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Thread: Washing vintage quilt tops?

  1. #1
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    I have a friend who inherited a vintage top from a grandmother. She wants to wash it and then cut some blocks off to make pillows for cousins with the balance to be a lap quilt for herself. She would like to wash it first. My only suggestion was to launder in a bag on a gentle cycle. She considered a tub soak. Does anyone have experince with this? I would love to help her find the solution. Thanks in advance for help!

  2. #2
    Power Poster Prism99's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Western Wisconsin
    Blog Entries
    There have been some great posts about this. Try using the "search" feature above.

    I would never wash an unquilted top in a machine. A bag does not provide much (if any) protection against the seams fraying. Best way to wash an unquilted top is to baste the top to a foundation fabric and soak by hand in the tub.

    I would probably use http://www.retroclean.com . Someone posted that it worked well even in the bathroom, without sunlight. I think that would be the safest product to use.

    If there is bleeding, I would go ahead and quilt the blocks and then wash in Synthrapol. Synthrapol will suspend unset dye particles in water so they can be rinsed away. For bleeds that have already occurred, it can take several washings in Synthrapol to remove all of them. I would not use Synthrapol for the initial washing of the top because it requires hot water, which could cause the fabrics to shrink in different proportions.

    Is she absolutely sure she has to wash the tops before quilting? If they smell, maybe she could mist them with something like Nok Out to get rid of the odor. Stains will come out just as well after quilting as before quilting. I would want to avoid washing the top if at all possible. It's impossible to predict whether there will be uneven shrinkage, bleeding, or fraying of seams (possibly the worst of the three).

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Bakersfield, CA
    I have worked with several vintage quilts. One is very scrappy and dirty, I long arm quilted, bind and washed it with orvus and put 3 pcs of color catchers. It turned all right. I am sure that the seams will fray and ruin the top if washed before quilting.
    Another quilt was an heirloom appliqué, 28 dirty blocks, dismantled and individually hand washed, redesigned into smaller lap quilts which turned into beautiful treasures.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Enid, OK
    Blog Entries
    Orvus paste, retro clean, vintage soak..all work well, BUT so does oxyclean, efferdent and borax!

    the most important part is to use a sheet down in the bath tub, and to lay it out on a clean sheet with a sheet over it to dry in the sun!

    nothing gets out odors like fresh sunshine!

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