Storing Quilts and Linens

Quilts and linens should be treated delicately if you want them to remain in excellent condition. A handmade quilt and some linens are often expensive. You might even have the ones your grandmother made. Whether they are heirlooms or brand-new always handle them with care. Most of the time quilts and linens will suffer extensive damage due to the owner’s lack of knowledge on how to take care of the item.

The most common forms of damage include staining, creasing and fabric deterioration. Exposure to sunlight and the usage of harsh chemicals may also weaken the fibers of the fabric.

The best way to clean a quilt is with a vacuum. This will decrease all exposure to harsh chemicals but will clean the quilt. Always clean the quilt before storing.

If the quilt has been used and is soiled you may wash it in a large tub of lukewarm water with a very mild soap. Be sure to rinse thoroughly and remove all of the soap. Soap residue can attract more dirt and may leave stains.

After cleaning the quilts and linens dry them thoroughly. You will need to lay them flat on a clean surface, Make sure they are thoroughly dried because mold and mildew may form if you store the item and it is till damp.

If your quilt is to be stored away the best method to avoid creasing is to roll the quilt. Quilts and linens may also be folded. In both cases, you should pad the item with acid-free tissue paper or a large piece of unbleached muslin. Acid-free products may be found in various art and craft supply stores. After padding, the items should be stored in acid-free tubes or boxes, or muslin pillowcases. Don’t store these items in basements or attics where humidity may be high and the temperatures fluctuate.

If you do have to fold a quilt or linen for storage, after a period of time they will develop a permanent crease. Creases will weaken the fabric and may eventually cause damage. If you do have to fold them do not weight them down with heavy objects which may cause further damage. Once a year, air out the quilts and linens to let the fabric refresh and breathe. After airing, refold them a different way so creases will be less likely to form.

If you need to press (or iron) a quilt or linen to remove creases, do not place the iron directly on the fabric. Place a towel on top of a quilt and lightly steam with an iron. Linens should only be pressed from the wrong side and with a press cloth laying on top of the item.

Preventative measures when storing and caring for these delicate items will help ensure they remain intact and in beautiful condition for a lifetime.

Creating a T-Shirt Quilt

Getting all creative when making quilts, one can cross the border and try using shirts to fill up each squares of it. This is a good way to salvage the memories created and the stories behind each piece of clothing. Basically, a t-shirt quilt is consisting of 12 inch squares that are framed using contrasting fabric. In making a t-shirt quilt, one can just get on with the following procedure.

1. Choose and prepare the shirts. They should be in good condition and clean enough to come up with a neat output. Shirts that are too used are going to wear out faster. Plain fabric can also be used in place of some squares if there is not enough number of shirts available.

2. Attach an interfacing on each shirt. This is needed in order to prevent the shirt from stretching too much to fit the quilt. For this specific project, a medium interfacing is enough. Cut the front and back of each shirt apart before cutting a 14″ square of interfacing. Since this measurement is based on a 12″ square for each shirt quilt, the measurement for the interfacing can be adjusted according to the adjustment made to the shirt. Place the interfacing at the center of the back of the shirt design, and iron it unto the shirt carefully. Avoid any wrinkles on the fabric as well as on the interfacing.

3. With the interfacing in the proper place, cut each shirt design into a 12 ½” square with the ½” for seam allowance. There should be some space for seams around each single design.

4. Pick out the sashing fabric. This is the border in between each design that serves as a line of separation as well as distinction to highlight each design. Each sash should be 2″ plus ½” for the seam allowance. Do the same thing to come up with the border fabric. This can be the same fabric as that of the sashes or a contrasting one. A little bigger than the sashes, the borders can be 3″ of fabric, so we end up with 2 ½” when the sewing is done.

5. Arrange the t-shirt squares in columns and start sewing each square to a sashing strip with a ¼” seam allowance. Sew another t-shirt and sashing combo to make columns of squares. Continue making as many columns of squares as desired based on the preferred length of the quilt.

6. Assemble the columns into a quilt top, sew in long sashing strips to the side of the columns and attach the columns together. After that, add the border fabric on the outer edge of the quilt top with a ¼” seam allowance.

