10 June 2009

great-grandma's quilts

As we cleaned out my grandma's house a couple weeks ago, we found eight antique quilts that we assume my great-grandmother made. Many of them have become threadbare and stained, but I love them all.I found one in the linen closet, Dad brought down a box of them from the attic, and then we found three more in the basement. It was raining antique quilts, made by the hand of my great-grandmother! I was so freaking excited.These are definitely patchwork quilts--you can tell they were made with whatever fabrics she had on hand. A couple are quite complex, while others are simple patterns.I agonized about how to wash them, because after who knows how many years sitting in the attic, they certainly needed to be washed. I read online that the best way to clean vintage quilts is to vacuum them, which sounded a bit ridiculous, though I guess it would be a gentle way to air them out. I finally decided just to wash and dry them on delicate, and they don't appear to be too much the worse for the experience. They certainly smell a lot better.My next task is to mend them. I don't want to "ruin" their vintage authenticity, but I also want them to be attractive and useful for me and the rest of the family. Many of them have holes that need to be patched and I also plan to add new binding to the ones where the original binding has frayed almost to the point of nonexistence. Anyone know how to gently remove giant, decades-old stains from quilts? Any advice would be greatly appreciated, as I am at a bit of a loss. Thanks! There are more pictures over on flickr if you're interested in vintage quilts.

15 comments:

Carolyn said...

those are beautiful!!! what an amazing find!

my mom got me some stain remover stuff that literally has "grandma's" in the title from her quilt shop...i can't remember the exact name of it but that might work? i'll look it up when i get home later and come back with it.

mjb said...

So lucky! I've been wondering what the story was since I saw these on your flickr. The log cabin/courthouse steps is so beautiful.

roseylittlethings said...

Wonderful quilts, so fun to find treasures!

Anonymous said...

Before you do anything else to them I would consult with a local quilt shop or quilt guild. They could advise you about best practices - or if you should do anything at all. I guess it depends on what you intend for them to be - heirlooms or blankets. It can be tricky to begin mending attempts if you want them to be heirlooms (which they really already are).
Good luck! What a neat treasure to find.
jennifer in kansas

Diane said...

Those are gorgeous!! What a lucky girl you are. Don't know about the stain. I have very good luck with Oxy Clean but I don't know if it would be okay for your quilts.

dickespaulinchen said...

Incredible amazing!! (It's so sad, but things like that don't happen in germany...)
The Double Wedding Ring is my favorite, but all are so beautiful and I love the way you took the photos, because the quilting lines are very visible.
Greetings from germany,

Katharina

heather cohen said...

YOU ARE SO LUCKY!!! that is one of the most exciting things i've heard all week. raining antique quilts!

Anonymous said...

Oh, you are so fortunate to have found those quilts. Did you get them all clean? I would have done the same....wash on gentle. I just LOVE old quilts. I have 'new' quilts on the beds since I don't have any other source for them at the moment. I just love all quilts. Fun blog. Jane Smith (I get to your site from Kelli's!)

Caroline said...

What a fabulous find. Quilting wasn't a huge past-time in the UK, so I've no chance of finding such a wonderful stash. however I do hope that my daughter / grandchildren will be proud to own the quilts that I have made myself.

peitseoga said...

I share your exitement!! I dream of finding things like that, but around here it was all feather and down comforters, no quilts. I get so excited too, about any piece of textiles, or even written notes, knowing my granny or even somebody before her made something with their own hands... i feel it connects me to them...

charlotte said...

oh my ! that must have been one of the best days of your life. How exciting!!!!

A Little Diddy said...

What a find! I agree w/ consulting a quilt shop. In my experiene I was told to try boiling water first. Simply boil some water in a teapot and holding the area taut over a basin or bowl let the boiling water run through the material. It worked fairly well but left behind a faint stain. After, it was suggested to make a solution of arrowroot/cream tartar and water and let the area soak, then rinse with cold water. the stain faded more. But still has a very slight yellowish tint. Ive been told by friends that they wouldnt noticed unless I pointed it out. Hope this helps.

Sandy said...

I have used Oxiclean on vintage linens and my 63 year old hand sewn baby dresses with great success. Sometimes it takes a few soaks in hot water with the Oxiclean. Some suggest adding a little Dawn dish soap to the mixture. Good Luck! PS - visit Cindy's blog My Romantic Home - where she gives instructions on how she cleans her vintage linens.

Teacup Lane (Sandy)

Meredith said...

I will keep this short. There are many options and reasons to use different products because the older quilts are in difference states, smelly, ripped,hole, etc. Let alone if the quilt top is a true scrap quilt than you could be looking at small pieces of silk in what looks like an all cotton quilt top, or a handwoven fabric mixed in.

From soaking a quilt in a clean tub with warm water to hanging them out to dry over a period of time with a clean sheet over the quilt to protect it from sunlight, also do not hang them out to dry or air in a way that puts stress on the fabric, like hanging a quilt with clothespins from one side.

I used/use with success the following Le Blanc Linen Wash Classic Scent, Restoration Hypoallergenic Powder, Orvus Quilt Soap. It really depends on the age of the quilt the fabrics (how were they dyed?). Example-How much old red fabric is in a quilt? The fabric strength, and weave, a loose woven old fabric may require a different things.

Please do not use Oxi clean it is way too harsh There are many other ways to deal with smells and stains.

Repair or restoration is an older quilt is another topic that is involved. If you choose to make an attempt to restore a quilt say a hole, you can find fabric from the correct time period of the quilt to use. Enough fabric for bindings may or may not be harder to find to be from the correct time period. Also putting on new to the quilt binding another thought is to put it over the original quilt binding.

I would not use a front loading washing machine for washing a quilt. Soaking old quilts is very different than washing.

Good luck.

Vivian said...

Wow! I'm looking at this five years after you originally posted this and it is no less enthralling! How lucky you were to have the quilt gods "make it rain" on you this way.

Did you know your great-grandmother personally? After you found the quilts, did family members provide any stories about these particular quilts or you GGM's quilting habits specifically? Have you considered submitting (or did you submit) pictures of the quilts to be indexed in The North Carolina Quilt Project" history files?

Finally, any updates on what you ultimately did with the quilts?