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Thread: Why did my fabric age and what can I do about it?

  1. #1

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    Did I pull a "STUPID" and didn't even know it? I have an old fabric from the late 1970's I'd guess, I'm sure you all would know it if you saw it, yellow background with different colored bunnies on it. Anyway, years ago it was first made into a bumper pad for a cradle. I painstakingly seam ripped it all apart keeping what was good of the orignal fabric (that was in 2005). I placed it in the headboard of my bed for a time like now when I would be more inclined to deal with it. At that time though it did not look new it certainly didn't look like it does now.

    Now the headboard I put it in looks to be Walnut, is old too. I was given it second hand as a wedding present, and we left the orignal stain on it ect. (in other words no new) I never gave it a thought to putting the fabric in the headboard, but when I was going through the stuff in there (and seriously thinking about getting to that UFO next) I pulled the fabric out and it's all "aged" and brownish!

    So is there anything I can do or am I stuck and hence need to see if I can find more of that fabric? Oh please note I didn't try to wash it yet, as I didn't want to accidently set the stain. I believe it is 100% cotton. Thank you.

  2. #2
    Super Member Moonpi's Avatar
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    um, do you have anything else from that vintage that's been constantly used and exposed to sun and life? Do you look like you did back then? Life happens, even to fabric.

  3. #3
    Super Member SaraSewing's Avatar
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    I've done stupid things too. Maybe there was fabric softener in it the last time it was laundered? Or not totally clean? I'd suggest giving it a good laundering - you don't have anything to loose. I had some stupid old fabric from the 70's. It was ugly and I didn't dare use it for a pieces in a quilt because it may have worn out differently. So I used it for the foundation in a strip quilt and it was a great utilization!

  4. #4
    community benefactor Knot Sew's Avatar
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    I cleaned a closet for a family member some time ago, and here were some clothes that had hung on hangers for a very long time. They were discolored and dusty, most washed up fine. You can't use it the way it is so wash it like you would fine washables.......mild soap lukewarm water and good luck :D We used ammonia in the water with some of them.its like a bleach alternative

  5. #5
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    If when you say you "placed it in the headboard of your bed", you mean one of those storage headboards and the fabric was in contact with the wood for all that time, it is the acid in the wood that caused the yellowing. That's why all the warnings about acid-free storage, etc. Try any of the following to brighten it back up (as was mentioned, you have not much to lose).

    a vinegar rinse - one part white vinegar with four parts warm water.

    soak in false teeth cleaner and water mixed according to package directions - rinse several times (best to test a small piece first with this method).

    soak overnight in a solution of non-chlorine bleach (1/2 cup dry oxygen bleach mixed in 2 gallons water). - use a plastic, glass, or stainless steel tub - remove any obvious stains with a stain removing laundry spray - then wash in hot soapy water and rinse in warm water - use distilled water for the final rinse in any of these methods

    if it is just mild overall yellowing, you can use bluing, it's still sold in grocery stores

    Good luck.


  6. #6

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    Thankyou Nor'easter , what you say makes senses, it was surprising to me to find the farbic in this condition after 20 some odd years of moderate to hard use all the while looking great and then I put it in the head board for 3+/- years and yuck. I knew less about fabrics then, so clearly, I've learned a hard lesson. I will try the vinegar first, since I have some on hand and my mother always swears by it.

  7. #7
    Super Member Flying_V_Goddess's Avatar
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    Most likely the acid in the wood stain than any direct contact with sunlight. I don't claim to be an expert on the aging of fabric (far from it), but if the culprit were sunlight I think you're fabric would of gotten paler instead of darker. At least that's what happened with my ugly leopard print fabric that's used to cover the window of my bedroom...used to be an ugly brown, but now its an even uglier yellow because of the direct contact with sunlight. So I'm guessing your fabric got brownish because it absorbed the acid and kind of took on the color of your wood stain.

  8. #8
    Super Member Moonpi's Avatar
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    Are there smokers in your bedroom? Smoke can cause a lot of darkening over time, but should wash out.

  9. #9

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    No, we have a smoke free home.

  10. #10

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    The fabric has been soaking in the vinegar this this am and it really seems to be helping. I've been messing with it ever 1/2 hour or so and the white vinegar now looks more like cider vinegar. EWWW! It may never be the exact yellow as it was (I can't tell because it's wet) but it's looking more uniform now. I'm planning on throwing the entire mess into the washer after I've let it soak a while longer.

    So thank you all very much for your tips and insights thank goodness my thoughtlessness hasn't ruined this fabric (especially since I know exactly how I'm going to use in it my current project!) Trust me I will never store unprotected fabric in wood like that. Kinda crazy when you think that we put clothes in dressers all the time and never give it a thought.

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