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....
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!