Sunday, March 8, 2009

Heritage quilt

Help! Recently received a very old quilt. One hundred years plus old. How do I clean it? How do I care for it? Anyone have knowledge about how to care for old textiles?

As the family historian, it's been my privilege to serve as custodian to the bits and pieces of our heritage. A surprising number of items have ended up in my care simply because the owners don't know what to do with them. Most of their owners know that I'll care for their heritage, display the items if possible, and treasure them so I'm never surprised when new items arrive at my door.

But this one has me stumped. I'm afraid to just wash it as I suspect the fabric is too fragile for that. So if anyone out there has an idea or knows someone with knowledge, I would truly appreciate it.




  1. I haven't a clue on that one. Can you find anything out on line?

  2. Whatever else you do, don't dry clean it!! The chemicals are too harsh for fabric that old. Your approach will depend a lot on the condition of the quilt as a whole. I had an old one from my great grandmother that I washed with success (and a lot of effort) in the bathtub. The only problem with that method is the quilt becomes very heavy with the water and you'd have to be careful where you put it to dry - best to dry it flat someplace.

    You'd be best trying to contact some quilt historian though - they'd be the experts.

  3. Contact a local museum. They'll know the people who know their stuff. I did that when I inherited a 100 year old silk quilt, which is mostly falling apart now. I have it stored in a bag with tissue, etc., and bring it out once a year to refold and check condition. That's what was recommended to me.

    You can also contact the Needleworkers Guild (I may have info here somewhere). They can help you. I belonged to that organization for a long, long time and they have some very knowledgeable people.

    I know there was a story on Martha Stewart recently about old textiles. Maybe check her web site?

    I have a 40 year old quilt that I have hanging on display and do the same thing: refold it every year, clean it (very gently) in the washing machine and hang it on the line to air dry.

  4. Thank you all very much for your ideas! I appreciate it!