Reader Question: Vintage bedspreads

Reader Delia recently sent us the following question:

What does one do with old, vintage sentimental bed spreads?

If the bedspreads have sentimental value but you no longer wish to keep them, consider asking family members or friends if they would like them. Send an email or letter describing the history of the bedspreads and include a few photos.

If the bedspreads are in good condition, a museum or local historical society may be interested, especially if the quilts handmade by local artisans or citizens of local importance. It always helps if you can provide historical context around the item being donated such as the life of the artisan(s) and the creation of the quilt itself. Occasionally theatre or reenactment groups may need quilts made during a specific time period. They may be willing to accept your donation.

Storing and displaying vintage quilts and bedspreads can be laborious. Antique fabric in general is difficult to handle because it is easily damaged. If you do not have the confidence or ability to manage a project like this, consult a local museum or historical society. They may be able to refer you to someone in your area who can take on your project.

The Great Lakes Quilt Centre provides quite a bit of information on how to clean, store and display antique quilts.

  • Washing can enlarge holes and bunch up batting. Wringing and pulling can break seams and damage fibres, especially when they are wet so do not put quilts in a washing machine or hang them on a clothesline. Dry cleaning should also be avoided.
  • A gentle vacuuming with low suction through a fiberglass screen is recommended to remove dust.
  • In storage, quilts should be folded as few times as possible. Every few months, refold them along different lines to avoid permanent creases. Stuffing the folds with acid-free paper or unbleached muslin can help avoid fold lines.
  • Wood, cardboard and plastic can emit chemicals that cause fabric to break down. Store quilts in unbleached, 100% cotton pillowcases or sheets to protect them from light and dust. Acid-free storage boxes are ideal for storing these types of textiles. Quilts can also be rolled onto acid-free tubes and covered with a cotton or muslin sheath to protect them from dust.
  • Store quilts in an area that is not subject to fluctuations in temperature and humidity. Ideal conditions are slightly cooler than room temperature and around 50% relative humidity. Avoid light (sunlight and artificial light) because it can damage fibres as well as cause fading.
  • To capture historic details of the quilt, iron a piece of muslin to a piece of freezer paper and use a typewriter or laser printer to print the historical information about the quilt. Peel the fabric label from the paper and hand stitch the fabric carefully onto the back of the quilt. You could also use indelible ink to write the information on the muslin by hand and stitch it onto the quilt. It can be helpful to create a muslin pocket to hold other important information such as photos of those who made the quilt or a family tree diagram showing the relationship between the quilt maker and the quilt owner.

Finally, if you still have a sentimental attachment to your quilts and bedspreads but do not feel that it is worth the efforts to properly store them, consider taking photos of the entire quilt and close-up shots of specific fabrics. Write the story of the quilt-maker, how the quilt was made and how it came into your possession. “Publish” the story on your own and share it with your family and friends. Donate the quilt itself to charity or to an animal shelter.

3 Comments for “Reader Question: Vintage bedspreads”

  1. posted by liz on

    For quilts which have quality “issues”, you can always cut up and remake into pillows, toys, etc. Also, check with a local quilt guild, there maybe some quilt history buffs who would love to have some older quilts.

    For 100% wool sweaters or blankets, consider felting by washing in hot water to shrink. Check out the web for instructions for felting and then what to do with the material – I’ve seen interesting pillows, ornaments, purses, etc. I had a sweater from Dad that had a few moth holes. After washing the sweater, I can’t see the holes and it is a pillow with good memories of family skiing vacations.

  2. posted by laura ann on

    I inherited several quilts and braided rugs, not my contemporary minimalist style, so gave to cousins. Other items were sold (furniture and dishes), etc.

  3. posted by barbara on

    Her question was not referring to quilts or antiques> She said “vintage bedspreads…” i too have a couple of “flower power” bedspreads from the early 60’s that i consider sentimental and vintage. they are NOT quilts nor antiques. I may sell one of them as it would be perfect for a teen girl’s “shabby chic” room…. my other one is just folded on an open shelf so i can admire it….. not sure that i want to cut it up for pilows or other re-purposing. I love that they are not poofy/bulky like current ones are but flat and stitched all over. I could see them repurposed into fabric for pillows, tote bag, even a . robe or a jacket/vest.

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