Looking at a well designed and well executed quilt is akin to gazing at a beautiful sunset. Both sights represent acts of creation that somehow satisfy your soul.
Jeff’s grandmother, Cordie Browning, gave us a bowtie scrap quilt that she hand-pieced and hand-quilted as a wedding present. We used it on our bed, loved it, washed it, and wore it to pieces. I wish I knew then what I know now and that I had preserved her labor of love.
Here are a few tips on quilt care and storage gleaned from experts Ann Russell a conservation consultant, and Deborah Roberts, a quilt historian and appraiser.
1. Display your quilt on a bed at least 10 ft. from a light source, a wooden rack that has at least one coat of polyurethane varnish, or hang the quilt using a full length fabric sleeve on one end and a sealed 1X4.
2. Protect your quilt against its enemies of light, oils, humidity, acids, and other chemicals. Since our skin secretes oils, wash your hands or wear white cotton gloves when readying your quilt for storage.
3. Store your quilt in a low-light, moisture-free area. This eliminates basements and attics as proper storage areas.
4. You will probably have to fold your quilt to fit the space you have available. To keep from putting stress on the folds, use rolled up batting or acid-free tissue paper to cushion each fold.
5. Place quilt in an archival box or a sack made from washed unbleached muslin or an old cotton sheet. The Hollinger Corporation manufactures archival storage materials or you may be able to purchase an archival quality box from a local dry cleaner (used for wedding gown storage.)
6. Another storage possibility is to roll the quilt on a cardboard roll from a carpet or fabric store. Wrap the roll first with an old cotton sheet. Lay the quilt top down on another sheet. Roll from one end. Cover with another sheet if needed. Tie loosely with cotton strips every 12″. Store flat and turn the roll every few months.
7. If you must “wet wash” your quilt, use a quilt cleaning solution in your bath tub according to product directions. Drain, rinse. After the rinse, let the tub drain moisture from the quilt for several hours. Be careful lifting the wet quilt as the weight will put strain on seams and fabric alike. Roll in an old sheet to absorb moisture. Dry flat on another sheet in a low-moisture area away from sunlight.
Two more suggestions from Deborah Roberts:
· Sew a label on your quilt and document its origin.
“Your quilt history will survive to the end of the next century if is labeled and documented as thoroughly as possible. Take a photograph of it and keep the photo with your documentation, in a separate area from your quilt. Place a label on your quilt. Your label should contain at the very least, the following information: Your name, (or maker’s name) the city and state where the quilt was made, or where it came from if it is an antique quilt. Also include the date it was made, or a circa date if unknown. It would also be nice to include quilt care instructions, as those who will have the quilt after you may not know how to care for it.”
· Have your quilt appraised.
If your quilt is well made, you will be surprised at its worth. QuiltBroker.com is a site that sells quilts online. Take a peak to see the going rate for a quilt today.
Of course, the true worth in a family quilt is the heritage it represents. Someone was creative and talented, persevered through hardship, and gave of themselves to their family. That is what we want to preserve and hand down to our children.
Thankfully, each of my children has a child-sized quilt made by Grandma Browning. They will receive a copy of this article.