Joyce Moseley Pierce
many years my mother worked in sales and lived out of a suitcase as
she traveled the country, but that didn't stop her from doing some of
the most beautiful needlepoint and cross-stitch work I've ever seen.
When she retired, she quickly filled up the walls of her home and kept
the local frame shop in business. After she had given favorites to her
children and filled every white space in her home, she decided to start
making quilts, but instead of just sewing the pieces of fabric together,
she cross-stitched or needlepointed squares that would be sewn together
by the town's quilting expert.
I was the recipient of one of these beautiful quilts but because my
children were small, I didn't want to leave it out on a bed where it
might get smeared with peanut butter and jelly, or even worse, colored
with crayons or a permanent marker. Instead, I folded it up and put
it in my closet inside a plastic zippered bag that my bedspread had
Well, when Mom came to visit the next time, she went looking for that
quilt. I assured her that it was packed away and that nothing could
harm it. After all, it was sealed in plastic. Nothing could get to it.
Boy, was I wrong!
I learned a lesson from Mom about how to store quilts:
1. Don't ever store them in plastic of any kind! It doesn't matter that
your bedspread came in it. It's not the same.
2. Don't store them in humid or hot climates. If the temperature feels
good to you, then it's okay for your quilt. If you live in Houston you
shouldn't even own a quilt!
3. Don't store quilts in attics or garages. It makes a comfy bed for
rodents and insects.
Instead, you should:
1. Store your quilt in a pillowcase or sheet, or roll it onto a muslin-covered
2. Place a piece of fabric between the pillowcase or sheet and your
quilt to protect it from the acids in the wood.
3. Twice a year, when the humidity is low and the air is blowing, air
your quilt outside, out of direct sunlight.
4. Mark your calendar to refold your quilt every 3-4 months so you won't
make a permanent crease in it. Crumple up some acid-free tissue paper
to help eliminate fold lines.
If you feel comfortable in displaying or actually using your quilts
(and isn't that why we make them?), you'll want to follow these guidelines
to make your quilt last longer and help retain its beauty.
1. Keep your quilts away from direct light. The sun will make them fade
and will age the fabric.
2. If you notice any tears, repair them as soon as possible. Remember
that "a stitch in time saves nine," and will help lengthen
the life of your quilt.
3. Clean up any accidents immediately. Washable quilts can be cleaned
with cold water. My quilt, with the delicate cross-stitching fabric
and thread, would need
to be dry cleaned by an expert.
4. Before you wash, test the fabric to see if the colors are going to
run. Use a white towel and cold water to test each color.
5. Do not put quilts in the dryer or hang them over a clothesline. They
should lay flat between two sheets placed on the grass in the shade.
When I was a young, married woman I discovered a box of fabric in my
grandmother's closet along with the pattern for a quilt that had been
published by the Kansas City Star in the 1920s. Grandma told me she
had bought the fabric when my dad was born and had just never made the
quilt. She told me if I wanted
to make it, she would pay to have it quilted for me. I accepted the
challenge, and without knowing anything about quilts (or anything else!),
I cut and assembled
all of the pieces. It was beautiful, and I remember the pride I felt
in knowing that I had sewn every stitch, but even as I laid it across
my daughter's twin-sized bed, I could see how thin and worn the fabric
had become. I wish now I would have used the pattern and bought newer,
more sturdy fabric, that would have lengthened the life of the quilt,
but that was just one of life's lessons I had to learn.
Going through the process of piecing that quilt helped me to have a
deep appreciation for all of the time and love that goes into each stitch.
As I worked on
it, I tried to imagine my grandmother as a young mother and wondered
what life was like for her. Was motherhood as challenging for her as
it was for me? Did she ever imagine that she would have a granddaughter
who would treasure this old fabric and the bond it gave to both of them?
Buying a bedspread is fast and fairly inexpensive because they are mass
produced, but you can't expect it to give you you the same warm feeling
as when you run your hands over the stitches of a quilt that was made
by you or someone you love. When your hands caress the fabric and stitches
of the quilt you have
painstakingly created, the memories of the past are guaranteed to rush
into your heart. If that quilt was made by someone who loved you, you
will feel a connection that seems oblivious to time.
Copyright 2002 Joyce Moseley Pierce
Joyce is a freelance writer and owner of Emerson Publications.She is
the creator of "All They'll Need to Know," a workbook to help
families record personal and financial information. She is also the
editor of The Family First Newsletter, an ezine for families with young
children. To subscribe,