7. Place the quilt top with the wrong side up on a large and smooth surface like the floor. Start doing the layering, which includes the batting and backing processes. The quilt is insulated by the batting material. For machine quilting, low-loft polyester is most appropriate. A high-loft batting material can be used for a cozy and puffy feeling when using the quilt. The backing material, on the other hand, can be of any fabric. One can also use more t-shirt squares and end up with a double-sided quilt. Pin the quilt top, batting and backing fabrics together and tie them. They can also be quilted. Tying those means threading yarn through the three layers of fabric and closing it with a square knot.

5. Once the quilt is done, one can iron it to have a neat appearance.

Beautiful Cot Quilts

It is a good idea to start off with a cot quilt as they are small and it is easier to learn the techniques of quilting on something small. You can later progress to the larger quilts when you have acquired more experience. It is so easy to follow a theme that has been chosen for the particular nursery. It is always easy to get fabrics that are suitable for this purpose. So shop around until you find exactly what you have in mind.

Start off by designing your quilt to suit the décor of the specific nursery. Take the measurements of the cot and then decide whether you would like to divide the front of the quilt into blocks of various colours or stick to one colour. You can make the front of the quilt in one piece. If you intend doing appliqué work on the quilt you can either arrange your designs on the front of the quilt as you want them, or if you have decided to work with blocks, place a motif on each block. Appliqué all the motifs on the blocks before you start joining them together. It is easier to sew on a small block than a larger piece of fabric.

The completed blocks can be framed with a contrasting colour and then joined together, or they can just be joined together as they are. This is all a matter of personal taste. Remember that your quilt is totally unique and you can make it any way you wish to.

An interesting way of joining your blocks together if you do not intend “framing” them, is to sew a row of stitching along the seams either by hand or by sewing machine. If you have access to a sewing machine that can make fancy stitches this will also look cute.

Another idea is to use braiding along the seams. The sky is the limit so let your imagination go.

Here is an example of a quilt made from blocks of various shades of the same colour. The blocks were first joined together to form the front of the quilt and then the motifs were appliquéd onto them.

If you have made your quilt from blocks, then to finish if off neatly it will look good if you “frame” the whole picture in either a patterned fabric or one in a contrasting colour.

Now you will be ready to finish off your quilt. You might like to use a patterned fabric for the back. Choose a print that suits the theme of the front side. When the quilt is reversed it will still match the theme of the nursery.

It is a good idea to make a pillow case of the same fabric and then it pulls the whole look together.

Ways to Freshen Your Quilt

Do you like displaying your quilts, or perhaps you are pulling one out for your upcoming guests? You can freshen your quilt without tossing it into the washing machine and worrying about if it will fall apart. Please find directions for freshening your quilt below.

The first thing you will want to do is look the quilt over and make sure that all the threading is still in tact and that no appliqués are lifting off. If you find that anything needs to be sewn up now is the time to do that.

Once you are done making any repairs you are now ready to remove any dust that may have collected on it. If you have a clothes rack outside, lay the quilt over the rack and lightly tap it with a broom. You might be surprised at how much dust you see flying off of your quilt. Remember to do all sides.

Another option for removing dust is to use a vacuum cleaner. I recommend doing this only if there are not a lot of embellishments on the quilt. If there are and you still wish to use a vacuum then lay down a fine mesh screen on the quilt.

Once you are done removing the dust and dirt, lay a sheet down on the grass, and lay the quilt down with another sheet over the quilt. Laying the quilt directly onto the grass can lead to the stains on your quilt, so be sure to avoid laying it directly on the grass at all times. I recommend letting it lay on one side for about an hour, and then flip it over to the other side for about an hour.

If you decide you want to try and wash your quilt please be aware you may notice your antique quilts can possibly have their colors run or disappear all together. What you will want to do is test your quilt with a damp rag. You will rub all the different prints on your quilt. Keep in mind that even though you are testing it with a damp rag, you have not saturated the quilt and it can still bleed in the washing machine even though it passed the spot testing.

