Wednesday, January 16, 2008
I recently received an email from a stitcher who just purchased a bagful of Vintage Lace at an antique shop and she wanted to know the proper way to wash it.
I'm sure many people are intimidated by old textiles, fearful that washing them will somehow cause deterioration. Honestly, it's quite the opposite. Dust & mold is what causes damage to lace & fabric so washing it is indeed a good way to preserve it.
The proper way to wash lace is to do it by hand, just as you would any delicate hand-washable item. I fill my kitchen sink with warm water and a bit Orvus. Orvus is technically and chemically not a soap. What it does is, it makes the water "wetter". To read more about Orvus, visit Martha Beth Lewis' article on Orvus and Needlework. Orvus is available at most fine needlework shops.
I use Orvus to wash all of my needlework pieces that are indeed washable. Crazy quilting for the most part, is not.
With my old lace that I find at flea markets and antique shops, I put them in a large strainer which I then set down in the sink and I let it soak for about 1/2 an hour. I swish it around a bit and then drain the water from the sink. I then refill the sink with plain warm water and let the lace sit again for about another 15 minutes. After swishing one more time, I drain the water and let the excess drain out of the lace through the strainer.
Many times, you'll find that the water is extremely yellow or gray in color. You'll want to continue draining the water and re-soaking until the water is clear.
After draining for about 15 minutes, I lay it all out on a big, fluffy bath-towel and roll it up. After 1/2 an hour, I lay it out again on a dry bath-towel. This time, I don't roll it up, I just let it air dry a bit.
When it comes to pressing it, it's best to do that while it's damp. Use a cotton setting on your iron for crocheted & tatted pieces and a cooler setting for nylon or anything for which you do not know the content of.
If you like, you can use a bit of spray starch on your lace but please keep in mind that cottonworms and silverfish love starch. Which leads me to speaking of storage. Textiles of any kind should not be stored in plastic bags. They need to breathe. I store my lace in an old dresser. The drawers are lined with acid free tissue paper. A good way to prevent cottonworms and silverfish from dining on your lace stash is put a few cedar-balls in with your lace. Those icky bugs don't like the smell. Mothballs would work too but oh, I hate that smell! Cedar-balls are available at Wal-Mart.
So that's how you do it! It's very simple and well worth the effort if you like to use beautiful vintage and antique lace on your crazy quilting. One last thing that I should mention about deterioration is this: look it over before you buy it. Lace that's deteriorating will literally fall apart when you touch it. It will feel dry so to speak and dust will fly everywhere! That's the fibers breaking down. If you give it a very gentle pull and nothing happens, it's in good shape!