Most people look at the possession of an antique quilt as something to be afraid of. That is not true. An exciting antique quilt is an exciting addition for any collector. Watch and enjoy as a quilt changes your environment. One surprise is how this warmth and color can totally change the acoustics in a home or office. Your quilt is truly multifaceted. A wonderfully executed antique quilt brings a dimension to a home environment that no other medium can equal.
There are certain basic rules when being the keeper of an antique quilt, such as, if it is on a bed, no red wine, pizza, or chocolate ice cream for midnight snacks. One sleeps under an antique quilt, not on top of it. If you choose to lie on the bed for reading, or if you are simply untying your shoes, just throw the quilt back. If the quilt is warmer than you wish on the bed at night, do not even fold it. Find a wonderful fabric-lined basket and just drop is casually into the receptacle at night and the next morning return it to your bed.
All quilts should be washed by hand; they should never see the inside of a washing machine. It is best to consult a professional first and check the dyes. Where one does not sleep next to an antique quilt, washing is done very infrequently, sometimes years apart.
Eighty percent of all quilts that leave my shop end up as artwork (which they are) for the adornment of a wall. Whether itís a family room, a dining room, a front hall or an office, they are incredibly graphic and warm, evoking positive feelings. Once they are on the wall, they do not need to be washed, as they are not being used as a cover. Mounting them on the wall needs to be done in a correct manner. Pockets should be sewn on the quilt back, top and bottom. We then supply instructions as to how to hang them. Never put an antique quilt or any textile behind glass. Moisture and humidity can gather behind it, and over time this will disintegrate it. Antique fabrics are created of natural fabrics which need to breathe. They are cotton, linen, wool or silk, or a combination of these. These quilts have lived for hundreds of years without any heat or cooling and have survived (thank heavens there were no washing machines)!
One basic rule for your antique quilt is that it should never be in direct sunlight. Direct sunlight is not good for any fabric, whether it is a new sofa or an antique quilt. There are certain vegetable dyes where the color will not change; but most dyes will be directly affected by sunlight, and itís not healthy for the fabric itself.
Quilts are dated by their newest piece of fabric and by the thread that was used in the construction and the quilting. Certain threads were made in different eras. If someone has stated that a quilt is c.1830 but the thread dates to c.1860, then obviously the quilt is newer than they realized.
It is rewarding to be the keeper of an antique quilt. The vegetable or aniline dyes, the graphics, the history and the sociology behind these antique quilts, is amazing. Antique quilts are a study of early American life and the development of our country. They all tell stories. And the more you learn about the quilts, the more you understand the story that each one of these pieces is relating to us. Please feel free to contact me for more information.
In the next issue there will be more information regarding the development of the American antique quilt.