Caring For Your Quilts Tips by Mary Marks

Quilts have to basic purposes: to provide warmth and comfort, and to decorate. Either way, they’re meant to be used and enjoyed. So whether your quilt is going on a bed or hanging on a wall, you’ll want to take these simple steps to preserve your work of art.

With the exception of baby and children’s quilts, don’t wash. At least don’t do it often. Exposure to harsh detergents and chemicals can weaken the fibers and dull the colors. If you must wash a quilt, use only a mild soap like Ivory or Orvus, and cool water. Always lay your quilt flat to dry. The heat and agitation of the clothes dryer will weaken and break the fibers. And for heaven’s sake NEVER send your quilts to the dry cleaners! Remember, chemicals are bad for quilts.

I made a lovely, hand-stitched Grandmother’s Fan quilt for my daughter when she went away to college. She laundered that quilt right along with her sheets every week. At the end of four years, her poor Grandmother’s Fan was in shreds, too damaged to repair. The combination of heat and chemicals destroyed the cotton fibers and thread.

Don’t sit on your quilt. If the quilt is on your bed, keep you bottom away from it. The weight of your body will put a strain on the stitching and break the threads—especially if the quilting has been done by hand. Quilts are meant to cover your body, not the other way around.

Keep your quilt out of the harsh light. That means natural sunlight as well as indoor lighting. Wall hangings are especially vulnerable to fading from light exposure. If you’ve hung a quilt on the wall, chances are you’ve done so because you love it and want to show it off. Resist the temptation to shine a spotlight on it. If you do, the colors may not only fade, but a strong light may also weaken the fibers.

Today, a copy of the Declaration of Independence, a document precious to our national heritage, is barely readable because the ink faded due to decades of exposure to direct sunlight. The same damage can happen to the dyes in your quilt.

If you want to store your quilt, be sure to let the organic fibers breathe. Don’t store it in plastic. Don’t let it come in contact with untreated wood or ordinary cardboard since the former contains oils that may stain the fibers, and the latter contains acid that can also stain and damage fibers.

The best place to store your quilt is somewhere flat, like on an unused bed. If you have to fold your quilt, be aware that the fibers can weaken along a fold, resulting in fraying and fading. The best way to prevent this happening is to change the way the quilt is folded every six months. If you fold it in halves one time, fold it in thirds the next. If you fold it right side out, reverse the next time and fold inside out. Varying the way you fold a quilt allows the fibers to rest.

With just a little thought and effort, your quilts can last for generations.


About the Book

Funerals can be patchy affairs for Martha Rose and her close-knit circle of friends–especially in the case of a missing body. . .

When Birdie Watson’s husband Russell is killed during a bank robbery, Martha just wants to support her grieving friend. But en route to the burial plot in Oregon, Martha makes a harrowing discovery about the casket’s contents–instead of Russell, she finds an unidentified man. Now Martha and her quilting klatch can’t rest in peace until they unspool the truth behind the macabre mix up. . .


MaryMarks_smAbout the Author

Born and raised in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, Mary Marks earned a B.A. in Anthropology from UCLA and an M.A. in Public Administration from the American Jewish University in Los Angeles. In 2004 she enrolled in the UCLA Extension Writers Program. Her first novel, Forget Me Knot, was a finalist in a national writing competition in 2011. She is currently a reviewer of cozy mysteries for The New York Journal of Books at