I love old quilts. I love everything about them – the vintage fabrics, the soft crinkly texture, and the mystery behind who made it. Over the years, I have acquired quilts from auctions, yard sales, resale shops, and antique stores. I’m waiting on my kids to move out so I can turn one of their closets into quilt storage. (Shhh, don’t tell them that, though!)
In my house, we actually use these antique quilts. Yes, I have three kids. Yes, they have spilled things on them. Yes, I wash them regularly. Yes, they have used them on the ground for picnics and even on hayrides. It’s okay. Although they are beautiful quilts, they are still utilitarian. None of my quilts belong in a museum. I realize that washing them frequently could eventually break down the fibers. I don’t care. I imagine that the person who spent hours hand-stitching these beauties, would want us to use them. I’m guessing that the idea of a precious little child curling up with one at night would be what the quilter envisioned when she/he was making it.
When my oldest child was two years old, she had a bad dream and came to me in the middle of the night. I grabbed an old quilt that was nearby and asked her if she wanted the “magic quilt.” This quilt had seen some better days, let me tell ya. It was torn, faded, and nearly shredded in one corner. But it was heavy and it was very soft. These days weighted blankets are all the rage and I think this quilt may have been the original weighted blanket! Anyway, I took that ratty old quilt, and with my best improv acting ever, I tucked her back into her bed with it and I told her that it was a magic blanket. It had old magic in it that kept bad dreams away and that she would fall right back asleep with it and have only sweet dreams. It worked like a charm. For the next 16 years. I think she was about 8 or 9 years old when she realized that it wasn’t really magic, but she didn’t care. If she was having trouble sleeping, she wanted that quilt or one of the other four or so that I deemed “magic.” Just because she no longer believed in the magic, doesn’t mean that her younger brother and sister didn’t. I had to add more magic quilts over the years because I kept adding kids to the family. This magic quilt trick worked for all three of my kids. Never once have my husband and I had a child in our bed. And that, my friends, is magic.
The only problem I’ve had with these old quilts that I pick up from retail stores and auctions is that they stink and they are yellow. I don’t like stink and I don’t like yellow. I’ve been asked several times how my quilts all look new again after I wash them. I have a secret weapon. It’s called Retro Clean, and it is fantastic! You can use this in your washing machine, and it is very gentle on the quilt fibers. It will not break down the quilt fibers. It rinses out all of the yellowing from age and it comes out smelling very fresh. This is the perfect way to get an old quilt back to looking like it was intended. Some of my more fragile quilts are only ever washed in this. I do wash some of the sturdier quilts that I have, and that are used on a regular basis, with regular detergent. The first time I wash any quilt though, I always use Retro Clean.
I am sure many of you have some wonderful old quilts as well and maybe you have an old quilt tucked away that was passed down to you but definitely needs a thorough cleaning. Hopefully this inspires you to give it a wash and either display it or use it. Just because it is old, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be used! There is just something special about being wrapped up in an old quilt on a cold night. Maybe it is magic after all…