It is time to actually clean and repair the quilt.
Hang your quilt on the line, draped in half over one wire. With a soft bristled brush (a clean clothing or shoe brush works great) start on one side at the top, and work down. Begin with a section approximately 12” wide. Gently brush to remove any dust or dirt. Be easy around places that are torn or have come unsewn. Move to the next 12” section, repeat until you have completed one side, then move to the other side.
Spread the quilt across the kitchen table or large work area. Beginning on one end, sew any loose seams, and if possible, patch anywhere that fabric is completely missing. This is probably the part that takes the longest. Try to match the size of the stitches to that of the original quilter’s for continuity. As far as patching goes, know that unless you managed to unearth that exact fabric, you will have to match it as closely as possible, focusing on colors and patterns. In most quilts, it is probably safer to choose a solid color patch that will match and/or blend with the other fabrics. A solid color will appear as if it was meant to be, as opposed to incongruent print matches.
Once the repair is completed, it is time to work on any stains. In a small bowl, add warm water and a mild non-detergent soap, such as Woolite. Add to that approximately 1 to 2 Tablespoons of Borax. Do not use stain remover sprays, as the old fabrics are not colorfast. Using an old toothbrush, gently scrub the stains. Allow to sit for maybe 10 to 30 minutes, then dab the area with a clean cloth dipped in warm water only to remove any soapy residue. Once you have cleaned the quilt, return to the clothesline to completely dry. Note that some stains may need repeated treatment, and some may never come out.
Some say it is okay to handwash a quilt. I never do this with older quilts, but have been known to do it with newer ones. This will have to be a judgement call – just remember it is difficult and there can be irreparable consequences.
Now that your quilt is clean, be sure to show it off. Place it on a quilt rack, or on a guest room bed. Just remember, you have worked hard to bring it new life – don’t hide all that beauty in storage!