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Thread: Advice on Cleaning Vintage Quilt Top--

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    I found a vintage feed bag quilt top in a friend's barn and would like some advice on how to clean it---has mildew stains and what looks like some water stains from being folded up in a box for probably 50 years---this quilt dates to probably1920 - 1930--I would love to restore it and hand quilt it because it was made by my boyfriend's grandmother's family---


  2. #2
    Super Member jmabby's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Minnesota, Land of 10,000 Lakes
    Blog Entries
    I found these 2 articles on the web.

    1. Caring For Vintage Quilts

    Stack Of Vintage Quilts In Closet
    I have done research on laundering old quilts. Don’t dry clean a cotton quilt. Weight of the fluid may place more stress than water on old fabric.

    ■Washing in mild soap and warm water will brighten the colors, or you might use dishwashing (not dishwasher) detergent. Most quilts can take a short, gentle washer agitation. Rinse thoroughly.
    ■If the quilt is age-marked, soak in a solution of one quart buttermilk and one tablespoon white vinegar to each gallon of water before washing. This won’t damage a cotton quilt.
    ■Hang a wet quilt over two lines to distribute weight while drying. You can finish drying by a short fluffing on warm temperature in the dryer.
    ■If fortunate enough to have an all-white quilt, try sunbleaching. Our grandmothers placed white garments on clean grass and the sun–not the bleach bottle–did the job.
    ■Don’t store quilts in plastic; it may cause yellowing. Instead, wrap in clean paper and then wrap with several sheets of newspaper to prevent mildew.
    ■Store singly in boxes as stacking quilts will weaken the fabric at the folds.

    2. For old vintage linens that are yellowed with age and need more than spot cleaning, here are some recipes for soaking the entire piece.

    ■Check a spot to make sure the recipe won’t damage the fabric or colors before soaking the entire item.
    ■When drying linens in the sun, lay them directly on the grass instead of hanging them–the weight of hanging wet linens can warp or damage the fibers.
    Vintage Linens: Soaks & Cleaning Recipes

    Vintage Linens Chest
    Recipe #1
    1/4 cup Kosher or Sea salt
    Gallon hot water
    ■Cover piece entirely and soak for at least 48 hours. Rinse well and lay out in the sun to dry. See notes below for rinse method.

    Recipe #2
    ■In a large roaster or pot, fill with hot water and several slices of lemon. Bring to a boil, turn off the heat and add your linens. Use a wooden spoon to push down the linens until they become completely submerged and saturated with the water. Cover the pot and leave overnight.
    ■Rinse well, wash with mild detergent and water as usual and then lay the items out in the sun to dry.

    Buttermilk Soak – Recipe #3
    1 Quart Buttermilk
    1 Gallon Water
    1 TBS Fresh Lemon Juice
    ■Soak linens in the buttermilk recipe for up to 24 hours, rinse twice, then launder as usual.

    Biz & Oxyclean Soak – Recipe #4
    1 Scoop* Biz
    1 Scoop* Oxyclean
    1 Gallon Hot Water
    ■Soak in the hot water for up to 48 hours, then rinse and launder as usual.
    ■*Use the oxyclean scoop
    Rinse Method
    ■After washing linens, give it a good vinegar rinse to remove as much of the soap as possible. Use one cup of white vinegar per gallon of water. After the vinegar rinse, rinse again with plain water a time or two.

    And here’s another spot treater recipe:
    3/4 cup rubbing alcohol
    1/4 cup water
    10 drops mild dish detergent

    How Long To Soak Vintage Linens?
    You can soak items for a few days if they are heavily yellowed and the cleaning solutions aren’t giving you the results you want. Just replace with fresh hot water + recipe every day or two.

    Bleach Stains From Old Linens
    Here’s a cleaning solution for bleaching stains out of old linens, spot test first before using:

    Vintage and Old Linen Stain Cleaning Solution
    2 quarts distilled water
    1/4 cup bleach
    1/4 cup shaved Ivory Soap bar
    ■Mix ingredients and soak item for approximately one hour.
    ■Dry in sun.
    ■Repeat again if necessary (you can still use the original bleach mixture you used the first time–just store til needed).
    Cleaning Vintage Linens Recipe
    Old vintage linens are lovely, but they can yellow in spots as well as hold stains. Here’s a recipe to help brighten things up.

    Vintage Linen Stain Remover
    1 Gallon warm water
    2 TBS Ivory Soap (grated)
    1 TBS Bleach
    ■Mix and let sit to cool until liquid has gelled a bit. Apply to stain.
    ■You can soak linens, even colored embroidered pieces, in this for several days.
    ■As with all linens and vintage pieces, rinse very well, over and over, to remove every trace of soap.
    *Important: Make sure to test a small area first before using

  3. #3
    Super Member thepolyparrot's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    I wouldn't wash the top at all until it's quilted and bound. The seam allowances fray on the back, seams come undone and the fabric could shrink at hugely different rates when it gets wet, leaving you with a quilt top that is unmanageable.

    I've bought a lot of old tops on eBay and they've all come out much nicer than I could have expected from their age and condition.

    All of them were very hard to quilt - none of them were square and flat and one of them nearly caused me to lose my mind - it was a Drunkard's Path in brown and peach and had apparently been pieced by at least two people with vastly differing skill levels.

    A couple of these tops have been badly stained and watermarked and stunk to high heaven of mildew and who-knows-what.

    I use fusible batts for these troublesome tops - they really help you get the quilt under control, but the requirement to iron it to the batt may set stains even more stubbornly.

    I usually quilt these old tops pretty heavily so that the batt and backing supports the old fabric well. After quilting and binding, I wash in hot water and dry in a hot dryer. Because I want the recipients to be able to use the quilt, I want to give it the harshest treatment that it's likely to face in the future to make sure that it will stand up to that kind of treatment.

    I use detergent, OxyClean, Color Catchers and about a cup of ammonia in the wash water - so far this has removed almost all stains and yellowing and the ammonia strips out any odor.

    After laundering, I inspect the quilt on both sides and tie off loose threads, darn or patch any spots of fabric which have shredded in the wash, etc.

    I'm not necessarily recommending that you do any of this - this is just what I do.

    But I have little of value invested in these quilts and they're ordinary, run-of-the-mill scrap tops I'm talking about.

    If the top is pre-1920's or if it had a large sentimental or monetary value, I'm not sure I'd even touch it, much less treat it like a top I made. :)

    Drunkard's Path - quilted with big roses in variegated peach and vines, leaves & tendrils in rust - this quilt stunk so bad I could barely stand to handle it
    Name:  Attachment-252407.jpe
Views: 2444
Size:  63.3 KB

    Scrap Quilt - quilted with feathers - badly water stained and smelled of mildew, but it's fresh and bright after laundering
    Name:  Attachment-252408.jpe
Views: 2838
Size:  119.8 KB

    Grandmother's Flower Garden - heavily quilted with fans, flowers, vines and leaves
    Name:  Attachment-252409.jpe
Views: 2307
Size:  73.8 KB

  4. #4
    Super Member Glassquilt's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Northeast IL
    Blog Entries
    If it's dusty, you can vacuum before washing. Use cheesecloth or fabric screening in an embroidery hoop between the quilt & the vacuum tube. Takes awhile but protects anything loose from being sucked up.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Anna.425's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Bellevue, WA

    this is a link to an article on this forum

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