Tuesday, September 8, 2009

How I Wash a Large Quilt

I am often asked how I wash a quilt. I wash small quilts using much the same method, but whereas I block small quilts, I don't block large ones. I just try to shape them, and let them be.

The first step is to fill the tub. Usually I use Orvus, which is not only a "quilt soap," but it began as a horse soap. We used to use it on our lambs in 4-H. It is very mild, yet took the lanolin right out of their wool.

I throw a few ColorCatchers sheets into the water, in case some of the dye decides to become an issue.

I washed this particular quilt with Oxyclean. My husband tends to wrap this quilt around his neck, without protecting it with the sheet. His side of the quilt has a yellow strip along the top - he perspires while he sleeps, and there's not much I can do about it other than beg him to "protect the quilt with the sheet, pretty please, with sugar on top..." So far that hasn't worked.

Anyhoo, first I soak the quilt in the tub, and agitate it by hand. This time I let it soak for an hour, while I ran errands around town.

I rinse it the same way, until the water runs clear. It takes about three rinses.

In the backyard, I place two 4' x 8' pieces of foam sheathing on tables, to hold the quilt.

I cover them with sheets, then lay out the quilt. As soon as the quilt is laid out, the breezes pick up and cover the quilt with debris. It happens every time, so it must be part of the process.

I remove as much debris as possible, then cover the quilt with more sheets to prevent fading. Of course the breeze dies down once the quilt is covered, and no more debris falls.

As the quilt is drying, I come out and check it every few hours. I will take everything off the foam sheathing and replace the bottom sheets with dry sheets. I'll shake the quilt out, reshape it, and re-cover it, again using dry sheets.

When the temperatures are over 100, quilts will dry in a couple of hours, if that. But when it's cooler, say in the low 90's, it takes all day. I washed this quilt after 12 noon, and had to leave it outside overnight because it was too damp to bring inside. The overnight dew made it wetter, but the next day was warmer/hotter, and the quilt was completely dry by 10am.

And that's how I do it. It's not the only way to wash a quilt, but it's the best one I've found.

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