DEAR ABBY: There are 20 million quilters in the USA, and I bet you will hear from a lot of them about the answer you gave "Krista in Salt Lake City," who asked what she should do with an heirloom quilt.
You advised that the quilt should be taken to a dry cleaner to be packed for storage, and later it could be displayed in a shadow box frame as long as it isn't exposed to direct sunlight.
Abby, that quilt should NOT be sent to a cleaners. It should NOT be stored in plastic, nor should it be hung for more than three months. -- NANCY I., SALINAS, CALIF.
DEAR NANCY I.: I had thought that a cleaner who specializes in wedding gowns would know how to preserve an antique quilt. But not according to serious quilters! After Krista's letter was printed, the amount of mail I received from concerned quilters was astonishing. Read on:
FROM EASTHAMPTON, MASS.: Krista should not, under any circumstances, let that quilt be cleaned by a commercial dry cleaner. Some 19th-century cottons are fragile and will disintegrate when touched by cleaning chemicals.
Krista should contact a local museum (the larger the better) with a textile collection for advice, or get in touch with her local quilt guild. If she can find someone from the American Quilt Studies Group, even better.
The quilt should be properly documented, photographed, wrapped in acid-free tissue paper, and stored in a dark, dry place. If she wants to display it, she should invest in a climate-controlled case, have it mounted in the case by someone who's familiar with antique textiles, and keep it out of sunlight.
FROM VISALIA, CALIF.: The quilt should be wrapped in a cotton sheet with as few folds as possible. It should be removed from the sheet and refolded every few months so that the creases are not in the same place. Ideally, it should be rolled so there are no folds, but most people don't have that kind of storage capability. If she needs more help, there are quilt guilds in Salt Lake City, or a fabric store might be of help.
FROM MONTEREY, CALIF.: As a textile conservator at the Monterey History and Art Association, I could not refrain from writing. No textile should EVER be stored in plastic or even an ordinary box, which is acid. Plastic emits toxic chemicals that eventually damage the textile, and the acid box will also damage fabrics.
The first thing Krista should do is wrap the quilt in a clean cotton sheet until she can get the proper storage materials. (We store our more than 5,000 pieces of antique clothing and textiles in acid-free boxes with acid-free tissue paper wrapping.) Also, if the quilt is ever framed, that frame should be made of acid-free materials. (A good framer would be able to do this.)
You were correct about not exposing the textiles to direct sunlight, or for that matter, any strong light.
FROM SIGNAL MOUNTAIN, TENN.: Please tell that young, intelligent woman to contact a professional quilt restorer. A quilt of that age could very well be a state treasure if her brother could bear to part with it. Storage in a climate-controlled location would be of value. The American Quilter's Society in Paducah, Ky., could be helpful in locating a qualified professional in her area; the Web site is www.americanquilter.com.