gets its name because back when poly fiber was stiff and horrible (think leisure suit) the fibers would poke through the fabric and then grow like an old man’s scruffy beard.  Today’s Quilters Dream Batting fibers, even the poly fibers, are fine, thin, long, and soft, and naturally resist bearding.  However, on the rare occasion given the wrong conditions, even the highest quality batting can sometimes beard. 

We have found that many high quality fabric manufacturers use a sulfur-based chemical in their dyeing process (especially when dying dark and vivid colors like reds and dark blues).  The sulfur is very good for fabrics because the sulfur molecule is five-sided, which causes a strong bond and makes the colors very color-fast.  The disadvantage to the “attraction” created by having 5 sides is that more surfaces promote static electricity.  When you wear dark colors or a very vivid print, have you noticed that pet hairs and fuzz balls seem to stick to you?  It isn’t your imagination – the sulfur has caused a static charge making everything stick.  In quilting, the combination of motion (sewing), handling, and atmospheric conditions, especially dry climates or the dry winter heating, will cause the fibers of batting to ‘stand up’ like the hair on our arms and be drawn to the fabric.

The solution is to break the static charge.  You can use an anti-static spray, such as Static Guard both on finished and unfinished quilts.  If you don’t have an anti-static spray, put a few anti-static dryer sheets in a spray bottle with water and sprits both the fabric and the batting (or the finished quilt).

When you wash your quilt, use fabric softeners in the washer and anti-static sheets in the dryer.  It is also helpful to remove the quilt from the dryer before it is totally dry and hang it.  Do not store the finished quilt or your quilts-in-progress in regular plastic bags as this really promotes static electricity. Using a humidifier in the workplace not only cuts down on static, but is great for your skin! 


You know what the pokies are – when the batting fibers pull through the fabric with your thread.  I don’t know what the technical term is, but everyone seems to know about pokies.  This is a different problem from bearding, but has the same result – seeing batting where you shouldn’t be seeing batting, on the outside of the quilt.

The first thing to try when you have the pokies is to change the needle.  It could be that your needle isn’t sharp enough or that there are barbs on your needle (even if you can’t feel them).  A customer gave me a good suggestion, which is to take the needle and jab it through the layered quilt a few times before putting it in the machine, just to make sure it glides through and there are no barbs.  She discovered that a couple of her needles had barbs that she could not even feel that were causing pokies on the back of her quilt.

If you are using cotton thread, cotton fibers are curly and will grab the batting fibers if given the chance, so use a mercerized or coated thread.  If you are using dark thread or fabric, give your thread a shot of anti-static spray as well as your fabric and batting.  I will leave the benefits of using a high quality thread to the thread manufacturers’ sales teams, but you have been advised:  use a quality thread and avoid a lot of headaches.

If you have never had these problems, I pray that you never will!  For the rest of you, I feel your pain and can sympathize.  I hope this blog has helped!

Happy Quilting!
 ~The Dream Team

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this information--I really appreciate it, as well as the advice when I called yesterday. But one more question---after I remove the quilting (sigh) and take apart the sandwich, should I wash and dry the top and backing before I start over? Thanks again!