Months and months and months later, it’s probably about time I reported on the second life of this wonderful old six-pointed star quilt. After an adoption that just didn’t work out, the quilt came back to me–back to Tennessee, where I think she was born. The adoptive mom just could not deal with all that dirt. I don’t totally blame her…not everyone is as willing as I am to take on ancient, stinky, funky, antique dirt. I got lazy, and only did a half-way job of vacuuming the quilt. It was just taking too much time with not nearly enough immediate visual reward.

I want to see results, dammit. Like sweeping, you know? When you sweep with an actual broom, you get a nice pile of dirt and crumbs and, at least in our house, a dandy little wad (or big wad) of dog hair. You feel like you’ve done something. When you vacuum, well, the floor might be clean, but you don’t get to experience that nice, satisfying pile of dirt.

So I threw the orphan quilt in the dryer on the “air only” cycle for 15 minutes, and got to scoop layers of dirt out of the filter. I did several 15 minute air cycles, til there was no more fuzz and funk on the filter. After the first cycle, playing “quilt in the dryer” was not nearly as much fun.

After the dryer exercise, when the excess dirt and debris had been forced out of the fibers, I zigzagged around the edges and trimmed up the wool batting that was trying to escape. I said a little prayer to the quilt gods, and put the quilt in the big spa tub with a cup of Biz and a half tub full of cool water. I thought about lighting candles, as well. I held my breath and covered my eyes as the beautiful quilt with all those wonderful old indigo fabrics soaked up the modern, chlorinated water and the enzyme-laden Biz. No immediate bleeding. Whew!

I checked it every hour or so that first day, and was so relieved to see no fading or color bleeding. After a day, the water was the color of coffee. Biz does that, even in the cleaning of items not nearly as dirty as this old sister. I changed out the water three or four times over the course of a week. Yes, a whole week, and decided the quilt was as clean as it was going to get. The Good Husband scooped up the soaking wet thing and carried it down the stairs in a large laundry basket. (Lordy, it was heavy!) We dumped it into the washing machine and I ran a short hand wash cycle with an extra rinse. I did put it in the dryer on air only for about an hour, which helped to damp dry, and then laid it over sheet-covered saw horses outside until it was nearly dry; then and only then, I hung it on the line til it was bone dry and full of Tennessee sunshine.

Hooray! It’s clean! I machine-sewed a narrow binding of a beautiful Civil War reproduction fabric and hand-hemmed it to the back side. Then I spread it out on the guest room bed (after I shoveled all the extraneous junk off the top of the bed) and sat down to just look at it.

Clean. Finished. A tiny hole repaired. Nicely bound. I wonder what the original maker would think about it now, in the year 2012, 150 years, at least, after her hard-working hands sewed it with tiny stitches over a period of months by the light of an oil lamp.

I can’t help but think that she would be pleased.