"First of all you have to like it," is the first piece of advice Dena Katzenberg gives to someone thinking about buying an antique quilt. Katzenberg is a consultant curator of textiles at the Baltimore Museum of Art and author of the catalogue "Baltimore Album Quilts" -- a 3 1/2-year project.

"I don't believe in buying something for its investment value. You should get pleasure from the quilt above all else.

"The next thing to look for is its condition. Is it in good condition or can it be preserved? Preservation is something you learn yourself. However, I wouldn't buy an old rag of a quilt and try to resurrect it. Use common sense.

"Look at the quality of the stitches, the juxtaposition of colors and fabric as well as the quality of the design. As far as its intrinsic value, the quilt should have color balance or image balance. However, some people think one odd square adds charm to the quilt -- it's up to you.

"Another question I am asked all the time is 'How do I hang a quilt?' The old ones from the 1840s and '50s, like the Album Quilts, shouldn't be hung on warped threads for long periods of time. The already delicate threads will weaken. If the design doesn't matter, it's a good idea to reverse the direction in which the quilt is hung from time to time.

"I recommend velcro strips on the top and bottom or a wooden dowel that fits through a sleeve at the top of the quilt. The suspension pressure should be even throughout.

"After hanging for a couple of months, the quilts should be taken down and given a rest from both the hanging and from the light. Light is not good for them. The Baltimore Album Quilt exhibition rests four to six months between stops. With my own quilts, I air them out, loosely fold them up in a clean folded sheet white is best since colored sheets may have dyes that can rub off . Then I take them out after a two- to three-month rest. The next time I pack them away, I'm careful not to fold them in the same place."

"They are delicate," admits Katzenberg, "but after all, they were made to be used."

The Baltimore Museum of Art will hold a "Quilt Day" on Sunday, Jan. 17: quilting demonstrations by the winners of Baltimore's Best Quilting Contest, a film "Quilts in Women's Lives," a lecture by Dena Katzenberg, oral appraisals and a quilt sale -- 1-5 p.m. Free. Where to Buy Antique Quilts

Cherishables, 1816 Jefferson Pl. NW. Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Call 785-4087.

Made in America, 1919 K St. NW. Hours: Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Call 785-3318.

Marston Luce, 1314 21st St. NW. Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Call 775-9460.

Moss Antiques, 8125-A Wisconsin Ave. NW, Bethesda. Call 986-9536.

Nanny's Attic, 1511 Wisconsin Ave. NW. Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m.; Sunday, noon-6 p.m. Call 338-3811.

Newcomber/Westreich American Decorative Arts, 406 7th St. SW. Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Call 293-1997.

Warner, The Foundry, 1055 Thomas Jefferson St. NW, lower level. Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Thursdays till 9 p.m.; Sunday, 1-5 p.m. Call 342-1889.