Every now and then, I throw caution to the wind and wash a quilt. When we were looking at this 1930s pink and white New York Beauty at the American Quilt Study Group Seminar in Lincoln, Nebraska, the dark spots on this quilt, which I was aware of, really jumped out at me. I thought, "Hmmm, I wonder if it could stand a washing?"
Washing a quilt is always a supreme act of bravery for me. But the quilting in the pink and white New York Beauty is dense and the fabrics are strong, so I pretreated the stains, washed with regular detergent, and when it had dried, the stains were considerably lighter. The quilting puckered a little with the washing, which was good. It stands out even more than it did before.
Washing a quilt is always a judgement call. Will it withstand the washing? Will the fabrics dissolve? Will the seams pop open, or batting migrate? The interesting thing about the whole discussion is the idea that many quilts really were constructed well enough to be washed. The key is to look very closely at the quilt, assess its fabrics and construction, and avoid anything that could compromise the stability of the quilt. Although this quilt was a success, I still don't think I'll be washing quilts often.