Displaying antique quilt

joyce_6333April 8, 2011

I was given a beautiful old signature quilt by an aged relative. I'm 65, and my grandmother's maiden name is one of the signatures on this old quilt. She was born before 1880, and as she was married very young, I assume this quilt is from the late 1800s. It's in exceptional condition! I would love to display it, but of course want to preserve it and not damage it in any way. What is the best way?

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Please mosey on over to the quilt forum and ask those life-long quilters. I'm a quilter, and they, in their collective wisdom have forgotten more than I'll ever know.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2011 at 9:56PM
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But.....when you get it nicely sewn on a dowel and hung....take a picture and post it here...
You have a treasure! We'd like to see.
Linda c

    Bookmark   April 8, 2011 at 10:17PM
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I need to do the same. I was given a beautiful red & white (my favorite) quilt by my grandma over 30 years ago. Don't know when she made it, but can remember even into her twilight years seeing her quilting frame (think that's what they're called) set up in the house. Her stitches are perfection. The only thing I do remember is they say for storage don't fold, but roll, to protect the fabric. But will absolutely defer to quilting experts in the other forum.

Really just wanted to echo what lindac said, would love to see a pic! :)

    Bookmark   April 10, 2011 at 9:43AM
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Here's a couple pics of the quilt. First one is the quilt laid out on a bed, the second is my grandmother's signature, and the third is a picture of the center square. It says "Unity Pigeforening. Unity is the church name I believe, and the Pigeforening is a Norwegian name for "Ladies Sewing Circle" or "Ladies Aid". Or so I was told by the elderly relative who gave it to me. She was about 100, but sharp as a tack.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2011 at 10:30AM
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It's wonderful!!! What a treasure! I bought one similar at an auction years ago. Spent considerable time looking for someone who might want it because they knew someone who's name was on it.....ended up giving it to the Historical society.
I still am upset that no one wanted it!
You have such a treasure!!

And I did some searching and it seems, at least in the mid-west that Pigeforning was a young ladies society...similar to Ladies' Aid but for younger women.

Here is a link that might be useful: pigeforning

    Bookmark   April 10, 2011 at 5:10PM
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That is just lovely, Joyce.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2011 at 6:57PM
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It is a treasure, especially to a history buff. About ten years ago I was on a genealogy forum when a lady who lived halfway across the country from here asked about a quilt in her possession with names all over it, and the name of a local country church embroidered on it, much like yours. I was able to date it with extraordinary accuracy, because my 2nd great grandfather's sister was one of the names, and I knew they only lived in that little village where I lived (and the church was located) for about two years in 1860-1862. At the time, I didn't know my relatives had lived there, and because of that quilt question, I was able to locate some family graves right up the road from me. Those were often made for remembrances of friends past and given to those church members who move away. That practise is still done in some rural churches today.

You may be able to date your quilt the same way by researching the names on it against church records.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2011 at 8:26PM
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Hanging a quilt of that age really should be done by a professional. The threads have been stressed over their years and can give way even when hung " properly" as you would a newer quilt (on a dowl etc). The dies also aren't as stable so in a light protected box (museum quality glass or plexiglas) is best if it can handle wall mounting.

The other two options are a clear box made for antique textile display (likely museum quality plexiglas). If it is stored in a box of this sort you want to take it out every three months or so and fold it a different way so it dies nit wear unevenly or....crazy thought here....display it on a bed :). Not one cats or people jump on regularly but in a quiet room where it can remain in the position it was meant to be in and can be seen to be enjoyed.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2011 at 2:22AM
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Antique quilts of the age of yours are hung all the time in displays and museums.
Hand sew a sleeve...a tube large enough to hold an dowel an inch in diameter, of well washed muslin on the back of the quilt, using fairly small stitches and going through all layers of the quilt I(and using cotton not synthetic thread). Repeat on the opposite end, so the quilt can be reversed.
Insert the dowel and screw an eyelet into each end and hang.
Take down every 3 or 4 months, lay the quilt on a bed, cover with something like bridal netting and vacuum to remove any dust, reverse the position of the dowel and re hang.
Hang away from sunlight (the greatest enemy of old fabric) and flourescent lights.
It's amazing how strong those old fabrics really are. I have in my closet a christening dress made for my husband's grandfather, in about 1880. It's been worn by several generations of babies surely bleached once with clorox (by my MIL for my daughter's baptism!) to whiten it up. It has some breaks around the button holes and where the under slip was pinned around the baby, but it's still good for at least one more generation of baptisms.

