Vintage handmade quilts

Vintage handmade quilts DEFAULT

How to Clean and Care for Vintage Quilts

Drying the Quilt

Cover the quilt with more dry towels, and roll up to absorb water. Move the quilt to a drying rack or another bed of dry towels, spread out flat, and allow to dry. Placing a fan in the room will help speed the process.

Storing a Vintage Quilt

One of the best ways to store any quilt is to place it flat on an extra bed and cover it with a clean sheet or bedspread. Keeping the quilt flat will eliminate creases and wear on folds. If storing the quilt flat isn't an option, there are other ways to protect your treasure.

Don't store your vintage quilt in an attic or basement, where moisture and temperature levels fluctuate. Also, don't store an antique quilt in a cedar chest. If the quilt touches raw wood, the acid in the wood can eat away at the quilt. Here's what you can do instead:

  • Archival box: Store the quilt inside a box made for archival storage. This type of box is usually made of safe acid-free paper.
  • Fabric bag: Roll the quilt around an acid-free tube, and slip it in a cotton or muslin bag.
  • Plastic bin: If you're concerned about the box getting crushed, choose a plastic bin as a last resort—because the quilt needs to be able to breathe. The plastic container must be made of cast polypropylene to be safe for your keepsakes. Look for the number five within the recycling triangle (usually located under the bottom of the bin) or the letters “PP” to ensure you have the correct type of box.
  • Acid-free tissue paper: Before you fold a quilt and store it, use acid-free tissue paper as padding to prevent sharp creases.


Never use mothballs when storing an antique quilt. The chemicals in the balls could break down the fragile fibers of your quilt.


Before you clean an old quilt, repair any rips or tears in the fabric, which will also preserve the life of the quilt. Spread out the quilt, and examine carefully for any worn patches, rips, or stains.

If you sew well, repair the quilt yourself by using small stitches and thread that matches the design and colors of your quilt. There are various sources of vintage or period-specific fabrics to patch your quilt, or reproduction vintage fabrics can be used to replace damaged areas.

If you don’t feel confident in your ability to do the repairs, find a reputable quilt repair or restoration service. They can restore your quilt or tell you if the damage is beyond repair.

Treating Stains on a Vintage Quilt

If washing the quilt didn't remove all the stains, you can remove most spots by mixing a solution of oxygen bleach and cold water. Oxygen bleach is safe to use on cotton fabrics, but don't use it for silk or wool quilts.

Follow the package directions as to how much product you should add per gallon of water. Completely submerge the quilt in the solution, and allow it to soak for at least four hours. If the stain is gone, rinse thoroughly, and dry. If it remains, mix a new solution, and repeat. It may take several soakings to remove the stain, but it should eventually come out. 

Tips for Washing a Vintage Quilt

  • If you have hard water or iron bacteria in your water source, use distilled water for washing a quilt. You don’t want to risk having minerals stain the fabric.
  • You can dry a quilt outside by placing a sheet on the ground and then spreading the quilt on top. Cover the quilt with another clean sheet, and allow it to dry. Don't dry in direct sunlight without the top sheet in place or fading can occur.
  • Never suspend a wet quilt from a clothesline, as it creates too much stress on seams and may cause tearing or displaced batting.

Learn How to Wash and Care for Antique and Vintage Linens

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An outstanding  collection of over 200 antique quilts and vintage quilts from the 19th and early 20th century for sale. Quilts have been selected for their artistic appeal, fine workmanship, and excellent condition.

We have quilts for sale in all sizes and price ranges. Whether you’re an advanced collector, an interior designer, or just want one quilt to decorate a room you’ll be glad you contacted us. We have been in business selling quilts for over 35 years and have many many satisfied customers who appreciate the quality and prices of our quilts.

If you are unhappy with a selection for any reason, just ship the item back to us within 3 days of your having received it. E-mail us and let us know you are returning it. We will refund you the full purchase price, less the shipping charges upon receipt of the item.

We have a convenient layaway plan. The total must be paid in six or less equal monthly installments. No interest is charged as long as you make a payment every month. The disadvantage to layaway is that you lose the 3 day return privilege. All layaway sales are considered final. To order a quilt on layaway please call 802-867-5969.
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Antique Quilts: How to Buy, Repair, Wash, and Store Vintage Finds

Should (or can) I wash antique quilts?

Bettina Havig: Only wash a quilt if it is cotton and then only if absolutely necessary. A gentle bath in a tub can do wonders but also can do damage. Make all repairs before washing. Use a gentle detergent (no soap) and dry flat, if possible, making sure that the weight of the quilt is supported. Because lifting a wet quilt puts huge stress on the fibers, lift it with a sheet or fiberglass screen under it. Squeeze out the water as you would a fine sweater; do not wring it. Never dry-clean a cotton quilt. Most silk/wool crazy quilts cannot tolerate the dry-cleaning process either.

