The Free Motion Quilting Project: Quilt Along #27 - How to Store Your Quilts

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Quilt Along #27 - How to Store Your Quilts

It's Quilt Along time and I have an unfortunate announcement - Harry, my loyal computer for the last 2 years suddenly decided he'd had enough and quit on the job.  Apparently I leave too much trash in the bin, don't clean up after myself, never remember schedule important events like defragging, blah, blah, blah.  Apparently I pushed him to the edge...

Right now he's at the computer repair place getting his memory wiped, and hopefully he will return as the efficient, hardworking companion I love, not the slow, grumbling, inefficient annoyance he's been lately.

Why this long story of my dysfunctional relationship with my computer?  Because the video and post I was planning to share today happened to be on that computer.  So instead of a new set of Independent Designs, we're going to instead learn a cool method for storing quilts.

Here's a new video, haphazardly edited in the You Tube video editor because I no longer have editing software (grrrr...), but hopefully it will work for this week at least until I can bludgeon some sense into Harry and get him back on the job:

No, I don't use this method for ALL of my quilts.  Bed quilts, particularly those made for James to drag around the house and abuse just get folded in a stack.  I figure those are made to be used and a few crease marks will be the least of their troubles.

For wall hangings and especially show quilts, and just about any quilt you quilt densely with thread (like the Heart and Feather Wholecloth), folding can cause some serious problems.

Here's the deal: Thread has memory.

I remember once reading a magazine article about a quilter who winds her bobbins with the thread in the middle to end of a spool.  The reason being - the thread at the end of the spool can sometimes have crease lines from the spool and not look as fresh and crisp as the thread at the beginning of the spool and it makes sense for this thread to be wound onto the bobbin and be on the back of the quilt rather than the front.

I remember thinking at the time "How much time does this woman have on her hands?!  Crease lines in thread?!" 

But these days I totally understand and respect what she was saying.  If you quilt densely, and if your quilt strongly depends on the quilting for effect and design, you probably would notice a difference in thread from the beginning to very end of a spool!

Anyway, that story perfectly illuminates the point I'm trying to make:

Thread can be creased or bent, and because of it's memory, it doesn't always return to normal.

When you fold up a densely quilted quilt and leave it that way for a month, the dense thread work gets used to being in that folded arrangement.

What can result is crease lines within your quilt - noticeable channels that can be seen from several feet away and definitely mar the effect of your beautiful quilt.

Yes, steaming your quilt can sometimes remove crease lines, but who wants to steam their quilts every time they're put on the wall?

More to the point, if you leave a quilt folded for months and months, sometimes steam won't be able to take out those crease lines.  They'll be permanently embedded in the thread and always subtly visible.

Even if you're not super obsessive about crease lines and thread memory, you might want to know how to store your quilts in your closet in a safe and space efficient way.

The fact is we all have more quilts than we have room to display them!  Here's the method for storing your quilt in a rolled tube which can be stored either vertical or horizontal within your closet:

Quilt Storage Tube System

Materials needed:

- New Pool Noodle (foam floaty thing in the pool section of most big box stores). 

-  Fabric to cover the noodle.

- Fabric to cover the quilt.

1. First lay your quilt out on a table and measure it from side to side.  Lay out your pool noodle over the surface and cut it so you have at least 6 inches more on both sides (12 inches bigger than the width of your quilt).  If your quilt is longer than 1 noodle, you'll need to get 2 and put them side by side.

2.  Use a flexible tape measure to measure the circumference of the pool noodle.  In the video I came up with 8 inches for the noodle.  If you add 2 - 1/2" seam allowances you'll get 9 inches.  Now for the length measurement - add the length of your pool noodle plus 5 inches extra to have extra fabric to close the ends.

3. Cut a rectangle of fabric to cover the pool noodle -  9 inches x length measurement.  Fold this fabric in half and sew across the bottom, then up the length of the rectangle with a 1/4" seam allowance to create a tube with one open end.  Why did we sew this with a 1/4" seam allowance?  To leave a bit of extra space for the pool noodle to slip into the sleeve.