Use a very mild detergent and the delicate cycle, some newer machines have an extra delicate cycle and if yours has this cycle use that. Once it has been washed, you will want to lay it out on a clean sheet with a sheet over it. Once it is laid down and covered up, get a fan blowing over it to help move the air around to dry it quicker. I recommend rotating the quit every 30 minutes. Once you are back to the spot your started with, flip the quilt over and rotate it on that side every 30 minutes. Repeat this process until your quilt is dry.

Now you can display your fresh quilt up on the wall, at the foot of the bed, tossed over a chair, or laying out on your guest bed. Don’t be scared to clean your quilts; just be aware of how to take care of them.

Caring for Your Antique Quilt

Proper handling and storage can keep your antique quilt looking beautiful for years to come. Fiber breakdown or embrittlement is caused by pollution, sunlight, fluctuating temperatures, humidity and dust. Always handle quilts with clean hands. Keep sharp objects away and do not drink eat or smoke around them.

Avoid dry cleaning and use of fabric refreshers such as Febreze. The fabric refreshers leave a residue and it is unknown as to the long term effect the chemicals will have on the material fibers. It is best not to wash your quilt. But if you must, first test a small inconspicuous area. Always use cold water, and a gentle detergent such as Ivory. Many quilting shops have soaps especially designed for this, such as Orvis Quilt Soap. Rinse with distilled water and lay flat to dry. If you have never washed your quilt before, it is a good idea to add 1/2 a cup of white vinegar to the wash water to stop the colors from running. Quilt experts recommend not washing quilts made before 1900.

When storing your quilts, avoid extremes of temperature or humidity. Attics, basement and garages are best avoided, as well as closets on outside walls due to greater fluctuations in temperatures. Don’t store quilts with mothballs, deodorizers, or plastics. These items produce gases that can be harmful to natural fibers. Also, oils from cedar chests and other unfinished woods can stain and be damaging to your heirloom. Quilts can be loosely folded and placed in cloth bags or a new pillow case, taking them out to refold them once or twice a year.

A great way to store your handmade work of art is to display it. The safest way to display your heirloom is on a bed in a guest room, away from direct sunlight and pets. Finished shelves lined with and acid-free tissue works well. Refold once a season to reduce stress on fibers and stitching. Quilts can also be displayed on a quilt rack or railing. The key to this is rotating the quilt often and making sure the fabric does not come into contact with any sharp edges. Padding the quilt rack or rod the quilt is hanging on can help avoid undue stress. Just be sure to display them out of any direct sunlight as that will cause fading.

Displayed quilts will need to be clean more often that quilts stored away. Gently vacuum your quilt by lifting the nozzle up and down instead of pulling the vacuum across the fibers.

With a little forethought, antique quilts can be protected for future generation to enjoy as well.

Solving Common Quilting Machine Problems

Lets start with a quilting maching that’s in great working condition, but even if a brand new machine isn’t practical, it’s still possible to turn out great projects on your old one, provided you perform some basic maintenance to keep things in good running condition.
To keep quilting machines running well for a long time, you should keep it both cleaned and oiled. Adjusting tensions and changing out the needle are two more ways to keep things shipshape.

Let’s take a look at a few of the most common quilting problems and how to resolve them.
If the owner’s manual is handy, check that first for problem-solving. If you are quilting on a garage-sale special that never had a manual, try these troubleshooting techniques.

If the machine is skipping stitches, try changing the needle. If it is “pulling stitches” and “drawing-up” the seam then check both tensions: bobbin and top tension, or the machine could simply be dirty. Thread lint could be clogging the bobbin case or in the feed-dog (little teeth under the presser plate). Use good quality quilter’s thread for less lint and thread-breaking.

To clean your machine, remove the bobbin case and check the tension for stray lint. Check the top tension for hidden thread-lint or dust. Remove the tiny screws from the presser plate and lay the plate aside. Use a small, clean paint brush to remove any debris or lint. Put the presser plate and bobbin back into place.

To oil your machine, use a good recommended oil. Check the owner’s manual for correct method or visit the company website.

