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My Antique Baby Quilt

Updated on December 27, 2009

A Remembrance from the Past...

Shortly after my son was born, my grandmother gave me a baby quilt that her mother had made in preparation for my father's birth in 1937. It was painstakingly hand pieced out of one-inch squares cut from discarded clothing.

This quilt means a great deal to me because my great grandmother died from tuberculosis when she was forty-seven, several months after my father was born. I can picture her, old before her time and bedridden, stitching these tiny squares together for a grandchild that she probably would not even be able to hold due to her illness.

Square by square, piece by piece...

When you examine this quilt, what you notice first are the fabric colors. There is no pattern other than the alternation of light and dark fabrics. The light fabrics are white, ecru or tan with small prints in various colors. The dark fabrics include black, several shades of blue, and burgundy with small patterns in white. The fabrics are primarily shirt weight with one single square of wool and another of corduroy.

The squares are about 2" and are sewn together entirely by hand. The border is made of longer strips pieced together with a four patch in each corner. Overall, I find the quilt to be graphically quite striking. The backing has stylized pink flowers on a white ground and wraps from the back to bind the layers together.

While my grandmother washed the quilt a few times, she never really used it when my father was an infant. Fortunately, she stored it in a dark place so it did not fade from exposure to light.

You may be able to tell from the picture that the lines of squares are not terribly straight and upon closer examination, the stitches are not consistent nor uniform so the workmanship is not of the highest quality. I do not know if this is because my great-grandmother was not a skilled seamstress or if her work quality suffered because of her prolonged illness. Either way, I am touched by the amount of painstaking work that she put into this quilt and it is one of my treasured possessions.

Read More About Antique Quilts

A Few of My Favorite Antique Quilts
A Few of My Favorite Antique Quilts

The nine full-size quilts in this book span more than a century and were selected from hundreds of antique quilts because of their striking designs. Antique quilts have a timeless beauty that has endured many decades. Whether made from vintage or today's reproduction fabric, they're sure to maintain the classic look.

 

Caring for and Storing Antique Quilts

If you have an antique quilt, it is important to care for it properly to preserve it for the enjoyment of future generations. Textiles are fragile and weaken as they age, especially when exposed to light, humidity and temperature extremes. When displaying and storing quilts, it is important to protect them from light and moisture as well as from predation by vermin.

Cleaning Methods

Avoid washing your antique quilt unless it is absolutely necessary. Water and agitation will most likely damage the quilt, perhaps irreparably. Also, never send an antique quilt to be dry-cleaned. The chemicals that cleaners use are harsh and will also damage the fabric of your quilt.

The best method for cleaning antique quilts is to vacuum the fabric gently to remove surface dust and grime. First, place a piece of clean hardware screen (cover the edges with masking tape) on top of the quilt and use the hand held nozzle to vacuum over the screen. The screen protects the fabric from being pulled into the nozzle, but allows enough airflow to suck up the dirt.

Tips for Displaying Quilts

The dyes in older fabrics were typically made from organic substances and will fade substantially when exposed to light, whether sunlight or artificial lighting. So, when displaying a quilt, even modern ones, be sure to place it where it will be out of direct light. I learned this the hard way with a quilt I made that I kept on a guest bed. I kept the blinds closed most of the time, but even closed, enough light leaked through the slats (which I kept slanted down) to fade the bottom half of my quilt, ruining it.

There are several ways to display an antique quilt, each with different benefits and dangers. You can place your quilt on top of a bed that is unused. The benefit is that when the quilt is flat, there is no uneven pressure on the fabric as there is with hanging. The danger comes from light exposure as I described above. Another method is to hang it on a wall. With hanging, you have better control over the location, thus protecting it from the light. On the downside, hanging puts undue pressure on the area that is used for supporting the quilt and may lead to stretching, distortion and weakening of the fabric. Another option is to display the quilt on a rack made for that purpose (see below for some examples). What you have to watch for in this case are the fold lines. When quilts are folded, the fabric can become faded or worn along the creases so it important to not leave them folded the same way for too long. When you fold antique quilts, it helps to cushion the fold with a sheet of acid-free tissue paper.

How to Store Your Quilts

Again, the most important considerations are protecting the quilt from light, moisture, and temperature extremes as well as from insects and rodents. Textiles need to breathe so it is essential that you never store quilts in plastic bags. It might seem logical to try to seal the quilt in plastic to protect it, but most often this leads to condensation which will then cause mold or mildew. Instead, wrap your quilt in clean, un-bleached muslin or acid-free tissue paper before storing it in your closet in a ventilated box or other container. Also, give your quilts a breather every few months by unwrapping them and laying them flat to air out. This is also a good time to check for any damage that may have occurred to the quilt while in storage. Finally, when you return them to storage, be sure to re-fold them a different way than you did previously so that the creases do not become permanent.

Southern Enterprises Scroll 3 Blanket Rack, Black with Bronze Rub Through Finish
Southern Enterprises Scroll 3 Blanket Rack, Black with Bronze Rub Through Finish

With a rustic and graceful styling, this classic blanket rack can give your home a definitive feel.

 
Winsome Wood Quilt Rack, Walnut
Winsome Wood Quilt Rack, Walnut

With six rungs, this charming quilt rack has room to neatly display all of the quilts and blankets currently cluttering your living room. Free standing, the convenient and discrete organizer can be positioned anywhere in the room.

 

Looking for an antique or vintage quilt? - Start here...

If you would like to purchase an antique quilt, here are some places to visit in your search.

Do you like antique quilts? - Please share your thoughts..

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    • Ann Hinds profile image

      Ann Hinds 6 years ago from So Cal

      This is a lovely quilt and I like all the resources. Angel blessed.

    • Senora M profile image

      Senora M 6 years ago

      I love quilts although I don't have any vintage ones. I have some cool lenses about quilting too if you want to check them out! BLESSED!

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 6 years ago from Central Florida

      I'm a big fan of vintage quilts and have collected some baby and doll quilts from the 1930s. Enjoyed reading about yours.

    • MamaRuth profile image

      MamaRuth 6 years ago

      I really enjoyed reading about your quilt. I love old quilts and treasure the few that I have. I grew up using handmade quilts at my grandmothers, but they were used so much that most are now gone. Reading this (and some of your other quilting lenses) brings back memories of that time.

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 7 years ago from United States

      You know I just had to Bless this wonderful lens too!

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 7 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      great job!

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 8 years ago from United States

      Beautiful! What a lovely piece of family history you have been granted and a wonderful treasure! Lensrolling to Sewing in the House of Sylvestermouse

    • groovyfind profile image

      Samantha Devereux 8 years ago from Columbia Mo

      Lovely