Quilt Care FAQ
So now you have a wonderful quilt- the history begins with you. You can make a label out of a piece of muslin. It is important to use a pigma pen when signing your labels. This is an archival pen that will not harm your quilts. you can alo use many of the new products that will help you utilize your computer and your creativity!
My suggestion is to put as much information as you know about the quilt: the name of the quilt, the maker, the quilter, perhaps the occasion for which the quilt was made, the year if you know it, etc. If a quilt has passed down from generation to generation, be sure to list that and leave room on the label for future owners of the quilt.
Remember, your quilt is not finished until the label is on!
Do I need to wear white gloves to touch my antique quilt?
While it is not necessary to wear white gloves to touch your own quilts, it is wise to take some precautions in handling your quilts to keep them from becoming soiled. Here are some basic tips:
Wash hands; remove sharp jewelry and tie back long hair before handling textiles.
Do not smoke, eat or drink around textiles
Keep quilts on clean dry surfaces. Do not place textiles directly on, in or next to cardboard, unsealed wood or non-rag (acidic) paper.
Do I need to use acid free paper or boxes to store my quilts?
Quilt storage doesn’t need to be expensive, while you can use acid free paper or boxes, you can also use clean cotton sheets or washed, unbleached muslin are excellent to protect and store quilts in
Where is the best place to store my quilt?
Store textiles in a dark, dry place. Attics, basements and garages should be avoided. Avoid any storage area that is exposed to extremes in temperatures.
KEEP QUILTS OUT OF DIRECT SUNLIGHT. The ultra-violet rays in daylight and fluorescent light break down fabric dyes and speed up the oxidation of fibers.
Keep textiles away from insects, mice and other vermin. (Do not use moth crystals when there is insect infestation)
Quilts can be stored flat, folded or rolled around full-length wooden dowels or cardboard tubing. If space is at a premium or if your quilts contain thick stuffed work, the folded method of storage is preferable. Don’t stack too many folded quilts on top of each other or else the weight of all the quilts will create creases that are hard or impossible to get out. For the same reason, unfold and refold your quilts periodically to avoid severe creasing. It is recommended to use muslin tubes or pantyhose stuffed with batting in the fold areas to protect the fibers from creasing.
Can’t I store textiles in plastic bags ?
No! Plastics should NEVER be used for storage. They contain harmful vapors, which contribute to the deterioration of the fabrics. Plastics that are particularly harmful: dry cleaner’s bags, heavy-duty garbage bags, garment bags and Styrofoam.
Can I keep my quilts in a cedar chest?
Cedar, along with other woods, secretes oils that can damage fabric. If you must keep your quilts in a wooden container, it should be sealed with aprotective coating of polyurethane varnish, then lined with unbleached, washed muslin or acid-free paper. Metal containers should also be lined with this muslin or paper.
I have some old quilt blocks that are stored in a shoe box, is that safe?
Newspapers and cardboard boxes are NOT OKAY because they are full of harmful decaying agents. Just remember how your newspaper ages after only a few weeks. Contact of these items with your quilts will cause harm.
Can I use one of the new fabric-refresher sprays on my quilts?
They do not appear to cause any harm, but you need to test the color fastness of your fabrics before you spray anything “wet” on them.
My quilt has smoke and/or water damage – what do I do?
There are three levels of damage that occur with textiles from smoke. First, there is the particulate matter that occurs from the burning—the smoke, soot and ashes. In addition to soiling the quilts, the acidity level of the fabrics becomes dangerously high. Second, the water used to extinguish the fires often saturates the now dirty quilt. Last, there is often cross-contamination, more ashes as things are moved around, mud from people walking through the area.
What is the first thing to do?
The best thing to do is to immediately place the damaged quilt in plastic and put it into a deep freeze. Do not allow the quilt to dry, keep it wet—in a bathtub if necessary—until you can find a large freezer to place it in.
The next step is to contact a Textile Conservator. You can check with the American Institute of Conservators (AIC) for a local listing. This specialist can then determine the proper course of action for your quilt. It may be wet and dry cleaned; placed in an ozone chamber, or carefully washed on a flat screen.
More information is available through AIC at
1717 K Street NW, Suite 200
Washington, DC 20006
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