Caring for Your Quilts

You’ve made your first quilt, or you have begun your collection. Do you know how to care for your quilts so they last?

Here are some tips on cleaning, storing, displaying, and repairing your quilts.

A Note on Damage

Fabric Display

If you’re planning to display a small  quilt where it will get sunlight, frame it professionally in UV-protected glass. Most quilters hang pieces on special display rods, and do so away from direct light, to minimize fading.

When quilts are made for daily use, as bedding, baby quilts, or table coverings, they require more washing. They are more likely to be worn, damaged, and faded. In this illustration, a postage stamp baby quilt, made in 1991, has survived hundreds of machine washings. But the fading and damage from those washings – and use – are evident.

Tying a Quilt

Tips on Cleaning

  1. Hand wash antique or old quilts in cold water
  2. New quilts can be washed in the machine, on the gentle cycle, in cold water
  3. Lay antique or delicate quilts flat, to dry, to avoid shrinkage and stress on the fabric
  4. New quilts can be dried in the machine, on low heat until most of the moisture is out, and then air dried
  5. Use gentle detergents like Woolite and Ivory, to not harm fabric fibers
  6. Keep washings to a minimum; colors will eventually fade
  7. Keep brightly colored quilts away from sunlight, particularly silks
  8. Experts recommend you do not dry clean quilts – the process will damage the fabric
  9. If dust or other particles appear to be on a quilt you have hung for display, use a small hand vacuum to gently clean the surface.

Quilt Repairs

If you are using or collecting antique quilts, seek expert advice on the nature and extensiveness of the quilt repair that needs to be done. Poor repairs can affect the overall look of the quilt, as well as its value.

If you are repairing contemporary quilts, do your best to match or replace pieces of the quilt with similar or complimentary fabrics. Try to match quilting stitch size and tension.

Quilt Display and Storage

Fabrics, like paper, will fade with exposure to the sun. If you are hanging your quilts for display, consider hanging them on walls that do not get direct light. Use special display rods which are available through quilting and crafting suppliers.

Store delicate or antique quilts loosely folded, or gently rolled. This puts the least amount of stress on the fabric. Do not store your quilts in trunks, boxes, or plastic. Fabric needs to breathe. Instead, wrap them in plain cotton sheets and put them on shelves.

Check out these sources for more details on caring for new and antique quilts.
http://www.si.edu/resource/faq/nmah/vicquilt.htm (care of silk Victorian quilts)
http://www.bluebirdgardens.com/ (general resource on washing, drying, and displaying).

Ready to see those classic patterns? Read on to the next page for a gallery of quilting patterns that you can print out and use at home.

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