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Old quilts

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Sweet Dreams

Cakestand quilt, C19-20, Illinois, USA

One of the things I love about being a quilter, is that despite the snow and cold, I'm always toasty warm at night because of the quilt on my bed. Sometimes it's a quilt that I've made, but currently it's this beauty - a Cakestand quilt from the late 19th / early 20th century which I recently bought. It's called a cutter quilt, because several blocks have perished fabrics, but it's still gorgeous, with superb hand quilting and has come up a treat after a recent wash.

So, this thought has inspired a Hometown competition. Follow my feed on Instagram or Facebook (just click on the links at the bottom of the page) and like the competition post. Then simply post a photo of your own bed and quilt with the hashtag #quiltonmybed. I'll pick a winner on 31/3/18 and you'll receive a £20 Hometown gift voucher to spend as you like.

T&C: The quilt can be one that you've sewn or that you've bought from another quilter (please then credit the maker) or an old quilt. And if you swap quilts mid-month, you can enter again! All entrants give permission for their photo to be published on the Hometown website, Facebook page and/or Instagram page.

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It'll all come out in the wash

Like all of us, there are some chores I loathe and others I quite like. (I won't say love, as that makes me sound very 1950s housewife!). I hate ironing, but quite like washing, or to qualify that statement, I get great satisfaction from a line of laundry in the sunshine. During the summer, the fine weather also means it's a chance to get my old quilts laundered.

I'm often asked how to care for old quilts, so here are a few tips that I find work for me. The photos above are a selection from recent laundry sessions, ranging from dirty 'rag' to clean Apple Core quilt.

1. Don't even think about it during the winter, or your home will smell like a damp dog as you attempt to dry a heavy double quilt over a 3 foot radiator over several days. Choose a fine day, especially when you have time, as it's not a 5 minute task.

2. I always hand wash old quilts in the bath. I find the soaking and washing is less violent than the shenanigans of a washing machine. Use gentle hand wash such as non-Bio Fairy or a specialist textile detergent like Soak. I also put at least one Colour-Run sheet in the first wash, to catch any loose dye (especially important for quilts containing red fabrics). Gently concertina the quilt into the bath, making sure it's all covered by water and suds and leave for at least 30 minutes. When you come back shoosh the water around and don't be surprised if it's the colour of Yorkshire tea! Leave for another 30 minutes. Do more shooshing around and drain, squeezing out as much water and dirt from the quilt as possible.

3. Refill with clean water and detergent and repeat, this time adding some Glo-white (or equivalent) and another sheet of Colour-Run. This time I keep popping back, say every 15 minutes and really start to wash and agitate the quilt (do use rubber gloves if your skin is sensitive - although the water shouldn't be too hot). I think of it like treading grapes, trying to squeeze all the dirt out. You may need to repeat a third time...

4. When you've had enough, drain and rinse with clear water. Now the fun part. If you're feeling brave, squeeze out as much excess water as possible, as wet quilts are incredibly heavy. Now put it on a quick spin in the machine. Eek! I turn the spin speed down to 800, never leave the machine unattended and usually chicken out after 3-4 minutes. It really does help to remove a lot of moisture and speed up the drying, however, there is the risk that the spinning can further shred any worn patches or popped seams. So it's a judgement call as to whether you're thinking of repairing the most aged blocks and fabrics.

5. Finally lay the quilt over the line, peg it well and leave to dry. If it's a sunny day, always lay on the line so the backing fabric is uppermost. I'll also rotate the quilt around on the line so there's no undue strain on any one part. I'll then turn it over later in the day, when the bright sun has gone, so there's no risk of sun bleaching.

Result? One clean, sweetly smelling quilt, ready to be used and enjoyed.

Foot note: old quilts may contain some marks or rust spots that won't come out. I've found that specialist rust stain removers aren't very effective, but if you have a secret 'ages-old stain-remover' tip, let me know!

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Labelled with Love

The lovely thing about having a shop is you never know what stories are going to walk in the door. Last week a lovely lady popped in to show me an old quilt from her husband's family. Amazingly she knew exactly who had sewn it, plus where and approximately when (her grandmother-in-law, Immingham near Grimsby and around 1900).

This type of provenance is rare for quilts from the nineteenth and early twentieth century. At a time when quilts were generally sewn as functional bed covers, the last thing on most quilters' minds was recording their details for posterity. The priority was warmth at night for their families! Of all the old quilts I own, only a handful can be pinned down to specific makers, towns or years.  So it's lovely when a little bit of history can be celebrated.

One of the patchwork papers showing the copperplate handwriting

Unfortunately I have too many old quilts providing insulation in my own home to justify buying yet another quilt right now. However, if you would like to be the next step in this quilt's history, the Grimsby quilt is for sale*. This postage stamp style patchwork is hand sewn in 2 1/2 inch squares in a variety of cotton (and possible wool mix and silk mix?) fabrics. It measures 213 x 248cm (84 x 98in). Interestingly it was pieced over papers as the outer row of patches are crinkly and still contain the templates, a technique known as English Paper Piecing. It does not contain wadding, so would make a great topper on a duvet or as a throw for the sofa. A handful of the patches (mostly the lighter weaves have some shredding (as seen in the red patch above), but generally it is in good and clean condition.

And finally, a call to all modern day quiltmakers out there - don't be shy - be proud of your craft skills and label your quilts with pride. Believe me, future generations will thank you when they are trying to piece together their own and other families' histories.

* Sorry, this quilt is no longer for sale. However, we do have other quilts for sale in-store. Call 01634 838880 for more details.

 

 

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Falling off the Wagon...

Oops... confession time. I've just bought another quilt. How on earth did that happen? Well, I've been sorting through my old quilts in preparation for a talk to a local quilt group in March. And I was doing some online research ... which led to a well known auction site ... where there was an old quilt up for grabs ... and the bids were finishing in 18 minutes. Need I say more! I'll report back when the box arrives from Scotland.

Meanwhile, trying to sort through my quilt collection and just pick some (I am thinking about the available space and suspension in my little car) is like trying to pick your favourite child - they are all nice and all have their merits; even if others don't appreciate them! I think I've narrowed it down to twenty - I don't want to bore the socks off the quilters present. In the meantime the picture here is of a small cutter piece I have, appropriately called the 'Wheel' pattern. This little beauty dates from the 1930s. It's such an unusual design - all hand pieced with tiny hand quilting. It's an intriguing pattern with 4 blocks arranged around an octagon. The solid apricot spokes are surrounded by wheels in a variety of floral feedsacks. And before you ask, cutter pieces never count as quilt purchases; since they're only little, usually a bit worse for wear and someone needed to give them a good home.

 

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