Enjoy your quilt....and know that a Professional is just someone who would do what I described for pay.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2011 at 10:21AM
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Thanks to all for your suggestions. I'll definitely post a picture when I get it hung.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2011 at 11:22AM
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I love your quilt! When I was a teenage bride I was given a quilt my grandmother had made. I let my husband use it for years to cover car seats from his dirty work clothes until it was nothing but a rag and it was thrown away! I was young but still...why didn't I have more sense than that? I would love to have that quilt now that I am a grandmother myself. I am happy to see that YOU know the value of what you have. Enjoy!

    Bookmark   April 16, 2011 at 11:42PM
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Very pretty joyce, thanks for the pics! :)
Great story, calliope!

    Bookmark   April 17, 2011 at 7:07AM
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I'm sorry but linda, that is not exactly what a professional would do. Perhaps that is somewhat what the outcome would be, but they would also do a complete inspection of the piece and look for any weaknesses before readying it for hanging. Often the dowel system is done as a series on pieces that can not take the stress of being hung from one dowel. Only a textile expert can tell you this.

OP many a beautiful quilt has been ruined by home hanging systems. Your quilt is worthy of professional care. I've repaired a few antique pieces hung by their owners (I do not do this for a business, I do it to rescue them because I love textiles and then I keep them). Rescue involves deconstructing the entire piece quite often and replacing the top portion where the weight put the biggest stressers on the fabric. It makes me sad to see :(

Old cotton is very strong, but you have to remember that the dyes are not always stable (often they can damage the cotton) because they were home made. The stitching can be excellent, or done by a group of ladies of different skills, so seams and stitching can vary, which makes it difficult for the fabric when stressed (hung) if there are any existing weak spots.

It's a lovely quilt, good luck with it.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2011 at 10:51PM
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Cotton dyed with home made dyes??? In 1880?? Perhaps you don't know about the cotton mills in the Connecticut Valley during the 1850s. Granted certain dyes cause fabric to deteriorate faster than others.
I am guessing the quilt is not as old as the op said. If she's 65, she was born in 1945 or 46. Normal figuring for a generation is 25 years....granted it can sometimes be 40 years....but not often.
And any reasonably intelligent person with a good eye, a magnifying glass and a bit of sense can tell when fabric is deteriorating.
After all this a quilt.....about 120 years old and likely mostly unused....it's not Martha Washington's wedding dress.
I say don't over think it, sew a sleeve for a dowel, put a finish, varnish, on the dowel and hang it up and enjoy it.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 1:02AM
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Yes do so....call me for an "I told you so" in 20 years when you find out which poster is an idiot. Personally when I love a textile I err on the side if caution.

As I've said before...Linda you do crack me up!

    Bookmark   April 29, 2011 at 12:39AM
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There are other names on this quilt and that is an important detail. I believe this is a "Friendship" or "Memorial" quilt. It may not have big money value in the market, but is very valuable to those who were involved with its construction. The names on this quilt may be 1) A group of friends usually members of a society, 2) people who have passsed away and are being remembered by friends and family, of 3) family members and close friends. It could commerate a tradgey where a group of people were killed or maimed. Usually, such a quilt was made to honor someone and would have been presented to that person.

One of my relatives who was dying of cancer rushed to complete a family quilt. Each square was to bear the name of a family member or very close friend. Each person whose name was to appear in the quilt was asked to supply a piece of cloth from a personal item and write a note describing the significance of the piece of cloth. The location of each piece in the quilt was mapped and recorded. A document was made recording the significance of each square.

Sources of pieces were many and highly varied. Typical items were baby blanket, A dress worn at a wedding, funeral wear, a table cloth from a family gathering, mom's holiday apron, etc. Dates and places were recorded.

The finished quilt with the document became a record of personal events. This record more than doubled the significance of the work and made the quilt a worthy heirloom.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2011 at 3:50AM
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Where is the "quilt forum"... I couldn't find it. I've got two hand sewn quilts that my mother in law made back in the 50's. They don't have any loose thread, tears etc, but they do have some stains. My question, would it be ok to wash these on gentle. OR should I let them soak in some Woolite. I would love to display them on the guest bed. TIA!

    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 9:38PM
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I am of the same mindset as Jemdandy. Yes, you want to enjoy it, but you'd also like your grandchildren and their children to have that same experience. Family heirlooms usually do have more importance than impersonal antiques......because they are irreplaceable. It goes past monetary value.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 10:35PM
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There is a detergent specifically for older quilts called quilt wash (if I remember right) which you can buy in any good fabric store (this does not likely include large chains!). Follow the instructions and your MIls quilts will be as good as ummm well not new but as good as they can be :). A quilt made in the 50s was likely made on a machine and can take gentle cycle washing if the fabrics are all the same type (if they are crazy quilts do not attempt this and never immerse in water!!!!!)

    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 11:51AM
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