How to Document Your Heirloom Quilts

Do you have old family quilts you are keeping in your closet? Do you have quilts you have made that you would like your family to treasure after you are gone? Documenting your quilts can seem like a monumental task, after all, there is a lot of information to gather. It won't get any easier as the years pass, however. Our memories falter and fade, our children forget what we told them about the family keepsakes. The best option is to record what you know now, before it is too late.

Record the following:

Maker's name List this person's relation to you, if one exists.
Size Specific measures such as inches are better than "queen size"
Name of pattern You might know it by a name other than one listed in a popular reference.
Condition (excellent, good, fair, poor, deteriorating) note any stains, holes, or repairs made.
Technique used Was it pieced by hand or machine, embellished, stuffed, painted or stencilled, signed with ink or embroidery, etc.
Construction style Does the quilt have a scalloped edge; square, curved, or cut-out corners; borders; and what type of binding was used.
Is it a quilt top only Is it finished with quilting, ties, or tacks; does it have all three layers; is it a thin quilt or a thick one.
What kinds of quilting designs are used Straight lines, outline, stencilled shapes, other designs; what color thread was the stiching done with.
How is the back put together? Is it one fabric, what color or pattern is the fabric, are there any signatures.
Types of fabric used Cottons, silks, wools, unknown mixtures.
Overall quality. Professional antiquarians and collectors will have a personal scale on which they rate the quilt. You don't need to, but you might record instead if it is your favorite or most prized quilt.
Estimate the date Give specific dates if you know them. If you aren't sure, give the dates you have owned it.
Where was the quilt made? How did it come to you?
Does the quilt have any special historic or family significance?
Was the quilt made for a particular event or person?
Were the fabrics or design chosen for a specific reason?
Does the quilt have any dates or lettering? What does it say?
Do you have any documentation about the quilt or quiltmaker, such as letters, pictures or diaries?
Take photographs. You'll need pictures of the whole front and back, as well as several close-ups of the details and workmanship. Natural light is best. Take more pictures than you think you'll need, shoot a whole roll of film. You can pick the best ones after they are developed.

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