How to Collect Quilts
If you are lucky enough to have inherited a handmade quilt from your grandmother or another maternal branch on your family tree, then you already know the sentimental value attached to it. The warmth it generates comes not only from its fabric but from the quilter who put her heart into every detail of its creation.
Perhaps you’ve thought about acquiring more quilts to spread the warmth throughout your home but were unsurewhere to begin the search. Suzanne Smith Arney, a freelance art writer with a special interest in quilts and textiles, offers her advice on collecting, displaying and caring for handmade quilts.
History: Suzanne suggests learning more about quilts by gleaning information from community colleges, books, quilting guilds, websites and quilt museums—an excellent source being the International Quilt Study Center & Museum (IQSC) in Lincoln, Nebraska (quiltstudy.org). “I’ve always had an appreciation and respect for traditional ‘women’s work.’ Learning about quilts, from antiquity to the most contemporary, has only increased my esteem and enjoyment at this astonishingly rich medium,” she says.
Keep Records: Appraise, document and label your quilt, Suzanne advises. Many museums have quilt identification days and workshops. IQSC has an interactive website and easily researched database. Meeting and learning about other collectors is very helpful and fascinating.
Proper Care: Damaged quilts require special care, Suzanne says. Besides cleaning, you must decide whether to repair or stabilize the fabric. See a quilt appraiser or expert for advice on care of the quilt.
Where to Find Them: Good places to hunt include antiques stores, estate sales, online auction sites like eBay, upscale flea markets—and especially in your family home’s attic.
How to Display Them: Consider not only the visual effect but also the safest arrangement for each quilt when displaying it, Suzanne explains. Having assured a protective way to show off your quilt—hanging, folded in an open drawer, draped over the arm of a chair—consider creating a vignette. Put a picture of your grandparents or their marriage license beside it.
By Meryl Schoenbaum
Photos courtesy of The International Quilt Study Center & Museum