How to wash and store a hand made quilt

Last week I realized how long it had been since the quilts that we use on a regular bases have been washed.  I am a firm believer that hand made quilts are here to add beauty and comfort to our lives and so I use mine.  Some get more use than others . One should HAND WASH hand made quilts that are being used on a regular bases every six months.  It is important to the longevity of the quilt that it be handled with care and be hand washed and air dried flat.  The hand washing part is not all that difficult.  It can be achieved  in a bath tub.  First, fill the tub with enough warm water to cover the quilt and then add a cap full of liquid laundry detergent and gently mix that it.  I add the detergent after the tub is full to keep excess suds to a minimum.  Next, add the quilt and gently squish the bath water through the quilt.  This makes a few bubbles but not like it would if the water was already full of suds.  DO NOT scrub it up against itself.  This will cause the quilt to stretch and weaken the seams.  Next let the quilt soak for 20-30 min. depending on how dirty it is.  Drain the water from the tub and squeeze the excess water out of the quilt.  I have my husband do this since he is a bit stronger than me.  It you have ever made bread, think of removing the excess water as kneading the quilt.  You gather the quilt up into a ball and press it up against the bottom and side of the tub with a kneading motion like you are making bread, but with a lot more pressure.  Now refill the tub with warm rinse water and gently squeeze the clean water through the entire quilt in just the same way as you did when you were washing it.  Drain and squeeze out the excess water again.  Time for the second rinse...repeat until water is clear and there is no soap left in the water or quilt.  Squeeze out as much excess water as possible, place the quilt, still in a ball, into the washing machine and distribute it evenly and put it through your washers final spin dry cycle ONLY.  Larger quilts are very heavy when wet and are very easily stretched which puts undo pressure on the seams and quilting.  When removing the quilt from the washer be careful to not stretch the quilt .  Gather it up into a ball or place in a laundry basket to carry it to where it is to be dried.  The most damaging thing you can do to a hand made quilt is machine dry it.  It causes excess ware and tear on something that took hours and hours to make. 

The best place to store a quilt is flat (not folded) on a bed.  If a hand made quilt needs to be stored in a box, be sure it is an archival box with acid free paper between the folds.  Take it  out periodically and refold it differently.  This way your lovely hand made quilt will not end up with permanent creases and folds in it   Also, quilts need to be stored in a DRY place - mold is a quilts enemy.  Also remember that exposing your quilt to direct sunlight over a long period of time will also damage it.  A quilt, properly handled, should last a life time.  

I had mentioned to my husband that our quilts needed washing last week since he always helps me.  He also knows that the most difficult part of the process is finding a place to dry them flat.  I usually do this out side but since it is still too cold out, drying would need to take place down in the basement while the wood stove is still running.  You can only guess my utter shock when I went down in the basement on Sunday and found my large cutting table cleared off and my husband busy at work with the windex.  Did this cutting table need to be cleared off, you bet!  Was it filthy because of it's close proximity to the wood stove - of yes!  He had already washed the table top 3 times and was still getting dirt up.   I thanked him profusely for doing this and then asked why.  Once it was clean, he said, it would make the perfect place to dry quilts.  We have washed and dried several quilts over the years.  Why hadn't we thought of this before?  There is not a before and after photo of the cutting table before he started cleaning it.  The top photo is the sparkling clean table ready to receive the quilt.  The middle photo is the quilt soaking in the tub.  The bottom photo is it laid out on it's drying station.  It shows it's close proximity to the wood stove.  Definitely the warmest place in the house!   By evening, it was dry and I was snuggled up under in front of the TV.  One quilt down, two to go!  

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