General Introduction

All articles are copyrighted. In most cases, articles on protecting quilts may be reprinted in your quilt guild newsletter free of charge, but please request permission first.

Through this series of articles, I want to explore a different aspect of quilting – the fact that your quilt is not done when the binding is on! There are still many little tasks to perform including labeling, photographing, documenting, and insuring, among other things.

Consider for a moment what the job of a quilt appraiser is. Basically, she must be a detective trying to determine when a particular quilt was made. She does this by examining the fabrics, patterns and methods used. Then she must make an educated guess as to when the quilt may have been made based on her knowledge of textile history. How much easier her job is when the quilt is dated or even signed!

Have you considered that we are making tomorrow’s heirlooms! We can help our descendants out by recording information about the quilts we are making. We also add to the sentimental value of quilts by including the stories behind our quilts. It doesn’t matter if your quilt is a masterpiece or not. What matters is that your children or grandchildren will love your quilt because YOU made it! In future years, they will want to know more about who made their treasured quilt. Besides, as time passes, I forget the little details myself!

Another reason to document our quilts is for their protection. I have a website,, which displays lost and stolen quilts. At the time of this writing, there are nearly fifty quilts which are listed. For half of those, the owner does not even have a photograph of their missing quilt. All they have left are the memories and possibly some scraps of fabric. Imagine the heartbreak! Imagine how hard will it be to recover a lost or stolen quilt if they do not even have a photograph of their quilt.

During the summer of 1999, one of my quilts was lost during shipment. For two months, the shipping company could not locate my package even though it had a tracking number. Repeatedly, they asked me to submit a claim on my quilt. What I didn’t tell them was that my quilt had not been appraised! Do you realize that without an appraisal, if my quilt was never recovered, the most I could expect to receive as compensation would be the cost of materials? My story had a happy ending and that quilt is now appraised for much more that I ever would have imagined!

Through this series of articles, I want to touch on some issues you may not have considered. I hope these articles will motivate you to look at your beloved quilts a little differently. Possibly, the articles will help you see the importance of what you quilt. If nothing else, I hope they inspire you to at least sign and date your quilts for future generations.

Article originally published March 2000

© 2000, Maria Elkins