What is the point in covering the pool noodles in the first place?  The plastic material these noodles are made out of is not exactly archival, acid free, or safe against your quilt.  The color can leach out of the noodle and into your quilt unless there's a barrier between the two.

4. Slip your pool noodle inside this sleeve, then turn down the open top edge.  Curl this down as tight as you can, then sew it closed on your sewing machine.  Yes, it will be bulky and difficult to maneuver under your needle, but do the best you can!

5. Now the noodle is covered and safe to roll your quilt onto.  Starting on the top or bottom of your quilt, roll the quilt tightly onto the noodle, stopping occasionally to smooth things out and tighten it up. You want this to be super tight so the quilt will form a stiff log on the noodle.

Why?  Because as a stiff log, you can store this quilt upright in your closet!  In the video you saw my quilts stored horizontally on a shelf, but you may not have a closet that's big enough to do this in.  Having the option of either vertical or horizontal storage is a real benefit to bothering to stitch this storage system in the first place.

6. Now take your flexible tape measure and measure the circumference of the quilt rolled onto the noodle.  This is a tricky measurement because you of course want the sleeve to be tight, but not so tight it's impossible to slip it over your quilt. 

Let's say the measurement comes out as 14 inches and this time we'll add 1.5 inches for seam allowances and for a bit of extra space within the sleeve so it's easy to slip over your quilt.

For the length of your quilt sleeve, measure the full length of the pool noodle and add 12 inches.  This will give lots of extra fabric at the top of the sleeve to protect the quilt and you could conceivably hang the quilt from this extra fabric as well.

To sum up, cut fabric for the quilt sleeve using this formula:

Circumference of the quilt on the noodle + 1.5 inch seam allowances x Length of the pool noodles + 12 inches.

7. Fold the quilt sleeve fabric in half and sew the bottom seam, then up the full length of the sleeve with a 1/4" seam allowance.  It's a good idea to reinforce this seam with a second line of stitching 1/8" inside the first.

8. Now slip the sleeve over the quilt.  You will have to work slowly with this, first slipping the quilt into the sleeve, then slowly bunching the sleeve up around the quilt and pulling it forward.

If the sleeve goes on very easily and the finished tube is very loose and squishy, you might want to remove the sleeve and sew inside the seam allowance 1/8" to tighten it up.  The point is for it to be very tight and to hold the quilt firmly in a solid tubular shape.

So that's it!  While this may seem complicated and time consuming, once you make one it will make a lot of sense.  It usually takes me about 2 hours to create a new storage sleeve system for a new quilt.

Keep in mind that each storage sleeve has to be made specifically for one quilt.  Because all quilts will roll up on the tube at a different width, you really have to build this individually for every quilt you're wanting to store.

You might be wondering why I created such a complicated system for storing my quilts.  After The Duchess was ruined, it became obvious that unless she was rolled and secured in some way, she would literally fall apart in a matter of years.

At the time, I didn't have space to store my quilts in the closet horizontally.  I needed a way to have her rolled into a tube and be able to store vertically, leaning in one corner of my sewing room.

The pool noodles and tight sleeve system came about after a bit of trial and error.  Without the central pool noodle, the quilt was just not stiff enough to stand on its own.  When this finally came together, I created a storage system for both The Duchess and Release Your Light that have both lasted for years.

Even better, this has been the best way to transport both quilts to shows and guild meetings.  Rolled up in a tube, the quilts can be slid into the car easily and unrolled at the event with very little chance the quilts get dirty or damaged during travel.

One bit of advice: if you use colorful fabric for your sleeves, make sure it's prewashed and free of all chemicals and excess dye.  For a long time I only used white fabric for these sleeves, but then started having trouble telling them apart (remember, each one is specifically made for one quilt).

