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Thread: cleaning vintage blocks

  1. #1
    Super Member sdeaaz's Avatar
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    cleaning vintage blocks

    I was given these blocks by a fellow quilter. There are 20 of them.... all hand quilted. The only problem is that they are very stained. I have googled cleaning and Biz and Oxy-clean seems a favorite for removing stains... Just wondered if anyone had better advice.
    Also would love your suggestions for quilting them.

    Thanks.
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  2. #2
    Power Poster Prism99's Avatar
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    I would not wash them until they are already quilted. There are risks associated with washing them first. Risks include having the edges fray, having the fabrics shrink and distort in different ways, and having the applique fabrics or embroidery thread bleed. Most of these risks can be handled if you are aware of them ahead of time. For example, hand wash with little agitation to avoid fraying; block each square immediately after it comes out of the water and allow to dry blocked; use Synthrapol in the wash water to help avoid dyes settling into background fabric, and/or use Synthrapol in the first one or more washes of the quilt to remove any dye bleeds. However, it is still safer to wait to wash until the blocks are already quilted into a quilt. Shrinkage distortion from pre-washing may or may not be fully recoverable; in other words, some distortion may not block out. Quilting will prevent distortion from shrinkage, and Synthrapol will prevent dye bleeds from settling.

    I would not use Biz or Oxy-clean, much as I love those products. I would use RetroClean: http://retroclean.com/

  3. #3
    Junior Member SherylM's Avatar
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    I've had good luck with Oxy-Clean on stains like that. I mixed up a strong solution in a plastic dish pan and let the item soak. It took a couple of days, along with making some fresh solution on the second day, but the stains came out and the colors were intact. I then ran cool water into the dish pan until it was rinsed.

    Good luck with your blocks - they're really pretty!
    Sheryl

  4. #4
    Junior Member charley26's Avatar
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    I agree with SheryIM. I have done this method also; small vintage items that were badly stained and I soaked them in a Oxy-Clean solution in a plastic bowl, refreshing the solution after a day. I used lukewarm water. It was effective.

  5. #5
    Moderator QuiltnNan's Avatar
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    good luck.. they are a treasure
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  6. #6
    Power Poster nativetexan's Avatar
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    Retro clean, that is what I've heard does wonders with stains!

  7. #7
    Super Member Jan in VA's Avatar
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    I concur; Prism always has the best succinct, smart, helpful responses. I count on her wisdom a lot!

    Jan in VA

    Quote Originally Posted by Prism99 View Post
    I would not wash them until they are already quilted. There are risks associated with washing them first. Risks include having the edges fray, having the fabrics shrink and distort in different ways, and having the applique fabrics or embroidery thread bleed. Most of these risks can be handled if you are aware of them ahead of time. For example, hand wash with little agitation to avoid fraying; block each square immediately after it comes out of the water and allow to dry blocked; use Synthrapol in the wash water to help avoid dyes settling into background fabric, and/or use Synthrapol in the first one or more washes of the quilt to remove any dye bleeds. However, it is still safer to wait to wash until the blocks are already quilted into a quilt. Shrinkage distortion from pre-washing may or may not be fully recoverable; in other words, some distortion may not block out. Quilting will prevent distortion from shrinkage, and Synthrapol will prevent dye bleeds from settling.

    I would not use Biz or Oxy-clean, much as I love those products. I would use RetroClean: http://retroclean.com/
    Jan in VA
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  8. #8
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    Those are such pretty blocks. I have no suggestions but am glad to hear what others have had success with. That's another note in my quilt folder. "smile"
    Sew a Little, Love a Lot & Live like you were dying!

  9. #9
    Super Member quiltingshorttimer's Avatar
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    I had some vintage blocks that I didn't want to bother quilting if I couldn't get the stains out. So I pieced together, ran a seam of stitches around the outside edge, then SOAKed in either RetroClean or Restoration (have used both successfully with older quilts/linen) in my top load washer tub. Spun out the water once soaking done (when hot water cooled), did it again a 2nd time, and then quilted. Worked great and these all had white backgrounds.

  10. #10
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    I used Retro Clean for some stained Grandmother's Flower Garden blocks I bought at a tag sale. I could not have been happier with the results. There were about 30 blocks and I soaked maybe half a dozen or so at a time in a small tub.
    They came out so clean
    I wanted to tea dye them to make them look more vintage again.
    No heavy odors either.
    Last edited by Nesie; 05-13-2017 at 01:45 PM.

  11. #11
    Super Member sdeaaz's Avatar
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    WWHere can I buy retro clean?

  12. #12
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    I had some blocks that were yellowed with age. I would not work with them in that condition so I soaked them in Tide with bleach for a couple days They came out white as snow and the stains had all disappeared. I think you can still get the Tide with bleach.
    Alice the quilter

  13. #13
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    What about using a zigzag stitch to attach to a piece of muslin, preferably prewashed and then wash. I would prewash the muslin so it is preshrunk.

  14. #14
    Super Member EmiliasNana's Avatar
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    Another vote for Retro-Clean which can be purchased online or at some LQS.

  15. #15
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    Great blocks. I got some 1930's Sun Bonnet Sue blocks from a friend - yes, original to the 30's! I soaked them in cold water and OxyClean. I would soak for overnight, empty the water and gently press out the excess water (no wringing) and then soaked again. It took about 4 soakings but they came out really nicely. They are on my to do list for this summer.

    Good luck with your beauties!

  16. #16
    Super Member sdeaaz's Avatar
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    Getting them clean. Now how should I piece?

  17. #17
    Super Member coopah's Avatar
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    RetroClean. YES! One soaks the fabric in it...so there wouldn't be the problem of the agitating from a washer. I use a storage tub to soak my quilts in when I use RetroClean.
    "A woman is like a tea bag-you can't tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water." Eleanor Roosevelt

  18. #18
    Power Poster Prism99's Avatar
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    Since there are 20 of them, I would probably arrange them 4 x 5 with sashing and a border. What is the size of the blocks?

  19. #19
    Super Member sdeaaz's Avatar
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    8.5 or9" not sure

  20. #20
    Super Member QuiltnLady1's Avatar
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    QuiltnLady1

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  21. #21
    Super Member coopah's Avatar
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    Assembling the squares would depend on how big you want it to be. I think a smashing would be a nice way to separate the squares, but I'm a sashing fan. Probably the best thing would be to Google images of quilts that have similar blocks, find one you like, and go for it. Let us see the finish, please. :-)
    "A woman is like a tea bag-you can't tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water." Eleanor Roosevelt

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