Darlene Zimmerman: Only wash a quilt if it shows visible signs of soiling, is smelly, or the fabrics are stiff with starch. Reducing dirt, grime, body oils, and starch on the fabric will prolong the life of a quilt. If a quilt is of museum quality, then leave the cleaning for experts. Dry cleaning is not recommended. Before cleaning, repair any open seams, loose appliqué, or unstitched binding. Pretreat stains with a minimal amount of spot remover. (It's better to have a stain than a hole in your quilt.)

Some experts recommend washing a quilt in a bathtub, but I find this to be uncomfortable because a wet quilt is difficult to handle. I recommend soaking it in Biz, Oxiclean, or special quilt wash in your washing machine for several hours or overnight, depending on the soil level. Include a Shout Color Catcher to catch any errant dyes. After soaking, spin the quilt in the washing machine to remove excess water. Spinning a quilt in the washer does not damage the fabrics or thread, and it removes excess water quite well. Wash it with quilt wash on a gentle cycle in a front-loading machine, if possible. Rinse and spin twice to remove all residues.

To dry, lay the quilt flat on a sheet outdoors or on a bed. If drying it outdoors, cover the quilt with another sheet to protect it from passing birds. If drying it indoors on a bed, turn on a fan over the quilt to speed the drying time. Turn the quilt over after several hours. Leave the quilt out and unfolded for a few days to ensure it's dry all the way through. If necessary, fluff the quilt on air dry in the dryer for a short time.


What should I look for when buying an antique quilt?

Bettina Havig: First check the condition, then the pattern. Determine if the pattern is intricate or unusual. It's nice to have a representation of common patterns, such as Log Cabin, Dresden Plate, Star, and basic appliqué, but a collection needs more than just familiar designs. Be wary of buying a quilt without actually seeing it. Be sure you have the option of returning it if you feel it was misrepresented.

Darlene Zimmerman: I look for quality, visual appeal, and rarity. Those are the characteristics that make a quilt valuable in the marketplace.

Quality: The piecing must be fairly accurate and the fabrics unfaded and sturdy. The quilt should be in the best condition expected for its age.

Visual Appeal: Buy quilts that speak to you, that appeal to you on emotional and visual levels. Are the color combinations interesting? Does the quilt make a statement? If displayed on a wall or bed, does the quilt grab your attention?

Rarity: Some quilt patterns are ubiquitous. Unusual or rare quilt patterns are more collectible. Also valuable are an unusual or excellent example of a common quilt, such as a Grandmother's Flower Garden made with tiny fussy-cut hexagons.


How can I tell how old a quilt is?

Bettina Havig: Many good resources are available. Clues in the Calico by Barbara Brackman (EPM Publications; 1989; out of print, but used copies are available through online sellers) is one of the best. So many aspects determine a quilt's age that it takes experience to make a determination. One clue is fabric. Looking at good photos of dated quilts can be a great way to build up some dependable knowledge. The style and size are also important. Extremely large quilts are often older than one might suspect. Quilting motifs can help, but regionalisms can fool you. Just because a quilt shows wear doesn't mean it's an antique. Remember that a quilt is only as old as the newest fabric in it.

Darlene Zimmerman: A quilt can be no older than its newest fabric. Identify the era of the majority of the fabrics. If there are some modern fabrics, were they recent repairs or part of the original quilt? For example, you will need to do some detective work if you believe you have a Civil War Era red-and-green appliqué quilt but also notice a few leaves are a color or print from the 1930s. Are the newer leaves replacements for the originals or was this an unfinished quilt that was finished at a much-later date?

Remember, early quilters had stashes as we do today. While some of the fabrics in a quilt can be dated quite early, if the majority of the pieces date it later, the quilter likely was using what she had on hand.


My quilt has rips/tears/holes. Should I fix them or not?

Bettina Havig: Stabilizing a frail quilt can help preserve it. I almost never recommend total reconstruction. Small repairs are advisable to simply keep problems from getting worse. Fine tulle or crepoline (a stiffened silk gauze) can be used to protect an especially worn area. Never use a fusible or glue. And do only repairs that can be reversed. For example, if you rebind a quilt, put the new binding over the original and work by hand in case there is a need to revert to the original. Be conservative about any changes or repairs you might undertake.

Darlene Zimmerman: Definitely. Repairing rips/holes/tears will preserve the life of the quilt. It has been suggested that disintegrating fabrics be only covered by new fabric, leaving the original in place. However, if this is a family quilt and not destined for a museum, you can repair it however you think best. Do try to match the new fabrics to the original quilt in color and style, which may require sun-bleaching a modern reproduction fabric to match the color in the original quilt or searching for similar vintage fabric scraps for repair purposes.


