How to Buy New and Used Quilts: Considerations in Buying a Quilt
What to Look for When You Buy Quilts
Quilts provide a great place to stay warm, and provide a great centerpiece to an attractive bedroom or living room. Some quilts increase in value over time, and make you feel like you own a piece of American history.
These are some considerations you can make when you are buying a new or antique quilt.
What to Look For When You Buy Quilts
While you can buy a factory made quilt, most quilts are individually made items. They may be quilted by people at a factory, or at home by an individual quilter. They can be machine sewn or hand sewn. Since each one is individually made, it will have variations from other quilts you have seen. You might even see some flaws on the quilt. There might be an interruption in the pattern if the quilter placed one of the blocks in the wrong direction, for example. These will not affect the quality of the quilt, and it will be up to you to decide whether the change adds character or is disturbing. Construction flaws - where there are loose threads coming out of the quilt, or places where the seams look like they are coming apart - are more serious. I would not buy a new quilt with construction flaws, but may be willing to overlook them in older quilts.
Most quilts are made for using. Use them and display the small ones. You can repair it or get another one when it wears out. Buy one that you like. Buying a quilt that is pleasing to your eye is more important than buying one only for investment purposes. You are going to be having your quilt around for a long time, and you might as well enjoy it. Also if it doesn't appreciate in value, you will be very disappointed.
Some people use antique quilts just like they do any other quilts, but many want to conserve their value. If you are buying antique quilts, you may want to protect them from light sources, limit their use, and handle them gently
If you find a quilt you like, at a price you are willing to pay, you should buy it. If you want to become a quilt collector, researching quilt patterns and comparing prices of quilts made in the same era using the same quilt patterns will help you with your decision. The more you know about the time period, types of quilts, and the availability of quilts in that style, the more confident you will feel with the purchase. To become familiar, you may consider subscribing to a quilting magazine, research online, or attend a quilt show.
Things that affect the price of a quilt are age of the quilt, condition, size, complexity of design, quality and method of construction (hand stitched or machine stitched, or quilted by hand or machine), quality of fabric, aesthetic appeal of the quilt, and the demand for it. You will find that big quilts with simple designs may often be the same price as small quilts with complex construction.
Buying New Quilts
Some people prefer to get things that are brand new and haven't been used by anyone. Please note that quilters often wash a new quilt before sending it to the buyer. Quilts take many hours to make, and are sometimes made in homes with pets. Washing a quilt cleans it off for the buyer, and also adds the crinkly texture that makes quilts so special. You can generally find one you like that is already made. Then you can buy it and just wait for shipping. If you want to special order one, please note that it will take time to make it. Make sure to discuss your time frame with your quilter as well as the price.
Buying Used Quilts
Some people prefer to buy quilts that are antique, while others will want to buy an older quilt that can appreciate over time. For antique quilts, the seller may have obtained an appraisal, and you can ask to see it. You may want to have your own independent appraisal as well.
Used and antique quilts may have problems - stains, worn spots, color fading, disintegrating fabric, or loose seams. Depending on the age of the quilt, some wear and tear is expected. It will be up to you whether the problem is too serious for purchase. Remember that you can cut off the problem area to make a smaller quilt or use the quilt to make another project, such as stuffed animals, pillows, or table runners. I would recommend getting advice from an expert before cutting up a quilt.
Buying Unfinished Quilts
It is also possible to buy quilt blocks or quilt tops that have not been quilted. They are likely to be less expensive than finished quilts. For antique quilt tops, you may want to talk to an appraiser or other expert before quilting it yourself, if you are worried about the value. If you do not want to finish your own quilt, you can often hire a quilter to quilt it for you. There are people with long arm machines that will quilt other people’s quilts. For antique quilts, you will want to consider hiring someone to hand quilt it for you. An Amish community is the place to look for hand quilters.
The American Alliance for Quilts has tips on a variety of quilt topics, such as caring for a quilt, getting an appraisal, quilt history, etc.
Ann Champion is a quilt collector and has purchased many quilts and quilt tops. Her blog showcases these quilts.
Collector's Weekly has an article on Collecting American Quilts.