How to Look After an Art Quilt

You have just purchased an art quilt - are you:

concerned about the care and protection of your Art Quilt?

Worry no more. Get a little education and you can preserve your art quilt for posterity. If posterity is what you want - sometimes you love a piece of artwork for itself and worry about its archival qualities and value at another time. At first glance a quilt seems such a fragile medium. You ask yourself:

  • does fiber last?
  • is it archival?
  • will light damage it?
  • will the fabric rot?
  • how do I keep it clean?
  • how do I hang it up?
  • will it increase in value?

Do you buy a lovely watercolor painting and immediately start fretting about how quickly it will fade? Of course not, you take sensible precautions to protect your newly acquired treasure. Think of an art quilt in the same way you would a watercolour painting. It is another form of artwork and has its own needs.

The fading of its colors and other signs of aging will make your quilt even more beautiful as generations pass. In many environments, decades may pass before any noticeable fading occurs. Antique quilts will mature giving a lovely softened tone to the work.

You can avoid UV damage (ultra violet rays found in light) by spraying Fabric Shield on the surface - in fact each my of fractal art quilts are sprayed on both the back and front before they leave home. Smaller pieces can be mounted behind UV glass but this takes away from the tactile beauty of the piece. If you want to get really serious you can cover your windows with a UV seal. However, the best precaution is not to hang an art quilt in direct sunlight.

You can hang the piece up like a painting. My larger quilts have a sleeve sewn to the back and all you have to do is slot a sealed wooden or acrylic strip through and pin it to the wall. You can purchase decorative curtain rods or quilt dowels to slip through this sleeve. The smaller pieces are mounted in a shadow box under glass.

Try not to keep fiddling with your art quilt. Remember all the oils and other nasty stuff you carry invisibly on your hands. Do you poke at an oil painting? Well then, don't poke at your art quilt.

Really big pieces will stretch over long periods of time hung in the same place. Rotate your artwork and let your quilt relax. Take it off the wall and store it carefully (see storage resources below). If you want it to stay up permanently then have it stretched over a frame and stitched down from the back. This helps distribute the weight evenly. To have this done you will need to find an expert in framing needlework and textiles.

As with all other types of fine art, with proper care your wall hanging will live longer than you and beyond. There are simple procedures to protect your investment. Would you believe vacuuming your artwork is the best way to keep it clean!?

Taking care of your art quilt properly will ensure as time passes you will find your textile art increases in value just as any other art medium. Think of all the European tapestries and wall hangings still around today. Fiber is a tougher medium than you might imagine.

Here are some resources for care of your quilt (some of these apply to bed quilts, not necessarily art quilts but many of the principles are relevant):

Care of Quilts - Cleaning from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Quilt storage information - Hollinger archival storage materials

Quilt care tips from the International Quilt Study Center

The Display and Care of Art Quilts by April Niino, Penny Nii Quilt Art.

Rose Rushbrooke
Rose Rushbrooke