How to care for your new quilt

Caring for your quilt is as important as making the quilt, right? You’ve spent hours cutting, stitching, swearing (be honest, or is it only me?), frogging (rip-it, rip-it), sandwiching, quilting and binding – just writing that is exhausting. Now you want to give this bundle of love to a friend, but they don’t know or necessarily appreciate (if the latter, you really need to do some education) how much work has gone into making this. Do you include any instructions for care, or cleaning or anything? (Please tell me you’ve got a label on it? )

As you give your loved one this beautiful quilt, make sure that you also give them details on how to care for this piece of magnificence. You know that the quilt can live for many generations, but do they know that to accomplish that it needs to be cared for in the right way? After all, you’re not going to leave your baby with the baby-sitter unless you’ve given them a list of what to do and what not to do right?

Daindelina is a printed quilt panel that I use for Intro to couching classes . Quilts with couching should be cared for like appliqué and vintage quilts.

How to care for your quilt

Use it peeps!

This is the simplest and most necessary way to care for your quilt. Don’t hide your new quilt in a chest, or in a cupboard. Use it to keep it aired, breathing (no jokes on that one, your quilt is your baby after all) and best of all, soft. Using a quilt softens the stitching, note that I said soften, not break the stitching. Your baby wants to get raspberry kisses and tickles to remind it that it is loved and enjoyed. Show it off, snuggle in the cold and have a picnic, because you care for your quilt.

Show off the masterpiece

Put the quilt on display either on the wall, or on a bed. Many people have restored old wooden ladders, or made a new one to display quilts.

This pyramid quilt is in our guest room. It’s one of my first quilts – quilted on my Jemgold using the walking foot.

Wash it, occasionally

I’m always doing laundry, it seems like a never-ending pile of stuff. Add quilts to that and I’m gonna groan. So before you chuck that lovely piece of fabric and quilting into water, ask yourself:

  1. How dirty is dirty? The kids spilled a drink in the excitement of winning the ferocious battle with the creepers. You could probably get away with just cleaning that spot. Did the boys skip a few cleansing opportunities and that quilt smells more like the rugby team than your lounge couch – it’s probably a good idea to give it a re-introduction to the washing machine.
  2. Should I wash it? Your quilt is resting on the back of a couch, and you and your hubby enjoy a cuddle while watching your favourite movie. You’re not going to wash that baby every week, because sometimes this is how you show that you care for your quilt. It’s not necessary to wash it unless it’s reminding you of greener pastures.
  3. Your wall hanging was last washed a year ago. Ok, that baby needs a wash. A good rule of thumb is to wash your quilt once a year.
This is a rail fence quilt that I show you how to make in this blog post.

How to wash your quilt

Along with your instructions to care for your quilt, let your loved one know that washing a quilt doesn’t mean 60° Celsius on a vigorous cotton cycle. The best treatment for a quilt is:

  • Cold water
  • Hand wash or use a gentle cycle in a machine
  • Gentle detergent is all that’s needed. I use the liquid version of Skip, Omo or Ariel – all the popular brands. (whichever is on sale the day that I buy it). With a liquid detergent there is no risk of soapy residue from a spot where that darn powered didn’t dissolve.
  • NO to bleach
  • Generally no tumble dryer, but I have to be honest and say that I’ve tumble dried a quilt or two.
The dreaded bleed

Does your quilt have a lot of colours, along with a beautiful white background? Did you prewash your fabric? If the answer to that last one is no, you may want to include a bottle colour catcher will also be useful. Colour catchers makes sure that colour stays where it was intended to be, and colour catchers absorb any dye that floats into the water.

If you’re giving a quilt that may bleed, perhaps give it a wash yourself first before giving it to someone else. That way you know that the first possible spillage has been caught and you can give your gift bag of Retayne and colour catchers with the knowledge that it may not be necessary.

Vintage quilts need vintage care

Caring for a vintage quilt takes a little more patience and less wringing.

Vintage, hand-quilted, or hand-appliquéd quilts need your gentle touch. Fill your bath tub or a lovely big sink with cold water and a little detergent. I would suggest Woollite or something similar. Mix that into the water before you dunk the quilt (you only need a small amount). Leave it alone, with a turn once or twice and let the detergent do most of the work.

When you see evidence of the dirt lifted from the quilt (okay, it shouldn’t be that evident, but it seemed a good way of saying “30 minutes later”) drain the dirty water and refill with cold water to rinse. Sometimes I’ll add ½ cup of white vinegar. The vinegar clears the quilt of any detergent residue, and softens it up. Rinse again without vinegar making sure that all the detergent and vinegar is gone.

Depending on the size of the quilt, leave it to drain as much water as possible before you take it out to dry. Don’t wring it to get water out – you’ll definitely rip some of the stitches.

Do I need to say don’t use a tumble drier but rather hang to dry? Okay, so hang it out to dry, or over a towel on a flat surface.

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