Displaying antique quilt

joyce_6333April 9, 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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I think you need something to support the weight of it first. Second, it needs to be out of direct sunlight and not in the kitchen where there might be airborne oil particles from cooking.

I have a friend at the farmers' market that makes "stands" for displaying afghans and quilts. If I remember correctly, they have a wood circle/ring at the top so you can hang the quilt through the ring and let it drape down.

Do you have a stuffed chair that is not often used? You could drape the quilt partially over the back of the chair and down onto the seat to show off the pattern. The area exposed should be changed about once a week and the quilt re-folded too so different areas are exposed and the fold is changed to other parts of the quilt.

Another idea is to drape the quilt over a door that opens from one room to another. I would clean the top of the door well of dust, then lay down a piece of muslin so the quilt doesn't actually touch the wood at the top of the door that might be unfinished wood. Fold the quilt so it will fit the width of the door. Again, be sure the quilt isn't hanging in direct sunlight and there will be no kitties climbing the quilt or batting at it.

If you don't have a wood quilt rack that is free-standing on the floor, this might be a good reason to get one.

If you have a guest bedroom, you could just lay the quilt out on top of the bed to enjoy as you pass the room or to show to visitors. If out of direct sunlight and pets or boisterous children jumping on the beds, this might be the best idea.

Hopefully your home is non-smoking, as the smoke could be very bad for your quilt and all your fabrics....just sayin'.

Could you get a pic made of this quilt? We would love to see it!

Hope this helps!

    Bookmark   April 9, 2011 at 12:37PM
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Teresa, thanks so much for responding. You've got some great ideas for displaying it. I guess I'm leaning toward a wall display. Are there any rules or guidelines for hanging the quilt. Or is that a bad thing to do?

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 9, 2011 at 3:28PM
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A wonderful treasure!!!!!

    Bookmark   April 9, 2011 at 4:49PM
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You are so lucky to have such a wonderful heirloom that is so well preserved. I have no good advice as to the care beyond what has been offered but I am sure you will find the right solution for you. Perhaps you could check with one of the museums for advice, as they display old items frequently. Jayne

    Bookmark   April 9, 2011 at 7:49PM
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My personal opinion, and I am in no way an expert like Teresa is, with a quilt this old and this large, I would not want to stress the threads and fabric by hanging it and possibly ruining the exceptional condition it's in now for future generations of your family. Though I sure can understand your desire to show it off like that. What a gem!


    Bookmark   April 9, 2011 at 7:58PM
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If you really want to display the quilt on a wall, you need to get some professional guidance on how to best do that. Sharon is right about the stress on the fabric and quilting not being good for the quilt.

You might contact the quilt museum at Paducah, KY, if you don't have a source near you.


    Bookmark   April 9, 2011 at 11:09PM
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WOW!! This is not only a wonderful quilt, but an incredible piece of history for you. Congratulations!


    Bookmark   April 10, 2011 at 7:19AM
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I was reading a book today on caring for and displaying your antique quilts. It said that hanging is preferable to folding over something or if there are animals in the home also over displaying on a bed. They said to make sure you hae a very good hanging sleeve sewn onto the back and hang it from a rod.

Great family heirloom.


    Bookmark   April 10, 2011 at 4:56PM
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I've occasionally pondered that problem of the stress on a quilt from hanging it, because the weight is all borne by the two stitched lines on the back of the quilt where the sleeve would be attached. I've thought of a way to possibly reduce the stress without damaging the quilt.

How about if you were to finish the edges of a large square of heavy muslin or maybe a cotton bed sheet that is a bit smaller than the size of the quilt. Stitch that to the back of the quilt between the quilt back and the hanging sleeve. Then tack that fabric to the back of the quilt in several places, such as at a corner intersection between blocks. Maybe at three places across the quilt on about three or four rows. That would spread the support of the weight throughout the quilt more instead of just the top with all the weight down it.

Has anybody done this? Do you think you would get sagging between the tacked places?

    Bookmark   April 11, 2011 at 5:09PM
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Thanks all for your very kind comments and suggestions. Empress, I was actually trying to come up with something like you're suggesting, and maybe hanging it similar to a roman shade with something on the back to support it? I'll have to ponder that some more as I don't want to do anything to harm the quilt. It's in such great shape, only ever so slightly faded on one corner where it was folded.

At our church, they "sandwiched" an old quilt between two large pieces of plexiglass, secured the corners of the plexiglass, and hung them that way. I really don't want to spend that kind of money, but they do look nice.

A little more info on the quilt....in each of the four corners are the embroidered names of four sisters, the Aasgard sisters. One of the sisters was the mother of an elderly gentlemen in our town who is about 100 years old. I took the quilt over for him to see, and he was totally not interested. Maybe he would have been when he was younger. I've had other people want to "borrow" it for awhile...for an event or to show someone else...but I'm sure it would come up missing, so I've been a little stingy with it. I always offer to bring it to events, but don't want people touching it. I have a couple granddaughters who when they are older would just love to have this memento of their great-great grandmother.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2011 at 7:47PM
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What a wonderful quilt! A local quilt historian hangs her antique quilts, but I've never examined them to see how they are supported. She rotates them and never leaves one hanging for more than a month.

I leave mine on a seldom used bed. Easier on them (and me).

    Bookmark   April 11, 2011 at 11:19PM
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Lindac, over on the antiques forum, had a good suggestion, too. I think I have enough info to display the quilt, and still protect it.

I meant to tell you all that I live in the same little town as Betty Cotton. Her store is beautiful, and her "Camp Cotton" always seems to be busy. Although I haven't taken up quilting (yet!), I'm very tempted. I hear it's addictive!

    Bookmark   April 12, 2011 at 11:30AM
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