Monday, June 06, 2011

Southern Baked Quilts

As the thermometer went over 94 degree and hovers there for most of the day I am reminded of the bane of southern quilts...southern attics. A neighbor stopped by with a family quilt and wanted to know if it could be repaired. It is hard but I had to say no....

Goldie on a half-baked top...

When summer comes here in the south we will inevitably get the lectures from the weatherperson on how hot does it need to be to fry and egg, or how long is too long for you to leave a child in the car, or the dangers of leaving pets out in the yard in the heat of day. In my dream-world they would also remind folks to check their attics for antique or vintage quilts. The same heat that cooks the egg and makes the metal on the seatbelt a branding iron also sucks all the moisture out of the cottons. And when that moisture is gone it's gone. Now there may be ways for museums or high end conservation to stabilize it but for most textiles that is the start of a steep and slippery slope that ends as a dog bed cover, a flea-market table cover or (yikes!) becoming part of a stuffed animal.

Heat can also cause fabrics dyes that have been stable for decades to suddenly start to migrate, for fabric "freckles" to appear, and for the batting to start to disintegrate. (Last year I had one will a wool batting that really did look and feel as if it had been cooked!)

The quilt in question today had signatures from 1884 on it. Some of the ink had eaten through the fabric. The quilt was so fragile it felt more like paper than fabric. The owner was in her 60's and remembers the quilt being in good condition while she was growing up. A few weeks ago her brother passed away and she found the family quilt in the attic. She hadn't seen it in 20 years.

After many cups of tea, a few slices of lemon-blueberry cake, and a glass of sherry we came up with a plan. Tomorrow she will have the quilt professionally photographed. That way she and her family will have a record of it before it disintegrates any further. She ordered an acid free box and some paper to store it in to delay the disintegration as much as possible. And finally she is commissioning a quilt to reproduce her family one that can be put on a guest bed in her home to remind her of her great-grandmother who made the original quilt.

So as the mercury climbs remember to be kind to your textiles and give them a bit of TLC so they can ride out the summer months safely too! And that my friends is this month's quilt safety announcement.....

ps...no photos of the quilt due to owner embarrassment....sorry!

19 comments:

regan said...

Thanks so much for all the info. So sorry about her treasured family piece. But what a great idea to photograph it, and have a replica made.

jovaliquilts said...

I had no idea heat was that hard on fabric! Thanks for the heads up.

Janet O. said...

The warnings you gave us are timely. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. It is very appreciated. And if that lemon-blueberry cake is homemade, would you consider sharing the recipe? It sounds so yummy!

Cathy said...

That is a lovely story. Thank you for sharing. Hugs

AnnieO said...

So sad that these quilts slowly lose all their color and warmth in hot attics. The ideas to save it are all great information.

Yuki said...

Great info! Thanks for the reminder.

ttfn :) Yuki

Dawn said...

What a great post. I thought your solutions were great. The quilt owner was lucky to have found you.

Impera_Magna said...

What great ideas to photograph the quilt and have a reproduction/copy made... so sad that it wasn't taken better care of over the years tho.

I'm sure the tea, lemon blueberry cake, and the sherry helped a little ...

Merilyn said...

Great advice! thanks for that, these tips are good to know! What a terrible shame that old quilt top had lain up there for 20 years!

judith lockhart said...

Thanks for the info you shared on what heat does to quilts. Guess I'd just never thought about it in that light even though I would not think of storing any of my quilts in the attic here in the south. Great post!

Mary said...

Wow, what wonderful ideas to help her "preserve" her quilt.

laurie said...

I've come here from The English Kitchen,, I love the sound of Elvis's Peanut Butter Pie!.This is such a good idea,, photographing quilts I will do this for sure,, Our family are big time quilters,

sewkalico said...

Where's the interesting button? I thought this was a VERY interesting post. I doubt it will EVER get that hot here *sigh*

Finn said...

A great post Sio, and such a timely reminder of what 'conditions' do to textiles. I hadn't realized it was that drastic, but it makes perfect sense. Thank you for the information. Hugs, Finn

Rocky Creek Scotties and Rocky Creek Ramblings said...

It makes me wonder what damage my wedding dress has suffered. I need to dig it out and see since it's been 30 years. Thanks for all the info.

Gail said...

Hi Sioban, Thanks for the public safety announcement about storing quilts in the attic. I don't have any antique quilts up there (at least I'm not that dumb) but I do have a few modern day quilts and a tree skirt I made one year when I was going to move to FL and switch from red and green Xmas decorations to Rose and Sage, lol.

Purple Pam said...

Thank you for the information. I never thought about high temps affecting quilts in that way.

woolywoman said...

The only thing I've ever come up with is sheer silk organza as a top layer. It shows the original work, and I quilt the seam lines. But not, of course, if it is a valuable piece, only if it is too beloved to get rid of.

Thanks for the great reminder and suggestions!

Julie in the Barn said...

Great post. The ideas about a photo and making a reproduction to preserve the memory are super. Never realized what heat could do to textiles. Thanks so much for the info.