by Staff Writer
Whether a quilt is spread over your bed, folded at the end of your bed, hanging over a quilt rack or just stacked in your armoire with other quilts and blankets, it is a piece of bedding to be used and treasured. Quilts offer luxurious comfort for sleeping, add visual warmth to a room, have a timeless appeal and charm and sometimes lend a vintage, historical feeling to your home and bedding. This quilt buying guide has been created to help you make informed choices as you shop for that special quilt for your home.
Quilt uses: Throughout history, quilts have been used for bedding, decoration, gifts and artistic expression. People have also made quilts to commemorate special occasions and to document social events. Probably the most favorite use of a quilt is as bedding.
Quilt characteristics: Quilts should not be confused with blankets or duvet covers, even though sometimes they are spoken of as such. A quilt is not a blanket, since blankets are woven. A quilt is not a duvet, which is a lightweight comforter that has a slipcover. Quilts are a covering for your bed consisting of fabric backing, a layer of soft batting and a top layer. These three layers are stitched or tied together. Quilting is stitching (often following the pattern of the design) that holds the layers together. The tying technique uses yarn or ribbon at spaced intervals to tie through the quilt's layers. In certain regions, tied quilts are called comfort quilts or lap quilts.
Quilt creation: Traditionally, quilts were pieced and sewn together by hand; however, modern quilting is also done using a sewing machine. If you are looking for a quilt which will stand up to time and use, be sure to purchase one that has even, quality stitching, whether it is done on a machine or by hand.
Quilt care: Quilts are meant to be used. If you prefer to look at your quilts rather than use them, drape them on a quilt rack or put them over a seldom-used chair back. Even hanging them on a wall will keep them safe, as long as you keep them away from direct sunlight. Even though quilts should be enjoyed, washing can be the biggest reason for wear and tear. Most quilts are machine washable, which means they are easier to care for than down comforters or wool blankets. However, there is no need to wash a quilt frequently. Quilts can be washed just once a year, or even less often, unless used on a child's bed. Instead, just freshen up your quilt: toss it in the clothes dryer with softener sheets and a few tennis balls to fluff it up. With this method, a quilt will last even longer. If you must wash, be sure to use a mild soap and the "gentle" setting on your machine. Check the manufacturer's instructions on your quilt before deciding to wash it or have it professionally dry cleaned.
Some quilts are thicker than others, so you will probably want to have a variety to change with the seasons. A heavy patchwork quilt is warm and comforting in the winter; a lightweight quilt in the summer provides just enough layering to keep you warm during the night. Look for a quilt with medium warmth for spring and fall.