Should I use antique quilts or keep them stored safely away? Do you have any ideas for displaying them?

Bettina Havig: If you are collecting quilts for possible resale, use may affect the value. If you are using and enjoying family quilts and are careful to be kind to them, then using them seems to fulfill their basic purpose. To protect them, keep pets off, do not wash them frequently, and avoid long exposure to direct sunlight or artificial light. Store them at a living temperature and environment-not in a hot attic or damp basement. (If you don't want to live in the environment, neither does your quilt.) Do not store a quilt in plastic. Textiles need to breathe so clean sheets or pillowcases work well.

Darlene Zimmerman: Museum-quality quilts should be preserved professionally, except for short periods of appropriate display (low light and proper hanging).

Family quilts or vintage quilts you have collected can be displayed. Keep them out of direct sunlight, away from pets or small children, and avoid extremes of temperature and humidity.

Hang quilts so they are evenly supported across the top edge (a rod or dowel in a sleeve works well). If folded and displayed on a chair, shelf, or bed, take the same precautions. Rotate the quilts you have on display several times a year.

Be sure the fabric is not in direct contact with unpainted wood or paper when in storage. Both wood and paper have acids that eat into fabrics over time. Plastic bags do not let your quilts breathe. An old pillowcase or well-worn sheets are excellent for protecting your quilts.

When stored, quilts should be refolded occasionally in different ways to prevent the fabric from breaking along the fold lines. Wash them only when visually soiled; they do not need to be washed when only displayed carefully and/or stored.

Store quilts in a dark closet; avoid hot (attics) or humid (basement) conditions. Do not use mothballs. If concerned about moth damage, use lavender or cedar to deter the bugs.


Do you have any ideas for what I should do with orphan antique blocks?

Bettina Havig: The condition of the blocks may be the best answer. There is often a reason why tops or blocks never became quilts. Handling old tops and blocks can make matters worse. My personal preference is to leave both tops and blocks as you found them, as a collection. A really special block might deserve archival framing. If the assorted blocks are square and well-pieced, it's fun to make a sampler quilt. The fun comes in designing a setting that can include all of the various block sizes. This way you can use the blocks and preserve them at the same time.

Darlene Zimmerman: Orphan blocks could be mounted and framed or made into decorative pillows. Or you could add borders (if needed) and create a small table mat or table runner. If the pieces in the block are small enough, perhaps a vintage doll quilt could be created.


Antique, New and Vintage Quilts

Movin' on Up Blanket, Contemporary Quilt
Located in Los Angeles, CA
While seemingly simple in form, the Movin’ on up blanket is a carefully crafted Dual-sided quilt, painstakingly hand quilted so as not to snag the delicate metallic lamé on both side...

21st Century and Contemporary American Modern Quilts

Located in Darnestown, MD
The Windmill Blades (aka Pineapple Log Cabin) quilt is always a design with lots of strong movement. In this example, the solid red centers effectively play off against the remaining...

1880s American Country Antique Quilts

Located in Darnestown, MD
Dozens of varieties of floral wreath quilt patterns were popular in the 19th century. Unlike most such patterns, this example includes bells between the flowers. It is finely appliqu...

1870s American Country Antique Quilts

Located in Darnestown, MD
Both the pattern and use of solid colors make this Pots of Flowers as exuberant as they come. Large groups of flowers coming out of small flower pots give a whimsical quality. Combin...

Late 19th Century American Country Antique Quilts

Located in Darnestown, MD
Touching stars quilt in soft shades of brown and tan printed fabrics. It has an applique border on two opposing sides with flowers in the shape of hearts. It is nicely quilted with w...

1880s American Country Antique Quilts

Double Wedding Ring Quilt
Located in Darnestown, MD
Double wedding ring was one of the most popular patterns in the 1930's. In almost all instances, it was made primarily with printed fabrics. This solid color example is far more unus...

1930s American Country Vintage Quilts

Nine Patch inside Garden Maze Quilt
Located in Darnestown, MD
This is an unusual combination of the Garden Maze pattern filled with Nine Patches on point. The Maze is a beautiful shade of blue/gray. It is stronger in color than most of the Nine...

1860s American Country Antique Quilts

Calling All Superheroes, Handmade Quilt of Multi-Color Fabric Collage
Sometimes the title comes first, before I even begin picking out fabric. The title "Calling All Superheroes! Saving the World This time is Going to Take Every Single One of Us" was m...

2010s American Folk Art Quilts

19Thc Teal Calico & White Shoe Fly Quilt
Located in Los Angeles, CA
This amazing 19thc teal calico printed & white shoe fly pattern quilt from New England is quite unusual. This amazing quilt has Fine quilting and very Fine condition. This quilt has ...

