Quilt care basics: cleaning, use and storage

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Jelly Star (detail) pieced by Barb Gorges, Cheyenne, Wyoming, and quilted by Virginia Ohr, Buffalo, Wyoming. Photo by Barb Gorges.

Recently, I was invited to write 700 words about quilt care for the Wyoming Tribune Eagle (Cheyenne, Wyoming) as part of the publicity for the Cheyenne Heritage Quilters’ quilt show Aug. 16-18, and mention my book on Amazon, “Quilt Care, Construction and Use Advice: How to Help Your Quilt Live to 100.”  It was published Aug. 11, 2018. It was also published at Wyoming Network News, https://www.wyomingnetworknews.com/tips-on-quilt-care-in-time-for-heritage-quilters-annual-show-quilt-care-basics-cleaning-use-and-storage

I used the article as the basis for a talk for the Slater Women last week, a social group that has been meeting for over 70 years in Slater, Wyoming, south of Wheatland. 

Think of this article as a synopsis of my book. 

Quilt care basics: cleaning, use and storage

By Barb Gorges

Do quilts at the fair and the local quilt show this time of year have you thinking about the quilts at your house? Here’s the most important care advice I can give you.

Cleaning

For art quilts, fragile antiques and other than cotton quilts, consult an expert.

Make repairs to quilts before attempting any cleaning procedures. Test vividly colored fabrics by rubbing them with a damp white cloth to make sure no color comes off when wet. If it does, don’t wash without a “color catcher” laundry product.

Smelly quilts don’t necessarily need washing. Try airing them on a bed by an open window, on the lawn between sheets or in the dryer with a damp, colorfast towel, just on air, no heat.

Washing a quilt contributes to wearing when surfaces rub against each other. But dirt, including body oils from hands and chins, also contributes to wear.

A quilt in good shape with lots of quilting holding the layers together can be washed in a washing machine. If you have a top-loader, stop the machine when the agitation begins and substitute gentle agitation by hand for a few minutes. Forward the machine to the draining, spinning and filling part of the cycle, until you reach the agitation part again and do it yourself again.

If you have a front loader, put it on the hand wash cycle. Be very careful with commercial machines because they may be encrusted with oil or excess soap.

Avoid using laundry aids like bleach and fabric softener. Look for laundry soap without additives, like Orvus, available at quilt shops.

Be careful taking the quilt out of the washer. The wet weight can break quilting stitches and seams.

Spread an old sheet on the floor, preferably on colorfast carpet, and carefully unfold the quilt, squaring it up. In our dry climate it should dry overnight. Then fluff it a little in the dryer on low heat.

Use

Keep the quilt in a clean place—no smoke, grease, pets, food, etc.

When you make the bed, don’t tuck in the quilt. Lift it into place instead of tugging on one end of it. Fold the sheet up over the top edge to protect it from body oils.

Make sure sunbeams don’t shine on the same spot of the quilt every day. Consider closing the shades. Or make sure the quilt is repositioned often so all parts get equal light exposure. Folded quilts on display need refolding often.

Quilts can be displayed on a wall. Avoid nailing or tacking them up. Instead, check the Internet (or my website, www.GorgesQuiltLabels.com) for how to make a quilt hanging sleeve. The tubular sleeve is attached to the back of the top of the quilt. A pole can be inserted and the ends of the pole secured to the wall.

Hanging quilts need to be taken down to rest every few months and rotated with other quilts or displays.

Storage

Quilts should never be in contact with raw wood, such as shelves or cedar chests. Either finish the bare wood or cover it with other fabric. Plastic storage containers marked #2 or #5 are O.K. as long as the quilt is perfectly dry and the container doesn’t get damp. Forget mothballs.

Never fold a quilt perfectly in half. Try to fold it differently each time or roll it up to avoid permanent creases.

Store quilts at “room temperature.” Extreme cold or heat is hard on cotton fibers.

Appraisals, Insurance

Photograph all your quilts. Make and sew on each quilt a fabric label with all the information you know about the quilt printed in permanent ink.

Getting quilts appraised for replacement value and insuring them is good practice, especially if you made the quilts yourself. It may also help future owners—like your kids—cherish them more.

However, the biggest compliment a quiltmaker can receive is that the quilt is loved to pieces.

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Quilt Care eBook and print books on Amazon

Dear Quilters, Quilt Owners and Readers,

I’m happy to announce that three editions of “Quilt Care, Construction and Use Advice, How to Help Your Quilt Live to 100” are now available on Amazon (if these links don’t work in the future, just search my name, “Barb Gorges”:

The eBook edition, $4.95, eBook link, can be downloaded onto any device, phone, tablet, reader or laptop. If you don’t have a Kindle, you’ll see a link right there for a downloadable free app on the same page that says “Read with our free app.”

The B & W edition, $6.95, black & white edition link, is perfect for sending along with the quilt you just made for someone. Be sure to read the chapter on shipping before mailing your gift quilt. This edition has 32 black and white photos.

The full-color edition, $14.95, full-color edition link, has a slightly different title, the addition of the words “Full-color edition.” The 32 photos in color will help you visualize what I’m talking about.

And what am I talking about? The book is based on the columns I wrote for the Wyoming State Quilt Guild’s newsletter and posted here. The information has been updated with the assistance of Jeananne Wright, AQS-certified quilt appraiser and antique quilt expert. And the topics have been realigned into 12 chapters. The first two are of interest to quiltmakers and the other 10 to all quilt owners.

