Beverley Bennett, a TRC volunteer, reports on her work with the American quilts recently donated to the TRC (Monday, 8th October 2018):
Sherry’s American Quilts is the current exhibition at the TRC and I have taken on the task of making ‘hanging sleeves’ for some of the quilts. Why is this necessary? Well, quilts were made for beds – mostly for the warmth that the three layers (top, bottom and some form of ‘padding’) provided. However, they soon became decorative objects in their own right.
Striving to be the best at making quilts led to competitions at County and State Fairs, where quilters would show their work and compete for first place and a blue ribbon – later there were larger quilt contests where cash prizes could be won. Today there are huge Quilt Shows with prizes for every category that you can think of.
Of course, it is much more practical to compare quilts when you can view them in a vertical format and therefore it is necessary to hang the quilts in some way. Early photos of quilts show them being pinned or pegged along the top edge. This may be fine for a short period, but obviously, the dreaded effects of gravity would soon come into play, causing damage to the fabric of the quilt.
So, now, the accepted way of displaying a quilt on a wall for display, whether in the home or at a show is to incorporate a ‘sleeve’ – a tube of fabric attached to the back of the quilt, through which a hanging pole can be inserted and suspended without damaging the front of the quilt. In modern quilts, the sleeve can be incorporated with the bound edge of the quilt, thus supporting all three layers. However, with the TRC’s vintage quilts, I am adding the sleeve to the back by stitching through all the layers as inconspicuously as possible, in order to give plenty of support, especially since some of the very old battings (paddings) are not as stable as those in use today.
It is a slow process, but it will enable the quilts to be hung safely in future exhibitions.