Bringing Out The Best in Your Quilt – A Longarmers Perspective

The basis for the title comes from my leadership training. Once upon a long, long time ago I was told to read a book we fondly refered to as “The Book of BOB”, BOB standing in as an acronym for Bringing Out (the) Best, but referring to people.

I was asked to lecture for a guild (coming soon!), and subsequently had to come up with a title for my speaking engagement about being a longarm quilter. This is what came to mind.

If you think about the title sentence, it does really make sense. It reveals that as a longarm quilter, I will give my perspective on how WE can bring out the best in your quilt. Yes, WE, meaning you and me, or you and whomever your quilter happens to be.

I know there are others out there that offer this same ‘speech’, but what I am truly offering is an interactive session with your group, and it doesn’t just address MY personal requirements and preferences. The good news is that this can apply to any two people that work together.

The bottom line is that this entire situation comes down to communication. If the quilt maker wants heirloom and goes to someone she used to have quilt for her that way a year or more back, how can she be sure that quilter hasn’t changed her style (this happened to someone I know). How are you SURE that your longarm quilter isn’t going to GO WITH IT when that’s what you tell him to do? Maybe “go with it” in his opinion means show quality detail, but that’s NOT how much you wanted to spend!?!

This post is a bit of a teaser, because I will be delivering this interactive seminar to the Land Of Lakes Quilt Guild in Lewisville on January 14, 2013 at 7pm. I will address:

what happens when you don’t carefully measure the blocks before piecing them

blocks of different sizes

what happens when you iron seams that are NOT flat…

ironing crease in seam

and a variety of things that can happen when you piece the back, when you don’t measure the borders and more. And of course, I will address how the longarm quilter can make these ‘issues’ disappear, like magic.

I will also provide guidelines and questions to ask each other so that interaction can go smoothly. That really should not be uncomfortable for anyone. And if you have questions, feel free to comment here!

ps. to ALL my customers, don’t worry – your quilts will NEVER end up in this type of discussion!!! the one pictured above was an old family treasure, and some other examples are charity or my own work, made in a way so I had some great examples to share!


Washing Antique Quilts

Ordinarily I would not recommend doing this, but of course it is up to the individual and the circumstances. I would like to showcase an example and let the reader make their own decisions as to whether or not they should perform something similar to their quilt.

I happened to have a quilt made by my great grandmother that I had appraised last year. It turned out to be valued low due to condition issues, mostly water and age stains, as well as a funny smell and a dingy fade to the overall quilt. So I figured if I washed it and it didn’t turn out so well, I wouldn’t have lost much. I mean, it is an invaluable heirloom to me, but I do have 6 or 7 other quilts of hers to cherish.

So I decided to test this product I’d recently heard of called Retro Clean.

The operation went in this order, specifically:

1. Filled the bathtub with lukewarm water and let it sit for 20 minutes (to let the chlorine evaporate).

2. Place the quilt gently into the tub, pushing it down into the water to ensure the water penetrates the fibers. At this point my bathwater turned very yellow, which indicated to me that I was already making progress.

 So I removed the tub drain to let the water out. I lightly folded up the quilt so I could push a bit more water out of it, once it had drained from the tub and removed the quilt to the edge of the tub.

3. Refill the bathtub with lukewarm water and let it sit for another 20 minutes. Resubmerge the quilt and gently move it around in the water. Again my water turned yellow, so again I drained it, and repeated the process again.

4. Moving along… Fill the tub, add the sample size pouch of Retro Clean and let it sit for 20 minutes. Submerge quilt. The directions state that the quilt needs to be completely submerged in the water for 2 days, preferrably in the sunlight. Well, I couldn’t get every bit of the quilt to stay under water without a towel laid over it, so that’s what I did. I let it sit for 2 days.

5. Drain the water. Now comes the toughest part. Removing the quilt from the water without damaging any of the fragile fibers is the most concerning step of the process. So I used the towel to encase the quilt and brought it outside. I used a white sheet to cover the trampoline out back and put the quilt over it. It was dry the next morning.

As you can see from the pictures, I had fantastic results in this case. My quilt was in very good condition (only one small tear), being assembled in the 1920’s.

Quilts from earlier periods may have material or thread that have migrating dyes or cuastic mordants, causing color bleed and material disintegration. To prevent these issues from occurring, you MUST ensure your quilt will react positively to a water bath PRIOR to placing it in one. The best test you can perform is to test a very small section of the fabric in each color with the water in advance. Or consult a conservation specialist.

So consider this a product review. If you DO make the decision to bathe your quilt, I would recommend using ORVUS soap or RETRO CLEAN. But before you take action, be absolutely sure you want to take this step.

Best of luck my friends!

Storing your Quilt

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.

my quilt 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!

Handling your Quilt

Hi there! Glad you’ve joined me to learn a little bit about quilting, as well as my other interests as I feel like posting them. I thought I would provide some basic information about handling quilts in this introductory post.

1. Whether you are in the process of finishing a quilt, or you have an antique in your possession, be sure to wash your hands frequently. When handling antique or aging quilts, you may want to wear cotton gloves – even nail polish can transfer onto quilt material from the slightest brush, and terribly hard to remove (if it can be removed at all). Remove any sharp jewelry and pull back long hair before handling textiles.

2. Do not smoke, eat or drink around textiles. Seriously, it’s just too easy to get something on the quilt or material that you may regret.

3. For sketching or marking quilts, there are a variety of methods. NEVER use pen. If you choose to use a water or air-soluble marker, test the material first in an obscure spot to ensure the color dissipates. You can use pencil if you mark the backside of the material or an area that will be covered by applique or something else. Chalk is another great tool to mark where you will be quilting or stitching.

4. Much like a painting, a quilt can be disfigured if it is not properly stored. If it is hung improperly it can retain hook marks (like a sweatshirt gets on the hood if you hang it over a hook that way). Do not place any objects such as tools, light fixtures, books and other personal items on quilts or quilt storage units. A spill or smudge or tear means costly repair.

5. Keep quilts on clean, dry surfaces. Do not place textiles directly on, in or next to cardboard, unsealed wood or non-rag (acidic) paper.

6. Check with the quiltmaker and quilter on laundering requirements. Any quilt that can be machine washed needs to be washed in cold water only. Any antique quilt or quilt with wool batting should not be machine dried.

If you have any questions or comments I would love to hear them!

To learn more about storing or laundering please visit