You have probably visited homes of friends, relatives, or peeked in the door when your kid was trying to sell cookies to the neighborhood. I would be on at least one occasion you can remember seeing a quilt somewhere in someone’s home. It may have been hung on the wall as artwork, folded next to the couch or covering a bed.
How a quilt is best stored is entirely dependent on how long you want it to last. On that note, I will say that most of my quilts are half-folded in a heap by the couch. They get constant use in my house, and I love to show them off to anyone who enters. I am happy to report that the first quilt I made (about 12 years ago) is still in great condition, happily residing within that heap.
VALUABLE? If you own quilts of value (especially those family heirlooms), you may want to take more care with them. I would highly recommend you have any quilts appraised that you believe to be of value. If you feel the value of the quilt warrants, you may want to contact a textile preservation or conservation specialist at the nearest museum. They can help with specific instructions that may pertain to your quilt, if there are special needs. Some material and threads used prior to 1930 are not colorfast, and you don’t want the color bleeding, or acid from previous incorrect storage to continue to eat away at your material.
SPECIAL, BUT ONLY TO YOU. If you feel they are precious to you, but not in need of special attention, cover the quilt in a cotton sheet so when you fold it, there is an additional layer of protection within. The quilts then may be stored in a quilt cabinet (many for sale on the internet and quilting catalogs) or a sealed chest or drawer. Unfinished wood can leach acid and damage your quilts color and fabric integrity, and plastic bags or tubs can keep moisture trapped and result in mildew. Once monthly (no less frequent than every three months) open the quilts and give them a rustle to air out. If you have a place, lay them out away from pets and sunlight to air for the day. When you refold the quilt to store it away, fold it in different places than before to prevent creating permanent creases in the quilt.
SMELLY QUILT! Some older quilts smell funny – you know the smell I’m talking about. Lay your quilt out flat on a clean surface. Find a screen (you can use a clean one that is usually over the window, or go buy a piece at the local hardware store). Using the hose attachment on the vacuum at it’s lowest setting (if it has settings), suck through the screen, moving the screen around the quilt until you have treated the entire quilt. If there is applique or embellishment, you may want to vacuum from the backside. The point of the screen is to protect you from sucking anything into the vacuum and damaging the quilt. I highly recommend NOT washing your quilt without consulting a professional first. Not even spot washing – it’s just a really bad idea (I’d be happy to explain if you ask me to).
I JUST WANT TO LOVE IT AND USE IT! Ok so use it. But when you aren’t using it, put it somewhere out of the sun. Light deteriorates fabric, so you may not want to use one as a curtain unless you don’t mind some fade. Again, fold it differently every so often and wash it per maker’s instructions as needed. For those in cold climates, storing one in your car may work for you, trunk is best for the same reason stated above.
Love and enjoy your quilts as you see fit. They will love you back as long as you take good care of them!