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Tip: How to wash an old or antique quilt

First, I would never wash an antique quilt in a washing machine, at least not one which has an agitator as the quilt will get wrapped around the agitator and will more than likely be ruined.

I would also never wash a quilt containing wool or silk, nor would I dry clean an antique quilt. Wool and silk are especially fragile. Dry cleaners use strong solutions and are more likely to hurt a quilt rather than save it. I also love going through local shops, there is a wonderful Petworth antiques place near where I used to live which always had incredible finds, so it was just the best place on earth to find beautiful items for the home so always check stores like that.

Also, there must be no damaged areas–areas where you can see the batting poking out, rips, or places where the dyes (or other things) have eaten through the fabric. These are too fragile to withstand cleaning.

Most quilts in good condition (without damage mentioned above),can be cleaned first by vacuuming. You need to get a screen, fiberglass window screening available by the yard at your hardware store works well. Tape or sew binding on the edges to prevent the sharp ends from pulling threads or snagging the quilt.

Prepare a large table, or the floor by laying down a white sheet. Place the quilt on top, then the screen on top of that. Take a vacuum which is set at the softest suction possible by adjusting the air flow and hold the vacuum OVER the quilt (not directly on it). The vacuum will suck up dirt without pulling up the fibers. The screen helps prevent any damage to the quilt and holds all the fibers down. Vacuum the entire top of the quilt, then turn it over and vacuum the back side. This often is enough.

Some cotton quilts may be cleaned in the following way, but it is important to test the quilt to make sure that the dyes are stable.

Test each of different fabrics as follows: take a try Q tip and rub it over each of the fabrics. IF the color transfers, then it is likely it will run. If it passes this test, then dampen the q-tips and rub it on each of the fabrics. If it comes off onto the q-tip, then it will run.

If you have come this far without it running, then for the discolored spots, you can mix up a solution of non-chlorine bleach, specifically, I would use oh bother…Oxydol? It is in a blue container…and it is a really good addition to your washing…darling daughter is singing in my ear and I am having a hard time remembering. I’ll check in the basement later. Spot treat the areas using a spoon or a piece of muslin to tamp it on.

Draw some cold or at most tepid water into the bath tub…put in approx. 2 T of Orvus paste (you can get this at quilt shops, from Clotilde, or from some Livestock supply places (cheapest there….it was originally designed for washing Livestock–it is straight sodium Lauryl Sulfate and is gentlest on your stuff) into about 4 – 5″ of water. Buy one of the Woolite or CArbona “dye mops” to absorb dye which leaches in to the water…as a precaution. Lay the screening on top of the water and place quilt on top. Put dye mop on top of that. Pat the water through the quilt, not wringing. continue patting. Do not let the quilt soak as if the dyes go into the water and resettled, that is what contributes to the running of the dyes.

Drain off water, and run cold water through until the water comes off clear and no suds.

Press water out of quilt. Use towels to blot more water out. Lift the quilt on the screen (textiles are at their weakest when wet) and lay the quilt flat to dry…either on top of a clean sheet laid on the floor or outside. If you are putting the quilt outside to dry, cover the top with another sheet so that nothing falls on the quilt. Inside, put a fan on the quilt. After the top seems dry, turn it over and let the back side dry.

Tip: What is a scant quarter inch seam allowance and how can I achieve it?

When sewing by machine, you are cautioned to use a scant quarter of an inch seam allowance. This is becuase the double threads used in the sewing machine’s lock stitch (as opposed to the running stitch used in hand piecing) take up more space than the hand stitching. A 1/4 patchwork foot is indispensible in achieving a perfect scant quarter inch, but it does take practice.

Many newer machines have a guage for a scant quarter inch built in. In order to check, take a piece of paper, and feed it into your machine using the edge of the presser foot as a guide. That is usually 1/4″. Take out the piece of paper and measure it. It should be just slightly 1/4″ (not quite) seam allowance. If it isn’t, adjust by moving the needle and testing again until you get the appropriate amount.

Sometimes using seam guides which can be screwed into your machine can also help. The fabric is butted up to the edge of the metal bar in order to help you maintain the appropriate seam allowance. Magnetic seam guides are also available, but I find that they are too easily moved by accident.

Tip: Suggestions on making a difficult first quilt

I am making my first quilt, Baking Days. Probably not an easy one to start with, but that is the one the 3 day class is making, 6 hours total! (I may set this aside and find something easier). I am on the first block and realized I am using Glaced cotton! I will change to 100% quilting machine cotton, is this correct? Should I discard the first block and start over? Also I am using all flannel material on top. What material do you suggest I use on the back? It is for my son and will take a beating. Any suggestions will be appreciated:

I’m not sure what “glaced” cotton thread is but if it is cotton, it should be ok. You should use 50 weight sewing cotton for the construction of your quilt, something like Coats or Mettler. Quilting thread is what we use to do the actual quilting of the three layers of our quilt. Your quilt will be nice and cozy made in flannel. I would have recommended cotton rather than flannel for your first quilt because I think it is a little easier to work with, but I think you can make it work. Flannel is just a little bit thicker and sometimes stretches a bit. Because flannel IS so cozy, it would be great to have on the back too. I hope this helps. Maybe you would post a photo on our website when you are finished. Just go to the “share your quilt” button. Good luck with your project!

Tip: Help with quilts with ‘cotton’ batting having more prominent creases from being folded

It seems that my quilts with ‘cotton’ batting have more prominent creases from being folded, than my other quilts:

See my “quilt care” section for ideas, but in a nutshell, refold your quilts often so the crease does not have time to ‘set’. If possible, store quilts rolled up over a cotton covered tube, or lay on a spare bed. You can layer many quilts on the bed, and cover with muslin to protect from dust and light – rotating the top one would also be a good idea!

Tip: Have wavy edges?

My edges are wavy:

Sometimes the borders are too long. To correct this, you must measure vertically through the centre of the quilt, then cut the two side borders that exact same length. Pin the centre, the ends and in between and ease the edges of the quilt to fit. Follow the same procedure for the horizontal measurement. This keeps your quilt square. However, the edges can still get wavy if you apply your binding incorrectly. As you sew the binding onto the quilt, pull the loose end of the binding snug. This will ease in some of the fullness at the edge of the quilt.

Tip: Properly line up squares

My squares don’t line up properly:

When sewing rows of squares together, press the seams on one row to the left and the seams on the next row to the right. Now pin each junction with the seams “butting up” to each other, instead of on top of each other.

Tip: The proper amount of fabric to buy when shopping

When I am shopping and see some fabric I love, how much should I buy?

It’s difficult to know how much to buy when you don’t have a project in mind. When I really love a fabric – which is often – I usually get three yards/meters. That way I have enough to place some in the body of the quilt and enough for the borders.

Tip: Binding Advice

I want to cut the binding 3″ wide, so that it will show up more. I read somewhere that the batting should fill the width of the binding, and that sounds good to me. I’m thinking that the easiest way to do that is to just do a 1/2 inch seam instead of 1/4 inch when attaching the binding. This does narrow the border by 1/4″ but I made the border bigger than I needed anyway. What do you think of the above method?

You can do your binding as you suggested for sure. The other method some people like to use is to cut their binding 3″ and sew it on with a 1/4″ seam allowance, stuff extra batting along the edge of the binding, fold over and stitch down. It makes a puffier more pronounced binding.