I was recently asked to share suggestions on decorating with antique quilts and, since I love collecting, using, and displaying them, I was happy to write this post. I just needed to round up a few pictures showing how I currently use them in my home and how I’ve used them over the years.
When it comes to collecting antique quilts, there really isn’t one place to find them. I have found them all over including antique stores, antique markets, flea markets, yard sales, thrift stores, and online from Etsy and eBay. (Affiliate links.) I typically pay between $50 – $200 for a quilt, but most of them are in the $80-100 range. I am not looking for pristine quilts, though. Generally look for two-color blue & white quilts that have pretty fabrics, an interesting design, and hand-stitching. I don’t mind if the fabric is worn, faded, or there are some holes or tears in the quilt. I just fold them to hide the imperfections.
I also love white-on-white quilts, though they can be harder to find at a good price. And, I have a soft spot for crazy quilts.
Above all, I am looking for a quilt that “speaks to me.” Quilts are works of art and, just like with all other art, some are going to catch your eye and others aren’t. I can’t always explain why one quilt gets me excited and another one is a dud, but that’s just how it is. When I know, I know. It might be the pattern, the stitching, the way it’s perfectly soft and worn, the particular shade of blue…
So, how do I approach decorating with antique quilts? My first philosophy is one that not everyone will agree with, but I have to be able to wash it. If it’s too delicate to put in the washing machine or handwash at the very least, then I’m not going to buy it. I want the things in my home to be clean and to smell nice.
When it comes to actually decorating with antique quilts I want to both use them and display them. While we don’t use them every day, the antique quilts are certainly not off-limits. I love this picture I took of Calvin a few years ago, snuggling under one of our antique quilts…
I remember my initial reaction was, “Oh no, let me get you a different blanket to use!” But, then I remembered that this quilt was made for everyday use and it’s been around for a long time. It’s been folded at the end of lots of beds and it’s been snuggled around a lot of kids on sick days. It can handle being used again. And it should be used again. A part of decorating is using beautiful, functional things. We’re not trying to turn our homes into museums with areas that are roped off and furniture that’s wrapped in plastic. I think most of us agree that those days have passed. Antique quilts fit perfectly in both the functional and beautiful categories.
When decorating with antique quilts, I like to throw them over the backs of chairs and sofas. They add a little color and pattern and immediately make the seating look more inviting and homey.
I like them neatly folded…
But I also like them loosely draped over a chair. I don’t leave them like this all the time, because they’d get stepped on and pushed onto the floor, but it’s nice to do on occasion.
I like to fold them over ottomans and footstools for the same reason. They add color and a layer of visual interest, especially over a neutral piece of furniture. It’s a nice way to change things up for the season.
And, naturally, I also like decorating with antique quilts by putting them on a bed. Since the antique quilts are a bit more delicate, I fold them up at the end. That way, they can be displayed and used, but they aren’t getting the same kind of daily use that the main blanket gets.
I am a fan of decorating with white bedding and adding an antique quilt at the foot of the bed prevents the look from being one-note.
(I just want to make one note about the quilt pattern above… It is a pinwheel quilt from the 1920s-30s. Just pointing that out since questions about this pattern have come up in the past!)
I also like to layer antique quilts with other antique quilts or with new quilts or coverlets. The layered look is especially nice in the winter and it’s a way to use smaller quilts that might not be the right size for your bed. I’ve used several twin quilts turned long-ways and folded at the end of a king or queen-sized bed.
I also like decorating and displaying antique quilts by simply folding them and putting a stack on a shelf or in a basket. This is a fantastic way to display quilts that are “cutters”, fragile, or have areas that are stained, torn, or otherwise unsightly. I’ve owned a few quilts that are beautiful except for a few squares. Since they were often made out of necessity and thriftiness from fabric scraps, there are sometimes when colors don’t seem to belong. Folding them can hide some of those issues and allow you to buy imperfect quilts at a bargain.
And, I also like making things out of antique quilts that are “cutters” and decorating with the things I make. I’ve used quilt pieces to make ottoman covers…
(You can find the upcycled antique quilt stocking tutorial HERE.)
…and a tree skirt.
(You can find the quilt tree skirt tutorial HERE.)
I do want to make one comment about the pricing of quilts. If you didn’t know, quilts take a lot of time and skill the make, which is why you’ll see them at prices at and above $1,000. That’s not a ridiculous price for a skill that took years to master and a piece that took months to make. Antique quilts are typically undervalued, especially the ones I buy, because there is a disconnect from the person who made them and the time it took. It’s just a blanket that has to compete with $25 throws from Target. So, I just wanted to point that out. If you are having a quilt top finished or a custom quilt made, expect the prices to be much higher than the prices quoted earlier in this blog post because you are paying for that artist’s time and skill.
You can find other articles about shopping for and decorating with antiques HERE.
I poked around online and picked a few quilts that I thought were lovely…