Caring for Quilts

During my presentation of "Stitches in Time" I have gotten questions about care of family quilts. Textiles are fragile, but you can prolong their life with proper storage and display. If in doubt, consult a professional conservator (see below for information on finding a professional). If you can no longer properly care for family quilts and no one else in your family wants the responsibility, consider donating it to a museum. Remember that museums look for quilts in good condition and with specific criteria (for example: made locally or made before 1850 or made after 1900, etc.). Some quilts were made to be loved and used. You need to decide what is best for your quilt.

If you're responsible for taking care of a vintage or antique quilt, the first step is putting a label on it with the information you know about the maker and when and where it was made. APQS blog post on labeling quilts. My advice? Keep it simple and get it done. You can google for lots of ideas about making labels, but the basics are here.

The second step is educating yourself. The paragraphs that follow give a brief overview of the issues involved with care, storage, and display. The resources at the end are where your education begins.

Textiles are damaged by light; extremes of temperature and humidity; pests; and improper storage or handling. In the home acceptable storage includes on a guest bed, rolled, or boxed. All of these methods are best used with safe, materials--acid-free tissue, boxes, and rolls; "safe" plastic (polyethylene or polypropylene); and unbleached muslin. A cedar chest is not a good option without special protection for the quilts.

Display options include on a guest bed; wall mounting of quilts in good condition that supports the entire quilt; in a closed, glass front cabinet; over a rail; or on an unused piece of furniture. The quilt should be protected from direct contact with wood.

Often we want our quilts to look like new and they don't. Think carefully about any cleaning and educate yourself with the resources listed below. Sometimes, like the wrinkles on my face, I need to accept that my treasured quilt bears the marks of the good life it has led and I'd best accept both the way they are.

I recently took the Quilt Restoration Workshop given by Ann Wasserman and Martha Spark. They have extensive experience in quilt repair and conservation. The notes above are based in large part on: Study Guide from “Care of Old Quilts” lecture by Martha Spark. Quilt Restoration Workshop with Ann Wasserman and Martha Spark, Feb – Mar 2021.

Beware of googling for quilt care information. As with other things, anyone can post advice on the web, but not necessarily good advice. Look for reputable sources of information. Check out the resources below:


Conservation FAQ: How do you care for and display quilts? (video from the Shelburne Museum)

National Park Service, Museum Management Program, Conserve O Grams

See especially:

18/2 Safe Plastics and Fabrics for Exhibit and Storage 2004

21/8 Salvage at a Glance, Part V: Textiles 2003 What to do when disaster happens

3/4 Mold: Prevention of Growth in Museum Collections 2007

3/6 An Insect Pest Control Procedure: The Freezing Process 1994

3/11 Identifying Museum Insect Pest Damage 2008

3/12 Identifying Mouse and Rat Damage in Museum Collections 2020

Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute

Taking Care Scroll down for information on Textiles

International Quilt Museum Takes Care of its Collections

University of Nebraska Care of Quilts-Cleaning

Textile Care and Display, George Washington University Museum

American Institute for Conservation Caring for Textiles, pdf document

Textile Care and Display, George Washington University Museum

Preserving Our Quilt Legacy: Giving Antique Quilts the Special Care They Deserve by Ann Wasserman. Available from her website. Excellent book covering all aspects of care and repair.


Check with your local museum, university, or quilt guild for advice and contacts.

American Institute for Conservation& Foundation for Advancement in Conservation

Find a Professional

Ann Wasserman Ann Quilts Contact:

Martha Spark, Contact through Facebook

Post by Peggy W. Norris

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