My father passed away recently and upon a visit to my mother I noticed the quilts I had made him were nowhere to be found. I asked Mom where the quilts were and her reply sent me reeling: she had decided to put them in her attic crawl space in a garbage bag.
My mom’s crawl space is filled with various possessions from my past. Toys, clothing that I will never wear again, the shovel I broke trying to shovel her deck last year… well you get the idea. The concerning issue was that the crawl space was also filled with free-standing insulation and mold from condensation and humidity. I decided it was time to have a talk with her about the proper ways to store quilts to maintain their beauty and integrity. Needless to say, the quilts are now with me, stored safely and properly.
In this article, I’d like to share some of my tips with you. But where to begin? There is a lot to talk about when it comes to how to store quilts. Perhaps we’ll begin with a list of “shall nots”:
1. Thou shalt not store a quilt in a plastic container or bag. This method often causes mold and mildew because it traps in any moisture, causing fibers to break down and leaving discoloration and staining. Another issue would be that plastic attracts insects.
2. Thou shalt not store your quilts with mothballs. The mothballs not only leave an odor that will not leave, but there is an ingredient in mothballs that will also break down fibers.
3. Thou shalt not store quilts in direct sunlight. Your fabrics will fade when placed in direct sunlight for long periods of time.
4. Thou shalt not store quilts in cedar or hope chests. Raw wood produces acid that is bad for textiles.
5. Thou shalt not store your quilt in a basement or attic. You will want to store your quilts in living areas of your home where the humidity and temperature is most constant.
6. Thou shalt not store too many folded quilts on top of one another. This will cause creases that will be difficult if not impossible to get out.
7. Thou shalt not keep the same quilts hanging for long periods of time. You need to change them out every 3 to 6 months to give them a rest from hanging and from any UV rays they are exposed to. Please take note that when hanging on wooden quilt racks you need a barrier between the quilt and the wood. Prolonged exposure will create brown spots where your quilt and wood were in contact.
8. Thou shalt not store quilts with newspaper or in cardboard boxes. They are full of harmful decaying agents. Have you seen what dishes packed in newspaper look like? Consider what it would do to your quilts.
9. Thou shalt not use colored tissue paper when folding your quilts to prevent creasing. Colored tissue paper contains dyes that can easily transfer to your quilt.
So now that we’ve covered the “shall nots,” now it’s time for some “how-to.”
Layering: Layering your quilts on a guest bed is a great way to store your quilts. Every time a guest visits, use that as a reminder to rotate your quilt for the next guest. How do you do this? Take the top quilt off the bed and move it to the bottom of the stack. Simple.
Batting Tube: Another great way to store your quilt is in a used batting tube. You may want to cover it with cloth though in case you aren’t sure if the tube is free of chemicals.
Folding: Lastly, a great way to store your quilt is to simply fold, especially if it is larger than a twin-size. To do this properly, you will fold over one-third of the quilt on top of itself, and then fold the remaining third over on top of the section you just folded. It is always a good idea to use acid free white tissue paper crumpled inside the folded areas to prevent creases.
Next, you will fold one-third of the folded quilt over again, and fold the remaining third on top of the area you just completed. Tissue paper may be used again if you choose to do so. When finished you will turn the quilt over and place it in a muslin sack or pillow case.
Remember, these tips are intended for your more heirloom-quality quilts that you want to preserve for future generations to enjoy. But really, shouldn’t every quilt you make be considered an heirloom? The definition of an heirloom is something that is passed down through generations, and most quilters hope that their quilts will be treated as such. After all, the individuals who made the quilts that hang in museums today had no idea that’s where they would end up!
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