Antique textiles require extra care in order to display them properly. Here are some tips and step-by-step directions to help you prepare your quilt or coverlet for hanging.
1. Determine if your quilt is stable enough to be hung. Look carefully at the edges and check for fraying, weak areas and holes. If there is any question about its stability, DO NOT hang it. Display it flat instead, periodically refolding it to avoid creating weak spots along the crease. (For example, fold it in alternating quarters and thirds every few months)
2. After you have chosen the most stable edge of your quilt, measure it from edge to edge. Be sure that the fabric is stable up to four inches from the edge as well to accommodate the depth of the sleeve.
3. Select a rod to hang your quilt before making the sleeve to be sure it fits the diameter of the sleeve. Depending on your hardware choice, you might want to make the rod a few inches longer on each side to accommodate your wall attachment method. The rod will not be touching the fabric of your quilt, so you can be more flexible in choosing a material. If you choose a wooden rod, you may want to seal it first for extra protection against off-gassing. Allow it to dry completely before hanging your quilt.
4. Using a sewing machine, create a sleeve out of unbleached muslin a few inches longer than the width of your quilt. Make sure the sleeve is wide enough to accommodate your hanging rod. It should have enough room for the quilt to slide easily on the rod, similar to curtains.
5. Iron the sleeve flat to make it easier to sew onto the quilt. Fold the edge of the sleeve inside itself before sewing to create a clean edge.
6. Using a simple whip stitch (see link for a diagram), tack the sleeve by hand onto the back of the quilt. DO NOT use a sewing machine to attach the sleeve to the quilt. Be sure to sew the sleeve onto the backing of the quilt only, not through the entire quilt. Your stitches should not be visible on the front. Keep your stitches approximately one-quarter inch apart. Cotton thread is best because it will break under pressure, rather than stronger synthetic threads which can tear antique fabrics under pressure. You would rather have the thread give and break than your quilt!
7. Continually check to be sure you are sewing the sleeve evenly across the top. It is easy to migrate slightly over the length of the quilt and end up with a lopsided sleeve.
8. When you get to the end of the sleeve, trim any excess fabric leaving an inch to fold underneath to create a finished edge.
9. Stitch along the bottom of the sleeve, again being careful to only stitch through the backing of the quilt. The thickness of the quilt will most likely be different across the bottom of the sleeve than it was across the top.
10. When you have finished attaching the sleeve, your quilt is ready to be hung. Choose a special place in your home where you can enjoy the quilt, but be sure to keep it out of direct sunlight. Over time the sun will bleach your quilt and ultimately weaken the fibers and cause deterioration. If possible, make sure it hangs a few inches away from the wall to avoid coming into contact with the wall surface.