19th Century American Adirondack Antique Quilts

19thc Oak Leaf & Reel Dated 1848 Blue & White Quilt
Located in Los Angeles, CA
This amazing New England oak leaf applique quilt in blue & white is signed Jenny and dated 1848 in embroidery on lower right hand corner.This amazing applique quilt has very fine qui...

19th Century American Adirondack Antique Quilts

19thc Wool Wind Mill Blades Log Cabin Quilt
Located in Los Angeles, CA
This 19thc wool wind mill blades / log cabin quilt was found in Pennsylvania The quilt is in very good condition. The backing is very good as well. Very unusual with the striped border.

19th Century American Adirondack Antique Quilts

19thC Pennsylvania Red & Green Triple Irish Chain Quilt
Located in Los Angeles, CA
19Thc Fantastic red & green triple Irish chain quilt in fantastic condition. This quilt has many great uses. It could be a great Christmas quilt too.

Late 19th Century American Adirondack Antique Quilts

Early Amish Wool Log Cabin Quilt
Located in Los Angeles, CA
Early 20thc Indiana Amish wool log cabin quilt. Finely pieced and very fine quilted quilt.

Late 19th Century American Adirondack Antique Quilts

19thc Geometric Patriotic Quilt in Railroad Crossings
Located in Los Angeles, CA

Handmade quilts vintage

How to Tell if a Quilt Is Vintage or Antique

By Melissa King

Vintage quilts add charm to your home.

Vintage and antique quilts serve as handsome decorating pieces, particularly in older or historical homes. If you've found or purchased a quilt, you may want to know when or where it was made. It's tough to accurately date a quilt unless you're an antiques appraiser, but by looking for a few clues, you can deduce its general age. Vintage quilts were made from the 1930s to 1965, while quilts deemed antique date back to 100 years ago or more. A quilt made in the 1920s or earlier is also considered antique.

Identify Handmade Quilts

Most antique and vintage quilts were made by hand with no help from a sewing machine. Look closely at the stitching throughout the whole quilt. If the stitches appear a bit unevenly spaced or different in size, the quilt was likely handmade. If the stitches are precisely uniform in size and spacing, the quilt was probably machine-stitched. Many antique quilts were made in odd sizes that don't fit modern beds. Handmade quilts, particularly those from the 20th century, sometimes bear an identification tag on the bottom corner. The cloth tag tells the name and location of the quilter, as well as the date of completion. Quilts made prior to the 20th century might not have a tag.

Patterns in Quilts

Antique American quilts of the 17th century were often made by poor Colonists who couldn't afford to make detailed patchwork designs. Instead, they made quilts out of one or two sheets of the same fabric. Patchwork-style quilts first became common in the 18th century and after the American Revolutionary War. Certain patterns can help identify an antique quilt. The double wedding ring pattern, for example, depicts two interlocking rings and is thought to have German origins. The pattern was first published in 1928 in "Capper's Weekly" magazine. The grandmother's flower garden pattern, also called honeycomb or hexagon, can be traced back to the 18th century. Quilts with either of these patterns may be considered antique.

Colors and Age

A quilt's colors may help you identify its general age. For example, Lancaster blue consists of a light-blue print over a dark-blue background. This color was popular on antique quilts from 1860 to 1880. Double pink is a similar hue; it depicts a dark-pink shade over a light-pink background. Double pink was commonly seen in quilts from the 1860s to the 1880s as well as the 1920s. Cheddar orange, also called antimony, was used in applique in Pennsylvania from 1860 to 1880. Nile green, a type of pale green, was common on vintage quilts in the 1930s through 1940s. The color was often paired with cream, white or dark green.

Woven Patterns

A quilt's weaving pattern, or the way it was sewn, is a clue to age; plain weave is the most common type. With this weave, warp and filler threads pass over one another in alternating rows. Plain weave is found in both vintage and modern quilts, so it's not ideal for aging a piece. Quilts made with a satin weave have a silky, lustrous surface and a dull bottom. The filler or warp threads pass over yarns in an irregular pattern. Cotton sateen was used extensively in 19th-century scrap quilts, and it was also used to make vintage pastel-colored quilts from 1925 to 1950. Twill-weave quilts have threads with a diagonal pattern; denim is an example of twill weaving. It was a popular antique quilt weave from 1880 to 1920.


Writer Bio

Melissa King began writing in 2001. She spent three years writing for her local newspaper, "The Colt," writing editorials, news stories, product reviews and entertainment pieces. She is also the owner and operator of Howbert Freelance Writing. King holds an Associate of Arts in communications from Tarrant County College.

Vintage Throw Kantha Quilt Indian Handmade Cotton Bedspread Reversible

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