True confession. During the decade and a half this reporter has called the Greater Meadville Area home, I don’t think I’ve ever driven along The Terrace without spending at least a moment or two imagining how it must have felt to visit the Baldwin-Reynolds House back in the day. Spending time on the lawn — or inside the house itself — amplifies the feeling.

I’m not alone. Friends — some even less-likely candidates for sweeping skirts, petticoats, corsets and daintily-laced shoes than I — have confessed to harboring similar thoughts, especially while touring the magnificent structure during its biennial Trees of Christmas celebration.

During the afternoon of April 28, that dream can come true.

“It’s going to be an amazing day,” is how Judith Stoll, a member of the house’s Textile Conservation Committee, describes “Quilts with a Past: A Day at the Baldwin-Reynolds House Museum.”

For a maximum of 40 quilt lovers willing to invest $30 each in an experience of a lifetime, arrivals will begin at 11. A luncheon prepared especially for the event will begin the festivities. “You’ll be eating off china with real silverware on linen tablecloths,” Stoll said during a recent interview. “It’s as if the house is giving the lunch.”

Each participant is invited to bring along a vintage quilt; after lunch, the quilt discovery part of the day will begin. Selected quilts from the house’s 28-quilt collection will be on display as well as other quilts of interest, but they’re just the beginning.

Three experts — Pauline Fisher, American Quilter’s Society-certified appraiser; Megan Bell, owner of Megan’s Quilt Parlor; and Peg Weymer, retired antique quilt purveyor — will present each quilt brought in by a participant to the entire group, revealing its history and sharing its unique story. “Participants will get to see as many as 39 other quilts in private collections that they’ll probably never be able to see again,” Stoll said.

During the course of the afternoon, instructions for caring for quilts in personal collections will be distributed. Ditto for samples of Orvus Paste, one of the best things for washing them in.

Topping off the day, one of the participants will take home a full-size scrappy Log Cabin quilt made by award-winning local quiltmaker Charlotte Newhard.

For those interested in having their own quilts appraised for insurance purposes, Fisher is taking reservations to do appraisals from 9 to 11 a.m.

Bell will be offering tempting fabrics and notions for sale from her Albion store.

Preserving history

Creating heirloom textiles can be a meticulous, labor-intensive process. However, the work isn’t over when the item is finished.

Taking care of them can be equally meticulous and labor intensive.

There is seemingly no end to the environmental factors that can cause textiles to deteriorate — light, temperature and relative humidity, dust, dirt and insects are just a few. As a result, those factors must be carefully controlled if fabrics are going to have a chance to survive.

In addition to limiting light and controlling temperature and humidity — 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit and 50 to 55 percent relative humidity is said to be best, although the most important factor is maintaining the environment with as little fluctuation as possible — textiles should be packed in archival materials. In an ideal world, they’d be stored flat, but if that isn’t possible, they must be re-rolled or re-folded on a regular basis to avoid accelerated deterioration along the fold lines.

To give the House’s 1,000-piece textile collection, including its 28 quilts, a chance at survival, the textile conservation committee was formed to see that the collection is re-folded each year in acid-free boxes — and also to find ways to improve the storage facilities.

The committee — which includes Louise Crosley, Jill Meszaros and Laurie Wellington in addition to Newhard, Stoll and Weymer — is in the process of creating the perfect environment for longevity.

The committee has been assisted in its efforts by the Antiques Study Group, which donated $500 for the purchase of atmosphere-control equipment.

“When the house opens this spring, we will begin cataloging the collection,” Stoll said.

The proceeds of “Quilts with a Past” will help the committee continue its work.

As for whether it’s worth all the effort, “Quilts imbibe the energy of the maker,” Stoll said. “When you open up those archival boxes and you take them out, even with gloves on, you feel the energy of the maker.”

The only thing Stoll is promising for April 28 is an interesting day — and a whole lot of fun. “This is a rare opportunity for 40 people,” she said. “We’re already half sold out — if anybody really wants to come, we need to know.”

You can go

Baldwin-Reynolds House Museum in Meadville is hosting a special luncheon and quilt evaluation event with expert guests. Proceeds will be used for the ongoing effort to preserve the house’s 1,000-piece textile collection.

- More information and reservations: Call Peg Weymer, 332-9199; Jill Meszaros, 398-8719; or Judith Stoll, 398-4365. Tickets are $30 each.

Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at mspicer@meadvilletribune.com.

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