Revisited Myth #128: A “chin protector” strip sewn across the edge of a quilt to protect against the oils of grandpa’s beard, and this is evidence of a very old quilt.

General agreement from blog readers says that it doesn’t take a beard to create stains on the top edge of a quilt. Hands and faces can do damage easily, which is why a bed properly made folds the top sheet over the blanket or quilt–sheets being frequently laundered and blankets/quilts not so much. After reading the following comments by experts, we can safely conclude that most of this statement is fact, just not the part about the strip being useful in dating the quilt.

Barbara Brackman, quilt historian: “Several years I wrote this about the topic. See below. And I’ve attached a picture of a comforter from about 1910 with a pink feedsack chin protector from about 1940. [above]
Chin or Beard Protectors: Some of the most functional quilts and comforters, those used as everyday blankets, have an extra piece of fabric covering one edge. We call these cuffs “Chin Protectors” or “Beard Protectors”.  The women who remember sleeping under them tell us the cuff was added to the edge of the quilt that was pulled up under a man’s scratchy chin to protect the patchwork from wear, sort of like a celluloid collar extending the life of a shirt. The chin protector could be replaced when it frayed. To be fair to men, we must point out that people of either gender can wear out a quilt’s surface by pulling at it every night. A better name for these unquilted additions might be “hand protector.”

Observation indicates that the extra border, a cuff covering both the top and backing of the quilt, is most often made of a fabric produced after 1900. The housekeeper might have added a chin protector to an 1880’s quilt, but it usually looks like that extra piece was stitched in place in the 20th century.  Chin protectors, like sleeves for hanging, are often a later addition that is of little use in dating the quilt.”

 The International Quilt Museum posted this response from their curator on their Facebook page:
“Sarah asked if we had any comments on the quilt myth mentioned in the second half of the post. Here’s what one of our curators had to say: A “beard guard” or “whisker guard” is something seen on quilts somewhat regularly. It was a way to help keep the area at the top of a quilt clean. It protected the quilt from oils – whether from a beard or from hands. They were used at various times in history, so it isn’t a clue to a particular date, period or region.”
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3 Responses to Revisited Myth #128: A “chin protector” strip sewn across the edge of a quilt to protect against the oils of grandpa’s beard, and this is evidence of a very old quilt.

  1. If these fabric strips were later additions, is it possible that they were repairs?

    • Mary Miley says:

      Sounds logical to me. A strip to cover over the worn or stained edge. Good idea!

    • I was going to suggest the same thing: repairs rather than “protectors”. I have a quilt that has been on my bed for over 10 years, and it started showing wear (I wash it regularly so it isn’t stained) several years after I started using it. It is now so torn along the top edge and worn out (even holes going all the way through to the backing) for about 5 inches into the quilt, near the edge, that I have taken it off my bed until I can repair it. It is so ragged and torn that I will have to trim off a strip a few inches wide along that edge, and put on a binding, in order to have a firm edge to the quilt again.

      I am female and have no beard, and nobody with a beard has slept under this quilt, so the damage was definitely not due to a man’s oily beard! I almost always fold the sheet over the top edge of the quilt, but I often have my arms outside the blankets, and they rub on the edge of the quilt.

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