My Antique Baby Quilt
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
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.
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.
With a rustic and graceful styling, this classic blanket rack can give your home a definitive feel.
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.
- Antique Quilts
An outstanding collection of over 300 antique quilts from the 19th and early 20th century. Quilts have been selected for their artistic appeal, fine workmanship, and excellent condition. We have quilts available in all sizes and price ranges.
- Antique Quilts For Sale - Betsey Telford-Goodwin's Rocky Mountain Quilts
Antique Quilts - Betsey Telford-Goodwin's Rocky Mountain Quilts features 400+ antique quilts of the finest quality. Betsey is a leading authority on quilts dating from c.l780-c1940
- The Antique Quilt Source
Located in the heart of Lancaster County Amish quilt country, The Antique Quilt Source has been selling to delighted customers worldwide for over 25 years. We specialize in quilts made by the Pennsylvania artisans of the past who earned a solid reput
- Cindy's Antique Quilts
Cindy's Antique Quilts offers a wide selection of quality antique quilts, and quilt tops. We also carry collectible Indian trade and camp blankets, Beacon, Pendleton, etc.
- Old Quilt Company
Here at the OLD QUILT COMPANY...we sell old quilts from the 1800's and early 1900's along with vintage doll quilts, quilt tops, vintage crib quilts, miniature quilts, antique squares, and cutters from the 1800's and early 1900's.
- Sharon's Antiques: Fine Antique Quilts
Vintage and Antique Pennsylvania quilts, tops, patches and more.
- Buckboard Quilts
Buckboard Antique Quilts has been supplying individual collectors and dealers across America and Europe with quality handmade antique quilts for 29 years.
- Mary Koval Antique Quilts and Antique Fabric
I hope to bring you the best in antique quilts , antique quilt tops and antique quilt blocks as well as vintage and antique fabric. I also have antiques and antique accessories. At any given time, our changing inventory of designs, colors, and variet
- Laura Fisher Quilts Antique Quilts & Americana
LAURA FISHER/Antique Quilts & Americana is a world-renowned New York City shop that houses the largest, most diverse collection of antique quilts in the United States. Dating from the late 18th through the mid 20th century, measuring from doll si
- Antique Quilts: From Stella Rubin Antiques, Quilt expert and author
Antique quilts for sale from Stella Rubin - acclaimed American quilt expert and author of 'Treasure or Not, How To Compare and Value American Quilts'.