Once the fabric is attached to the pool noodle, there's no way to remove it to wash it unless you cut it off, and then it will be too short to reattach the end so make sure to prewash the fabric before cutting it out for your pool noodle sleeve.

Whew!  That's it for this pool noodle storage system tutorial!  I don't know about you, but I'm ready to see what you guys have done with free motion quilting or painting this week!

Instructions for Linking Up Your Blog:

1. Write your blog post. Publish it on your blog.

2. Copy the link of the specific blog post. This is not just the link to your blog itself (, but the link to the specific post:

3. Click the blue link up button above and paste your link into the box.

Keep in mind that you're posting your progress from LAST week on THIS week's post. This way you have time to watch the lesson, play with the ideas, then post your progress to the next quilt along. I hope that makes sense!

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day


  1. I hope Harry comes back to you quickly and in a good, functioning state. It's amazing how much life can be interrupted by a malfunctioning computer.

  2. Wow most excellent noodle tip. I'm definitely going to give it a try.
    Have a great day.
    Always, Queenie

  3. Leah, thanks so much for the tip on the direction of rolling on the tube. I've been storing my landscape quilts rolled on large mailing tubes with cheap king-size pillowcases for protective sleeves, but it never occurred to me that it would be better to roll them from top to bottom or vice versa--instead of rolling them from side to side! This week I'll take my remaining landscape quilts out of storage and re-roll any that are rolled from side to side. Thanks so much!

  4. To make it easy to slip the outer fabric cover over the rolled up quilt, just slip a plastic bag over the quilt roll, keeping the sealed bottom of the plastic bag at the top of the quilt roll. Then, slip the cloth fabric tube onto the quilt roll, starting at the bottom of the roll. The plastic will help the fabric cover slide on easily and all you have to do is pull the plastic bag off once the cover is in place.

    I use this same method to put tight slipcover cushion covers back on the cushions on my furniture.

  5. Leah - thank you so much for an excellent tutorial. Do you prewash the fabric for both the noodle and quilt sleeve? Also, do you roll the quilt in with the back on top or visa versa? I find when unrolling the quilt after storing for a while that it curls inward, therefore I have considered rolling it opposite but then the front is exposed to the sleeve for storage. I appreciate your thoughts.

  6. it a really great idea but one thing concerns me. im wondering if the pool noodle should be completely sealed in archival plastic of some sort to stop any chemical leeching from the foam stuff they use to make it. this is the scrapbooker coming out in me lol. it is a much better way than the way i currently store my quilts which is in acid free tissue paper, rolled and then a white sheet wrapped around that. not so good when y ou go to get a quilt down and the rest come to join in lol.

  7. • • • Is this the way you send them to shows? Can you elaborate on your mailing method, please?

  8. This is great! I don't have a need for that yet...but I will.

  9. Being a professional workroom for interior designers, I have multitudes of fabric tubes every month. I take them to my guild meetings and basicly do the same thing. No cost and I add a layer of poly batting around the tube first then muslin. Then there is no chance of leaching from the plain cardboard and they are stiff so stand up better in a closet. Look in your local phone book for drapery workrooms and ask if they will give you tubes, thousands end up in the dumpster every month...

  10. Leah Day, you are one smart cookie! Thanks for this great idea. I had my Horizon in for service, turns out my dealer is a BIG fan of yours, as am I. He is amazed that you had worn that machine part out on your Horizon a while back. He says he puts your videos on his computer at the shop to start up conversations with customers. Hey that's poteneial sales you should get commission!
    Best, Deb in CA

  11. I store my quilts much the same way as you do. To help identify the quilt, I insert a band 4 or 5 in. Wide in my tube, with a fabric used in the quilt or back. I also write with a Sharpie or Pigma on the tube with Title, year completed, size ( so I don't need to open to measure), my name and email address.

  12. Seems that if you put a casing in the second end of the tube cover with a ribbon drawstring instead of sewing it shut you could take the tube cover off to wash if necessary. Is there a reason to sew it shut instead of making it like a huge wine bottle cover?


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