Make – Quiltmakers need to think about quality materials and techniques when constructing a quilt.

Test – How do you test for washability and light-fastness of fabrics for those special quilts?

Use – What’s the best way to make a bed with a quilt?

Display – Keep fading even if not absent; learn stress-free way to hang a quilt.

Air – Sometimes all a quilt needs is a little airing.

Wash – What do you need to know before you wash a quilt?

Dry – Air-dry or machine-dry, it’s all about the balance between abrasion and migration.

Store – Where to find a clean, unlighted place for your quilt to rest.

Appraise – Showing a homemade quilt is worth something could encourage future owners to take better care of it.

Insure – A quilt is an investment, in time and effort, if not money. Protect it.

Ship – There’s much to consider when shipping a quilt to a show or its new owner.

Sign – Find out how to make a label about the quilter and the quilt to sew on the back. The more information, the more important the quilt could become in the future.

Find out more about the book at https://yuccaroadpress.com/. And consider leaving a comment or review there or on Amazon.

Thanks,

Barb Gorges

“Quilt Care” book now on Amazon

Quilt Care book coverMy classes on quilt care and the previous blog posts referred only to “How to Help Your Quilt Live to 100.” That’s a title that would stand out in a quilt shop. But in a book shop with over 200,000 other titles, the most important words needed to be up front.

To find the book, go to Amazon.com and search for either “Quilt Care” or “Barb Gorges.” It’s a mere $5.95 investment. The original blog posts have been reorganized and include additional information. If you buy a copy now, you can share it for up to 14 days–that could help save a few more quilts from unnecessary hardship!

And while you are there, feel free to write a review. However, if you find any mistakes, please let me know by email, bgorges4@msn.com. The beauty of the digital format is that I can edit and improve the book anytime—and the updates will show up on your device.

I hope to have the paperback version formatted and offered on Amazon later this summer. It’s a matter of figuring out how to get unfamiliar software to play with familiar programs.

Spread the good word—save a quilt!

 

 

 

How to Hang a Quilt

hanging sleeve

This sleeve design protects the quilt from the rod and the “pooch” helps the quilt hang flat. Photo by Barb Gorges.

Quilt Hanging: How to Help Your Quilt Live to 100, Part 7

By Barb Gorges

Over the last 30 years the quilting community has developed a nearly standardized tube-type sleeve for hanging quilts, protecting the quilt from the rod, and with less distortion.

Perhaps using leftover fabric from the back of the quilt, piece a strip of fabric 9 inches wide and as long as the width of the quilt. If it is for a king-sized quilt, cut the length in half to make two sleeves, allowing for a middle rod support.

Hem the short edges by turning under ½ inch towards the wrong or right side, pressing, and turning under again. Stitch in place.

Match the two long edges with wrong sides together and stitch using a ½-inch seam allowance. Press this seam open and at the same time, flatten the tube so that the raw edge of one of the seam allowances is just a little short of one of the folds.

Rearrange the tube to press another parallel fold that is on the other side of the seam allowances, and 3 inches from the fold closest to the seam allowances.

On the quilt, mark a line across the back 1 to 2 inches below the top edge of the quilt, and another line 3 inches below the first line. Center the sleeve, matching the folds closest to the seam allowances with the lines and pin in place.

Use either a whip stitch or a large version of your favorite applique stitch to sew along the pinned folds, catching generous amounts of the quilt backing and batting. Also sew down the parts of the ends of the tube that are against the back of the quilt.

Use your imagination for ways to support the ends of the rod. A rod can be cut almost the width of the quilt to hide it, or a little longer, for insertion into decorative brackets.

Scroll down to read the first six parts of this series. More detailed sleeve instructions are available at this website, on the “Quilt Care Tips” page.

Light versus quilts

Fading

Two navy blue fabrics reacted differently to ultraviolet light from sunlight and artificial light over the last 20 years while on display only about one month per year. Photo by Barb Gorges.

Quilt Display: How to Help Your Quilt Live to 100, Part 6

By Barb Gorges

*Scroll down to see the first five parts of this series or click on the tab above for general quilt care information.

Spreading your quilts on beds is only one way to display them. Many of us drape quilts over other furniture (avoiding unsealed wood), fold and stack them on open shelves or hang them on the wall.

Quilts on display don’t get the same rough treatment as quilts used for warmth. Instead, light is the biggest problem. If you’ve replaced your windows with energy efficient, low e (low-emissivity) glass, you’ve somewhat reduced the fading problem caused by the ultraviolet wavelength in sunlight.

Artificial lighting also has UV rays. Fluorescent lighting is the worst. Look for products that can filter UV light.

It is inevitable that quilts will fade if they spend any time with enough light to be seen, and that is part of the charm of antique quilts. At least make sure your quilt doesn’t fade unevenly.

A quilt faded along an exposed fold looks worse than a quilt with overall fading. Refold those quilts on display often. Flip the quilt around so the same corner isn’t illuminated by the same sunbeam each day.

One recommendation, from www.museumtextiles.com, is to rotate quilts on display every 6 months. In a bright location, I think you should rotate them even more often. This is the justification you need to make lots of quilts—at least one for each season for each display location!

After light, dirt is the other issue for quilts on display: dust, pollution, household cleaning product fumes, pet hair, wood smoke, tobacco smoke, greasy cooking vapors. You may want to wash a quilt (a future topic) that has been on display for a while before rotating it into storage.

Next time I’ll discuss how to safely hang a quilt.