How to store quilts

Handmade quilts aren’t just for keeping warm, they are family heirlooms.

As they age, quilts can become very fragile, but careful handling will prolong their lives and protect their appearance. When you place quilts in a self-storage unit, a moving truck or in a special place in your home, take these steps to make sure they’ll remain intact for generations to come:

1. Avoid extreme temperatures

If you plan to place your quilts in self-storage, consider renting a unit that has temperature control. A temperature-controlled unit is much safer than leaving quilts in a hot attic or a damp basement in your own home.

Big shifts in temperature can damage fibers or cause your quilts to dry out, said Mary Lou Drury, a member of the Grant County Piecemakers Guild, and owner of Lou’s Heartfelt Quilting in Mount Vernon, OR.

2. Watch out for pests

Rodents and insects are two of the quilter’s biggest enemies.

“They can totally destroy your quilts,” Drury warned.

Rodents like to use quilt fibers to build nests. Avoid using cardboard containers, which are easy for mice, silverfish and other pests to crawl into unnoticed. Never put your quilts in a garage or a shed, since these are popular spots for pests to gather.

 Given the chance, rodents love to rip up quilt fibers for making nests.

Given the chance, rodents love to rip up quilt fibers for making nests.

3. Don’t store you quilts in plastic

Drury said people often make the mistake of using plastic bags to store their quilts. Blankets often are sold in such bags, and they may seem like a good way to protect your quilts from insects, but cotton fibers need to breath.

“Never store cotton quilts in plastic,” Drury said. “If you store it in airtight plastic and it can’t breathe, it sweats and you get water circles on your quilts.”

Alberta Mechem, who teaches quilting classes in Baltimore, said she prefers storing her quilts inside cotton pillowcases.

4. Avoid folding your quilts

Quilts are best stored flat and unfolded. If you lack the space to do that, you can roll your quilts instead.

“If you fold them and put them in a shelf, make sure every two or three months to refold them a different way,” said Mechem.
By folding quilts differently each time, you’ll reduce the likelihood of permanent creases forming in the fabric, she explained.

Placing crumpled up, acid-free tissue paper inside the folds also will reduce permanent creasing, said Drury.

“Acid free tissue paper is excellent,” Drury said. “It will really help.”

An alternative to folding or rolling your quilts is to to hang them, if you have adequate space.

 Whether made by you or your great-great-aunt, proper storage will preserve your quilts for future generations.

Whether made by you or your great-great-aunt, proper storage will preserve your quilts for future generations.

5. Store quilts in the dark

Often used as decorations, quilts are known for their bright colors. Unfortunately, those colors tend to fade over time. The fading can be slowed if you store your quilts in darkness, Drury said.

Be careful never to expose your quilts to direct sunlight, even when you’re drying them outdoors after they’ve been washed. The sun’s ultraviolet rays can damage the fibers.

Categories Storage