Hello, and welcome to this month’s newsletter. As I’m typing this we are bracing for the storm, battening down the hatches, stocking up on essentials like wine and chocolate and getting the quilts ready in case the power goes out. Good job I have plenty of quilts. So, put the kettle on and get the biscuits out, and settle in for little while. I had the best time in Dorset with the UKQG Region 4 ladies at the beginning of last month. I stayed with one of those ladies in a farm house right on the coast – just a field away from the Fleet, and had time to go for a walk down to the water before we went out for dinner. Susan Denton who was to be the morning speaker, and I were taken into Portland for dinner by 4 of our hosts. Lovely evening, lots of chatter and laughter and delicious food. Then home for an early-ish night as we had an early start the next morning to drive to Wimborne for the meeting. There were lots of vendors, one of whom painlessly parted me from large amounts of cash in exchange for some beautiful antique quilts and paisley shawls, a raffle, and 90 some ladies to enjoy it all. Susan gave a wonderful presentation telling us about her quilting journey and showing us the quilts she had brought with her and slides of the ones she’d had to leave at home. Lots of oohing over those. I had just enough time to set up my quilts and join everyone for lunch before my talk. There were still people pouring over them all as the hall was cleared up around us. I finally got to fold everything up and cart it away before I was forcibly evicted. So thank you to everyone who made my visit so enjoyable, and I’d love to go back and do it all again. My next talk is for South West Quilters on November 16th at Tresillian. If you are in the area please come along and join us. It occurred to me that one of the questions I get asked a lot is where and how I store all my quilts. So I thought today I would talk about looking after your quilts. Even if you think you know what you are doing, read on. I hope you will still find something new, or even have an ‘aha’ moment. And these guidelines apply whether your quilt is 100+ years old or one you just finished quilting and binding. All textiles including quilts, and especially old ones, are sensitive to light, dust, heat – or lack of it, moisture, smoke, chemicals, perfumes, insects, animals, stains and unnecessary cleaning. Looking after them properly will ensure they last well into the future. Ideally, quilts should be stored opened out and flat on a bed, as they were intended to be used. So if you have a spare bedroom, with a double bed in it, and not too many visitors coming through, then go ahead and stack those quilts on top of the bed. Put a plain white sheet on the top of your stack to act as a barrier to light and all those other pollutants. You will need to keep the heating on low in there too as quilts don’t like fluctuating temperatures and cold. The Quilt Police (QP) would also mention that stacking more than 5 or so will damage the quilts, but I have to say that I have not found that to be the case, and when I check them I change the order they’re in so the bottom ones don’t get too squashed. Besides, I would need a huge number of bedrooms to be able to put only 5 quilts on each bed, and I somehow don’t think I’d get that one past my husband. If you have quilts that are old and made with dark coloured fabrics, then you could put sheets between the quilts to prevent the colour from rubbing off onto the quilts above and below, especially if those are much lighter in colour. A lot of us do not have the luxury of a nearly permanent spare bed, and storing our quilts in chests and cupboards is the only way to go. Fold them top out, which is counter intuitive if you are worried about dust and sunlight, but apparently puts less stress on the tops. Stack them edges out rather than fold out, so that there is no danger of light causing a fade line along the fold, which is what happened to this quilt from early 20th century Oklahoma, before I acquired it I hasten to add. IMG_2223 It’s best to take the quilts out regularly to check for moths (eek) and other damage, give them a good shake and then refold them in a different way. This helps to prevent the fold creases from becoming permanent, and stops them from becoming musty. Putting acid free tissue paper in the folds will also help prevent permanent creasing. This checking and refolding is also a good time to remind yourself of what is there, especially if you have a lot of quilts, or don’t otherwise get to see them very often. If you are storing your quilts in plastic bags, please, please don’t. The plastic prevents the fabric from “breathing”, and is far more likely to lead to mildew and mold problems. If you feel you need to store the quilts in something, then a cotton pillowcase or bag would be best. Friends of mine tack photos or photocopies of the quilts to the outside of the pillowcases so that they know which quilt is in each one without having to take it out to see. Keep your pets away from your quilts. They shed hair, may have unwanted tenants and have sharp claws and teeth. So, in the case of either the spare room or the cupboard, keep the door closed. Keeping the door closed will also help to keep out the worst of any cigarette fumes if you or someone in your home smokes. If, despite your best efforts, your quilt gets dirty, or in the case of antique quilts, has unidentifiable stains on it, what then? If your quilt is new(ish), and you made it, and you pre-washed the fabric, and you know the colours won’t run, and you know what kind of batting/wadding you used, and there are no areas of damage, then, and only then, can you go ahead and wash it. (QP might want to look away right now) but, I would put it in the machine, on a gentle/handwash/silks and woollens cycle, use a delicate/handwash soap, with a colour catcher even if I knew the fabric was colour fast, and use conditioner sparingly then line dry it, or preferably, dry it flat on the ground on top of a sheet. If, however, the quilt is vintage or antique, and you have no idea about the fabrics, their strength or colourfastness, and the type of batting, and/or there is any kind of damage, even a tiny rip or hole, then on no account risk washing it. The stain may well be removable, but often would not be. Brown coloured stains could be blood, or worse, or they could be wood oils from being stored in cedar trunks, and those will not shift at all. The fabrics may not be colourfast and will bleed or the colours leech away, and they may not be strong enough to withstand even gentle washing. The batting may be made from less than ideal materials that will also simply not stand up to any washing. The picture below is of a quilt I recently bought especially to illustrate this point. The top was pieced at the turn of the 19th/20th century, and made up into a quilt in the 30’s or 40’s. It has been tied, not quilted and the batting layer is shoddy, a woollen type padding made from shredded cloth. There are several areas of damage. When it was washed the damage was made worse, the batting disintegrated and what is left is now all lumpy, and some of the fabrics are shredded and faded. As a quilt it is beyond redemption. IMG_2222 Never, ever, ever dry clean a quilt, especially an old one. The chemicals used are simply too harsh. So if you can’t wash it, what can you do? You can vacuum it, very carefully. Lay it out flat on a bed. Use the wide upholstery head or the brush attachment, not the crevice tool, of your vacuum cleaner. Either put a piece of a pair of tights (pantyhose) over the opening and move it an inch or so off the surface of the quilt, (this is difficult), or buy a piece of fibreglass mesh used in car body repairs, wrap the edges in tape so they don’t snag on the quilt, and hold this about an inch off the surface of the quilt and then vacuum the quilt through the mesh, (this is much easier). You will be amazed, and possibly horrified, at how much dirt you can get off this way. It is worth bearing in mind here that old quilts have more value to collectors if they are in their original condition than if they have been washed, either recently or historically. The other thing to consider is what those quilts may have already been through since they were made. People may have been born or died under them, they could have been used to wrap precious belongings in and buried during troubled times, they could have been used as picnic rugs, playmats or dens and dragged through who knows what. Sleeping under them was only the tip of the iceberg. And through all of that, they could well have had the tar knocked out of them by being scrubbed and laid out to dry over bushes and fences. So here’s the thing. You have either taken considerable time and skill to make a quilt, or been lucky enough to inherit or acquire an old quilt. Either way you’ll want to take the best care of it that you can so that it can be enjoyed for a long time. So that’s all from me for this time. If you have any other suggestions or tips on caring for your quilts, please share them either here on the website or on The Quilt Lady facebook page. Until next time,