Oiling is done at the end of a quilting session, and afterwards, a piece of scrap fabric is placed under the presser foot. Before quilting again run a piece of scrap fabric under the needle, and sew some sample stitching to check for any excess oil. Don’t be afraid to waste thread or scrap fabric here – even a faint trace of oil on a finished quilt block will never do. Sew some lines of stitches and check until satisfied that the machine is clean. Check the quilting line top and bottom for a good stitch.

Change your needle often. Keep a sharp needle in the quilting machine. It makes everything a lot easier. Set the machine at 10 – 12 stitches per inch. A long basting stitch won’t work for finished quilt-top seams. Even some vintage quilt seams are hand-finished at 10 stitches per inch. Vintage quilts have sometimes been passed down for generations and the stitches need to stay put.

So now that the quilting machine is ready, lets have some fun quilting!

Quilting: Not Just for Grandmas Anymore

If you’ve never understood the fascination people have with quilting fabrics, or thought you had to have gray hair and grandkids to enjoy it, think again.

Designer quilt fabric versus discount store fabric is like comparing filet mignon with ground round. They are essentially from the same element, yet vastly different.
Here are 5 steps to becoming a fabric fanatic.

Read about the designers: In recent years fabric designers have made a name for themselves. It’s no longer the manufacturers who have all the recognition.

Visit a quilt shop: Use google to find one in your area and prepare to be delighted. Typically owned and operated by the 40 and older crowd, these shops have some of the friendliest people working there. They can spot that deer-in-the-headlight look of a newbie fabric fanatic and offer some guidance.

But when looking at fabric, remember it’s OK to touch. Look for something that grabs your attention. Maybe your childhood doll wore a dress that looked exactly like that, or you’ve finally found the pattern for the perfect pillow sham – whatever the reason, it’s yours. It’s OK to oooooo and aaaah.

Buy a fat quarter or a half yard of your favorite fabric: This is a momentous occasion. There’s no turning back. A fat quarter is usually pre-cut and measures 18×22 inches. It is equivalent to a quarter yard of fabric.

Personalize that picture: Assuming you know nothing about fabric, you probably can’t sew yet.

Find a small to medium photo frame with a pre-made mat inside. Take your fabric piece and cut it so it’s an inch larger than the mat.

Place the fabric right side down on a flat surface. Using a glue stick or spray, place glue on right side of mat and adhere it to the fabric piece.

Using a box-cutter, knife or rotary cutter, slice a slit in the fabric that is covering the mat opening. Use scissors to cut an X in the fabric and stop cutting when you reach the corner of the mat.

Trim the flaps to about a half inch and adhere to the back of the frame.

Tip: Choose a fabric that relates to the picture. Makes a thoughtful and inexpensive gift.

Quick and Easy Crafts: Quilting Basics

A quilt is a blanket that is made by sewing small pieces of fabric together into a design and has layers of fabric. Quilts are also known as coverlets and comforters, too. It all depends on the size, thickness and style you choose to design. The three main parts of a quilt are the top, center and backing. The quilt top is the most recognizable part of your quilt. It is the main component with the fancy, colorful designs of small pieces of fabric sewn together in beautiful patterns. The center layer is the batting, and the third layer is the quilt backing.

When making a quilt, you first find a quilt block pattern that you wish to make. Then, you chose which colors you want to use. Quilts are traditionally made of 100% cotton fabric, but you can use alternate fabrics if you wish. It is recommended that beginners stick to the cottons, as they are easier to work with. You can find fine arrays of fabrics at a fabric store such as JoAnn’s, or at a local quilt store.

Always wash and iron (if need be) your fabrics before you sew them into a quilt. I ruined one of my first quilts by not following that simple step. Take it from me and completely wash all your fabrics so they shrink first, not after you sew.

It is ‘standard’ that all quilt pieces and blocks have a one-quarter inch (1/4) seam allowance. If the seam allowance is any smaller, the fabric could ravel and cause holes after use or washing. If you use a larger seam, the quilt could become unnecessarily bulky. So, if you want a square piece to be 4 inches finished on each side, then cut it 4 ½ inches by 4 ½ inches square. (That is a ¼ inch seam allowance on each side.)

