STAUNTON, Va. — Rachel Brown took her children’s old clothes to make her first quilt, which hangs at the back of her shop in Staunton because it’s too treasured to use.
Once a quilt is made it should be utilized, not just hang on the wall, said Brown, who owns Rachel’s Quilt Patch.
The quilts she has made or seen, usually sit on the backs of couches or are neatly folded up away from people. Over time, quilts start to deteriorate, she said, and preserving them while still using them is difficult.
“It becomes the thing you don’t use because you’re afraid to ruin it,” Brown said.
Using a technology called MicroSeal Q, Brown will be able to offer her customers the option to preserve quilts and other handmade items to improve longevity.
“(The sealant) strengthens the fibers, even if they are deteriorated,” Brown said. “So it will freeze it in time.”
Brown is trying to raise $12,000 through a crowd funding campaign by Aug. 14 for the licensing, equipment and ventilation system for her shop.
As of July 27, she had raised just under $3,000. With the crowd funding campaign she is using – Indiegogo – she is able to keep whatever is raised. If her goal isn’t met she is ready to front the rest of the cost in order to have the system in place by the fall.
Brown has had numerous customers inquire about preserving quilts since the store opened in 1997.
“There’s definitely a following in quilting,” said Brown’s daughter, Kay Shirey, who works alongside her mother. “Quilting is very therapeutic . . . that quilt becomes that piece of time for that person.”
Brown used to send out products to be cleaned or preserved, but it was always a guessing game of what would come back and she never felt safe about it.
After discovering the product a year and a half ago at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Show in Hampton, Brown said quilters will now have a trusted product that won’t compromise the integrity of the fabric.
MicroSeal Q is a spray that sinks into the fibers and protect the product from fading, spills, stains and dirt. And the quilt will feel exactly the same, Brown said.
One concern that Gloria Comstock, curator of the Virginia Quilt Museum in Harrisonburg, has is the product safety for consumers. According to Brown, the spray is non-toxic and non-allergenic.
The technology behind the sealant has been used for more than 30 years on upholstery and carpeting, but Comstock still has reservations.
“If I worked a whole year on a quilt . . . I would not want to risk putting that on it,” said Comstock, who preserves and clean quilts by using a light suction vacuum cleaning.
Quilts don’t need as much cleaning as other blankets or bedding, Shirey said, it all depends on how much the quilt is used.
According to Brown, having the fabric spray in her shop is the first of its kind on the East Coast. There is a store in California offering the same treatment. Treatments usually cost about $1 a square foot and will last up to 12 washes, Brown said. Dry cleaning a quilt can cost up to $60 depending on size.
One of Brown’s customers, Diana Easley, is excited about the new option to preserve her quilts and will allow her to let go of her fear of using family heirlooms.
“I have an antique quilt my husband’s grandmother made from the 1930s hanging on my stairway,” she said. “I’m terrified something will happen to it.”
Laura Peters writes for The News Leader in Virginia.