I remember this encounter vividly because of the circumstances of why the woman was selling her family quilts; there were medical bills to be paid. There was only one problem. These quilt tops smelled.
Smelled - well, reeked is more appropriate. I was drawn into the the family plight and came home with one very odoriferous, and off kilter top.
For several months I tried everything to get the odor to leave the fibers. I sealed the top in a container with coffee, it stayed in a ceder chest, hung on the line, I even went as far as having it make friends with moth balls, because moth ball odor was kinder to my nose than whatever permeated the threads of the top.
Finally, I said, "&*(& it."
I layered it with cotton batting and muslin for the backing. I took it to the machine and stipple quilted the begeezers out of it. (Yes, begeezers is a word in our household.) I felt it was going to need as much quilting as possible to hold it together for what I was planning next.
Then, THEN.... I put it in the washing machine with Lestoil. PRESTO! She came out clean - as though she wasn't the ugly duckling going into this adventure.
At the time, I couldn't get a double pink reproduction fabric for the binding, so I took a pink calico and tea dyed it to give it a little patina.
She has served us well. She is a cuddle quilt and has been in service for an additional 23 years! The fabrics date around 1890. She was ready for worm chow at 100 and at 123 she is soft, loved and very comforting.
|The blocks are set together like a rail fence, but the blocks themselves were string pieced with scraps. I loved the chrome orange when I first saw the top, maybe that is what pulled at my heart strings.|
|Reproduction fabrics were just starting to make it big when I was so desperately looking for double pink.|
I was back at the washing machine today with a quilt. This is one that I acquired at a garage sale. It looked like it had spent a few decades in the garage - which was sad.
|I washed the quilt in gentle shampoo. The water looks so much better and the quilt is starting to perk up!|
|A salt bag from the same sale.|
|Since we live in a big salt producing area (Syracuse is known as the Salt City), I was surprised to find a salt bag from Ohio. Salt is also mined from Cayuga Lake, about 30 miles from Syracuse.|
However, don't be mislead that every quilt is historically significant and so important it can't be cleaned. Provenance, workmanship, rarity, and innovative design is key. Grannie's quilt should be loved and enjoyed and used... it's just when Grannie is Lucretia Mott that I would lock the spigot and call the Smithsonian.