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What is the Best Way to Store a Quilt? posted: 3/28/2004
by Cindy Brick Printable Page
Category: General Method: All
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This is not a simple question. There is a great deal of discussion about the different -- and "best" -- ways to store quilts. What you'll be hearing here is my best, educated opinion.

If you have it, a guest bedroom with largely unused bed, and no direct light, is probably your best option. You can spread the quilts out to minimize foldlines, as well as damage to fabrics from folding and crunching. Use washed muslin or old washed cotton quilts in between each quilt, so what each quilt touches is not the next quilt -- but clean cotton. Tissue paper is also good. Acid-free is best, but it can lose that quality after 3-5 years.

Now, for those of us (and there are many) who DON'T have that option -- or have regular guests! Other options include:

  • Rolling loosely on wooden dowels or cardboard cores, including muslin or sheets so wherever the quilt touches, it will not touch itself or the dowel/cardboard. Cover the roll quilt with a loose covering of more muslin. Install holders on either side of a closet or wall alcove, and hang the rolled quilts inside. This is the option many museums have gone to, and was until recently considered one of the best ways to store a quilt. However, some experts now argue that the process of rolling actually stretches the quilt and breaks down fibers harmfully.
  • Folding loosely in thirds, using muslin or sheets (you know why, by now!), then storing in a large washed cotton pillowcase or sheet. Store on the top shelf in the closet, inside a cardboard box (acid-free is best, but see the above mention about tissue paper), or in a cedar chest. (NEVER let the actual quilt touch the wood -- I can't tell you how many stains I've seen from just that!) Here in Colorado, where it's quite dry, we can often get away with storing the wrapped quilts in clear plastic containers...but if you live where there's any humidity, don't do it.

Note: The reason, by the way, that you fold in thirds is because most quilts are folded in half, then half again -- and most quilts have fold lines from being treated that way over and over. Also, when you wash the muslin or old sheets/pillowcases, use a mild soap like Ivory or Orvus -- NOT a detergent. I would also recommend, if possible, drying them in the sun to minimize any kind of buildup from the dryer.

  • And finally, it does not harm quilts in good condition (I am referring to family and loved pieces, not historically unusual or important ones) to have a cotton, hanging sleeve added on the back, then displayed on a wall in your room. Just make sure that if they touch wood (like a hanger), that there's cotton in between -- so the actual quilt won't be in direct contact with the wood.
  • If you use a quilt rack, put a clean towel or sheet underneath...where it can't be seen, but is protecting the actual quilt. Ditto for stacking them in an armoire or other decorative spot, or draping them over a stair banister.

If the quilt's design is amenable to it, and you plan on hanging it on a wall, I would even recommend adding a hanging sleeve to both the top and bottom of the quilt back...then hang it one way for up to three months, let rest for at least three months, and hang the other direction to even things out! [For a hanging sleeve, cut 6"-wide strips of muslin and seam together if needed, to the quilt's width. Fold strip edges, wrong side, together, and stitch. Turn right-side out, press, pin and hand-stitch or baste to top edge of quilt, leaving a margin of approx. 2" above the sleeve.]

Surface dirt can be taken care of by gently vacuuming them with an old piece of nylon wrapped securely over the nozzle of the hose.

2003 Cindy Brick

Cindy Brick is a Colorado writer, editor and AQS-certified appraiser who teaches quilt history and techniques nationally. She is hard at work on her fifth book, an informal history of Crazy quilting. Visit her -- and learn more about quilt care, including how to wash a cotton quilt -- at the Brickworks website,

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