When sewing the pieces together into your chosen block, use good, strong thread. Cheap thread often breaks too easily, and could cause your quilt blocks to fall apart.

Something that I do before I begin my quilt project to make a drawing of the block I am making. I use quad paper, and draw out my design, then use crayons or colored pencils to shade in my colors. I then write down the measurements underneath the picture, and also write down how many of each piece I need, how many blocks I need and how big the borders are going to be. This especially comes in handy for larger, more complicated and time-consuming quilts. Just imagine starting a quilt and then not working on it for a month. With this simple idea, you will have a ‘map’ with all of your measurements and you don’t have to struggle to remember the specifics.

Press each seam as you sew them. The blocks are much easier to piece together if they are pressed. Also, this is a good time to see if they are all the same size. (It is critical that they are all the same size. If they aren’t, your rows will be wonky.) If all of your blocks are the same, then you can proceed to the next step of sewing them together into rows.

Use your ‘map’ as a reference and always keep it handy. If you have a large quilt planned then it is wise to make a complete picture of your full pattern to keep your blocks or squares in order. Again, I have learned this the hard way on a quilt I made for my sister years ago. The last two rows were sewn wrong and it wasn’t until I finished the entire project and had given it to her, that I saw my everlasting mistake. Pin your blocks together before you sew, as this will help you match up your seams. You want all of the seams to match up as best as you can, as this makes your quilt look neater. Then, when the rows or columns are all completed, then pin them together and sew them. Pinning is again crucial so the seams line up. Once you have all of your rows or columns sewn together, your quilt top is almost done!

Borders are the ‘frames’ around the quilt top. You can have as many frames as you want, or none at all. Some quilts look better with one narrow border and then a contrasting, wider, border around that. Other quilts look better with a wide border just to frame the entire project. Cut your borders from your chosen fabrics, then sew them around the quilt top. Press them when sewn, and then you are ready to “sandwich” your quilt.

The quilt batting is the ‘fluffy’ stuff inside the quilt. There are cotton batting, polyester batting, and bamboo batting. Chose the material and thickness that suits your needs. For instance, a quilt that is used in Arizona may need a thinner batting than one used in Montana. Also, you can use a sheet of flannel as batting, or a blanket from the store. Fabric stores sell batting in packages that are pre cut to the size of the bed you wish to cover. If you are making a doll quilt or a quilt to nestle under on the couch, then check the measurements on the packages to see which one is closest to your quilt’s size. You can also buy batting by the yard, or piece together scraps left over from other projects. In the olden days of pioneers crossing the prairies in covered wagons, the settlers used long grass as quilt batting.

Prepare your backing as described in your specific quilt pattern. Some are simple; others are done as another quilt top to make the blanket double sided.

Once your batting is chosen and your backing is prepared then it is time to lay the quilt down and begin sandwiching it. It is best to use a large table, if possible, and put them in this order: quilt top, backing and the batting on top. Make sure the quilt top is ‘right side’ in, that way when you turn it right side out, you will see the pretty design you spent so much time on. Trim any on the batting to line up with the top and bottom.

Take your quilt pins and begin pinning the edges. Work your way back to the beginning, but leave anywhere from 6 to 10 inches open so you can turn your quilt after sewing. The thicker your quilt, the larger the gap you will need to turn it. Using either the standard ¼ inch seam, or ½ to insure I get all of the layers, sew the perimeter of the quilt, leaving the designated gap open.

After sewing the perimeter carefully remove all pins and gently turn the quilt ride-side out. I always iron my full quilt to make it easier to finish. This not only makes it easier to re-pin, but it makes it flatter to run through my sewing machine. Depending on your quilt pattern, use the necessary amount of pins and sew accordingly. You can either machine quilt your project or you can ‘tie’ your quilt. Machine quilting is a lot of fun because you can either just follow the seams using a standard sewing machine, or if you own a long-arm sewing/quilting machine, you can make intricate patterns. All of these options help keep the batting in place when washed and used. Pick a style that helps to compliment your particular project.

I hope these simple basic steps will help you design and enjoy your homemade quilts.