Monday, June 24, 2019

Preserving Our Quilt Legacy

Do you make quilts, or collect antique quilts? What do you do with them? How do you care for them? What should you be doing to preserve these treasures?

My friend Laura G. inherited her mother’s unquilted top; hand pieced baskets every color in the rainbow with embroidered flowers and signatures of family and friends – truly a keepsake. But hmmm, there is a slight odor. Should she launder it? Take it to a dry cleaner? Maybe she will quilt it, but will that lessen the value?

Laura will find good advice in Ann Wasserman’s book, “Preserving Our Quilt Legacy, Giving Antique Quilts the Special Care They Deserve” (available at Ann has been studying and repairing quilts for over 30 years, and has received recognition for her repair work from museum and conservation professionals, collectors, and high-end antique dealers.

Another dear friend, Polly M. is an avid collector of antique quilts – at least one she reportedly “rescued” from under a sleeping dog! But most of her collection is quite valuable, like this Mariner's Compass. How should she store them to prevent damage? Flat, rolled, folded? What about environmental conditions in the home? Is it necessary to store quilts in acid free boxes?  Ann’s book offers advice on storing your collection.

Carla T. just finished binding her Baltimore Garden Quilt (hand appliqued and beautifully hand quilted). She wants to display the quilt in her home. What is the best way to display it? On the wall, over a quilt rack, or in an antique cabinet? Maybe not as tea party tablecloth! How do you hang a quilt, or should you really? Several display methods, with pros and cons, are described in Ann’s book, including how to make and attach a sleeve.

Sue C. recently lost her father-in-law, and called me to describe a beautiful quilt made of silks lovingly embroidered with fanciful animals and flowers. Found in an old trunk, it was obviously a keepsake from long ago never used on a bed. Sue believes it must be very valuable! Should this treasure be donated to a museum? Oh, but wait … a few fabrics are torn. Can she repair them, replace them, or cover them with some kind of netting, as shown here from Ann's book?

Preserving Our Quilt Legacy offers a collection of guidelines to help us decide what approach to take to preserve our quilts and textile items. Ann explains the difference between Restoration (often referred to as “repair) and Conservation to stabilize and maintain the current condition into the centuries ahead. Excellent graphics and step-by-steps show how to fix missing stitches or even repair a mouse hole (shown at left), and conservation techniques to minimize further wear, with pros and cons of crepeline, nylon net (bridal veil), and other products.

I will highly recommend Ann’s book to everyone with a quilt! Give our quilts the special care they deserve, and help preserve them for the years (and generations) to come.

Keep Quilting!
Barbara M. Burnham

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