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What's the best way to wash/display an heirloom quilt?
By: Penny Halgren
When you get a precious heirloom like a family quilt that has been handed down for generations, your first thought might be to hang it on a wall. Don’t hang it up just yet!
Antique quilts need special consideration. Since quilts were made to be on beds, sometimes it’s best to display them as coverlets instead of as wall hangings. If you hang an old quilt on a wall, you run the risk of damaging the fabric fibers and stitches.Hanging a quilt on the wall creates a pull on the fabric.
If you do decide to hang some of your quilts, there are a few tips:
- Don’t hang your quilt in a window or near a place where direct sunlight can reach it.Bright light can bleach out the quilt. Artificial light can also cause damage, so always find a place where harsh lighting can be avoided
- Instead of hanging a quilt from a wall, why not fold it and drape it over a wooden quilt stand or over a room divider or screen? Or, drape it over the back of a sofa. You still get to display your quilt, but eliminate so much weight pulling on it by folding and draping it over an object. Another interesting way to display a quilt is to fold it and drape it over a rung in a ladder shelf.
If you decide to fold your quilt, be sure to re-fold it often. Otherwise, you may end up with permanent folds in your quilt.
- An easy way to hang a quilt on a wall is to use Velcro tape. Hand stitch one side of the tape to the backside of the quilt. Staple the coordinating piece of “tape” to the wall. You can do this on the top and bottom of the quilt, on the top only, or even around all four sides if you wanted. By taping more than one side, you remove the strain and pull from one side of the quilt, making it less likely to stretch out of shape
- You can also choose to add a rod pocket (hanging sleeve) to your quilt back and hang it that way. For instance, you would cut a five inch wide strip the length of your quilt. Stitch it to the back side of your quilt to slip a curtain rod through. Mount the rod on your wall to display.
Cleaning your Quilt
No matter which method of hanging you choose, you will need to periodically cleanyour displayed quilts. If you have an old quilt in bad condition, don’t even try to clean it. Delicate antique quilts should be cleaned by a company specializing in cleaning antique quilts. Research the cleaner before trusting your valuable family heirloom to anyone.
For quilts that are made of 100 percent cotton fabric, you have the option to machine wash them. Use cool water and a mild detergent. Many quilt shops sell a product called Orvis for cleaning quilts. Orvis is actually a horse washing soap, and works well for cleaning quilts. In addition, there is a product called Soak. With this product, you simply soak your quilt, and then lay it out to dry. It doesn't need agitation or rinsing. Never machine wash a valuable quilt. Dry quilts on low settings or lay flat to dry in fresh air.
If you did your pre-quilting work, you washed your fabrics before cutting the pieces. You shouldn’t have to be concerned with colors bleeding when you wash your favorite quilts. Prewashing fabric helps reduce shrinkage and fading in your finished quilt project.
If you need to remove a spot from a quilt, try a cleaner that is hydrogen peroxide based rather than bleach based. As you know, the bleach can drain color from whatever it touches. The peroxide cleaner is less likely to do that. Always test in an inconspicuous area first just to make sure.
Aside from periodic cleanings for your displayed quilts, remember to alternate the quilts you display. This gives the fabrics a chance to “rest” from being hung or draped over something.
Switch them out at least seasonally. In addition to preserving the integrity of your displayed quilts, this will also give you a chance to decorate for the holidays by showing off more of your favorite quilts!