Take care of your quilts and make the memories last

July 29, 2015

Have a homemade quilt that was an heirloom or gift, or one you made yourself? Quilts tend to be precious to their owners, whatever their backstory. Here's how to make sure yours is in the best shape possible, for as long as possible.

Take care of your quilts and make the memories last

Care for quilts in use

  • If you have an old quilt that's still on active duty, be sure to minimize its exposure to bright lights — especially the rays of the sun.
  • While making the bed, pay careful attention not to catch quilts on the bed frame or any sharp edges.
  • Equally important, don't let fragile quilts hang over the edges of the bed.
  • Gravity can further weaken the fibres, and eventually your quilt won't be able to support its own weight and may tear.

Clean quilts before storing

  • Make a quilt less appetizing to insects by taking the time to clean it before placing it in storage.
  • Never dry-clean or wash antique fabrics, because either one can cause permanent damage.
  • In fact, the only completely safe way to clean them is by vacuuming them.
  • Use a portable handheld vacuum or a canister-type unit with a piece of nylon stocking or panty hose placed over the hose nozzle. (Keep it in place by wrapping the ends with a piece of masking tape.) Don't let the nozzle touch the material while vacuuming.
  • Quilts should be taken out and vacuumed at least twice a year.

Fold quilts anew

  • If you store quilts on a quilt rack or keep them folded in storage, remove them every three to six months and refold them in a different way before returning them to storage; this will avoid creases and dirt lines.
  • If you had a quilt folded in half, for example, refold it in thirds.
  • Try to fold it as little as possible and keep the undecorated underside of the quilt on the inside.
  • Most wrinkles will occur on the inside of a fold.

Patch a quilt

  • Do you have a patch quilt in need of patching? Frayed, torn, and split patches can be covered with silk organza or crepeline (a fabric made especially for textile conservation repairs).
  • Use a very fine needle and silk thread or the warp yarn from the silk organza to attach the fabric to the quilt over the damaged patch.
  • Try to use as few stitches as you can, since each pass of the needle will leave a permanent hole in the quilt.
  • Use seams as attachment points whenever possible; they are usually the strongest parts of the quilt.
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