Quilt care basics: cleaning, use and storage

IMG_8770

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.

Advertisements

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

Storing Quilts

2016-05QuiltStorageBarb Gorges12

A queen-sized quilt is folded on the bias lengthwise, about 2 feet wide, and then rolled and inserted in a custom-made pillow case. A wall quilt is loosely rolled on a swim noodle and tied in place with a fabric strip so it can stand upright in a closet. Photo by Barb Gorges.

Storing quilts: How to Help Your Quilt Live to 100, Part 12

By Barb Gorges

The best way to store a quilt is flat, in the dark, protected from dirt and interactions with chemicals, and at “room temperature.” Layering a few quilts on your guest bed comes close, especially if you lay old sheets between them.

However, most of us have to compromise with textile collection standards. I fold my big quilts, but I try to fold them in unprecise thirds or on the bias, differently each time. I don’t want to end up with that permanent crease down the middle that is seen in so many antique quilts. After folding them in one direction, I often roll big quilts in the other direction, then put them in extra-long pillow cases I make for each quilt, either out of cheap, washed muslin or the quilt’s fabric leftovers.

For small quilts, I use a swim noodle that is longer than the quilt is wide, or other cylinders covered in batting and muslin scraps. I roll the quilt around it, tying it loosely with a couple leftover fabric strips. I often roll more than one quilt on a noodle and top it all off with a covering of muslin.  In my closet I stand the rolls upright on the protruding ends of the swim noodles.

I place fragile quilts in acid-free boxes and use crumpled, washed muslin instead of tissue paper to stuff in the quilt folds and to wrap them to protect them from contact with the box.

Situations you want to avoid include contact with raw wood (including cedar chests—wrap the quilt), plastic that isn’t museum conservation-quality, damp places, dirty/smelly places and anywhere temperatures get extremely hot or cold. And don’t stack quilts more than three or four deep.

In whatever situation you store a quilt, it is important to take it out every several months to examine it for insect damage and to air it—and enjoy it.

The first 11 parts of this series are available at this website.