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Crafty Corner If you are creative, love to knit or crochet, paint, or just enjoy making fun stuff with your kids, this is the forum for you.

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Old 01-08-2004, 09:01 PM
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Washing Old quilts

I need to know how I can wash an old, old quilt that my grandmother made over 40 + years ago. It already has some tiny tears in the fabric that I want to restore but I am so afraid of washing it. It is heavy! I don't know how my washer would hold up.
If anyone can help...great! Thank you so much in advance!
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Old 01-09-2004, 10:17 AM
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Hi ima31girl,

Do you know what the fabric content of the quilt is? You should not attempt to clean a quilt that is not 100% cotton. If the quilt is a crazy patch using many different fabrics, you will need to have a professional cleaning done. Often, if you call your local museum they can give you advise and referrals.

The quilt must be repaired first, before any cleaning should be considered. After if is repaired and seems to be in sturdy enough condition to be able to be cleaned, then you can wash the quilt in your bathtub. It is a huge undertaking, so be well rested! The quilt is the most vunerable when wet. It is important that you don't pull, wring, or otherwise be rough with it.

Start by cleaning and rinsing you tub very well. Then run lukewarm water to about halfway up the tub. Add a product especially for cleaning quilts. There is a product called QuiltWash that you can buy at quilt shops and craft store. There is also a product that was originally used to wash cows for milking, called Orvis. It is a natural soap and very mild. You add the recommended amount of cleaner and make sure it is totally dissolved throughout the water.

Then, immerse the quilt, pressing it down into the water until it is completely immerse. You can agitate it by pressing your open hand on the quilt, up and down in the water. You may soak the quilt for as long as 15 or 20 minutes if it is really dirty. With the quilt still in the tub, drain the water and add fresh water. If the quilt doesn't seem clean yet, you can repeat the washing process(disolve the cleaner in a glass of water before adding it). The rinsing process is very important. You must remove all traces of the cleaner. It can take 4 or 5 rinses to accomplish this. Always leave the quilt in the tub, don't attempt to lift it out each time you rinse, just press out as much water as you can each time.

When you are satisfied that the quilt is rinsed completely, drain the tub with the quilt still in it. Press as much of the water out as you can and then start pressing the quilt with clean, light colored towels. When the quilt seems quite a bit drier, you can remove it from the tub. Arrange towels on the floor or any other large surface and arrange the quilt on top. Spread the quilt the way you want it to dry. This may take some time getting it straight and square. At this point, you can press it again with dry towels, if it seems a bit too damp. Then, allow it to dry away from direct sunlight. It can take several days to dry. You can replace the towels so they aren't damp and use a fan in the area to help the process speed up a bit.

Don't attempt to wash any quilt you are not sure about the fabric content. I would take it to a quilt shop or museum for advise, if I were unsure.

My goodness, I am "long winded". Hope I haven't overwhelmed you! Please let me know if you don't understand anything or need more information.

Jenna
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Old 01-09-2004, 11:04 AM
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Long winded? Not to worry!

Wow! More to cleaning than simply tossing in the washer at the local laundry Mat like my husband suggested! Fortunately I don't always follow his suggestions!

The fabric on this particular quilt I believe is the old flour sack material. I asked my mom and she said Grandma used to make lots of quilts using the old flour sacks when they were empty. Now, if I am not mistaken....those were 100% cotton weren't they?

What the batting is I am not sure, Okay, I just spread it out on the living room floor and looked. The batting appears to be something similar in texture to Warm 'n Natural.

Any ideas?

Thanks once again for all your help! You are such a great help, Jenna!

Lynette
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Old 01-09-2004, 11:42 AM
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Hi again, Lynette,

Yes, feedsacks were 100% cotton. Your quilt should be plenty sturdy enough to take being washed. It's just important not to do it very frequently. The rule of thumb is to try everything else to freshen the quilt first, such as airing it. I don't wash my old quilts more than once every one or two years, unless it encounters an accident(read: my son was using it!). Something spilled on it, should be removed immediately. Leaving stains to dry makes them more difficult to get out.

Just to mention, if there is anything that appears to be blood on the quilt, remove this first with cold water only. Meat tenderizer in the water seems to help quite a bit. It is an ensyme eater, so it breaks the blood down.

The batting is almost certainly either cotton or wool. If the batting seems to be holding together well, within the quilt, everything should be fine. Reduce the temperature of the water just a bit if you think the batting may be wool. Wool has a tendancy to shrink quite a lot in anything other than lukewarm or cold water. Sometime, if it shrinks a bit, it actually looks rather nice, just a little puckered and homey. Hot water will make wool mat, and than is not nice at all. It makes the quilt stiff and lumpy. You can probably determine whether the batting is wool or cotton by examining it. If it is quite yellow and fluffier than Warm and Natural batting, it could be wool. If it seems lighter in color and has a fine, dense, almost cotton-ball type texture, it is probably cotton. Gee, I wish I could come over and take a look at it for you!

Let me know if you have any more questions or concerns!
Jenna
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Old 01-09-2004, 12:45 PM
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Well I give up!!!!

I have spent the last 45-50 minutes trying to load 3 pics for you to see of my quilt and it's "issues"! Blemishes/tears/etc!

But I cannot seem to get this thing to work. Thanks again for all your advice and help. Have my work cut out for me next week, I see! Your directions were wonderful. Wish you were teaching down here. We could use help such as yours.

Thanks again!
Lynette
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Old 01-09-2004, 12:47 PM
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I forgot to tell you....

the batting must be cotton. it is very light colored like the whiter warm and natural fiber. Also mom said that Grandma used wool batting only when she made a woolen quilt (rarity!)

Don't know if that was the Canadian in her or the German! She was good though!

Thanks
Lynette
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Old 01-11-2004, 08:21 AM
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You are very welcome, Lynette! Good luck with the washing of your quilt. It sounds like the batting is most likely cotton. Cotton was quite a bit more common than wool, by the 30's or so. That is a good thing, it is much easier to deal with than wool.

I would have loved to have seen your quilt! Don't worry about it though, I understand computer difficulties too well! Sometimes, our computer can make me feel like the dumbest person alive. LOL!

Jenna
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Old 01-11-2004, 08:34 AM
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Hello!!

I looked for you last evening to be on but didn't see your name pop up anywhere. I have another questions re that quilt. To mend it.....do I attempt to "replace" damaged pieces? I have old feed sack cloth that I could cut out the pieces and applique on. What would you suggest?
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Old 01-11-2004, 08:48 AM
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Hi Lynette,

I am not an expert on the restoration of old quilts, but I have attempted to do some myself. I have found that if the patch is in really bad shape and very thing, I applique the new patch right over top. This way you are not making any open seams underneath. I found this was rather important, since the fabrics on either side of the damaged one are not always in the greatest shape themselves. Sometimes, they will tend to fray and loose some of their seam allowance while you are removing the really damaged piece.

If you chose to remove the entire piece underneath, be very careful with the seams on the surrounding patches. Sometimes, I have found the original quilter didn't leave a quarter inch seam, but only about an eighth of an inch. In this case, I make the patch I am replacing a little bigger than it should be.

I use machine embroidery thread for the applique. It is a bit thinner weight, 60 rather than the regular 50 weight. My favorite brand is Mettler. I like a lighter weight thread, since the stitches tend to disappear better and it is a little easier on the older fabrics(doesn't cut the threads of the fabric).

Try to match the thread color to the piece you are adding, not the background color. This helps to hide the stitches too.

Do you know what pattern your quilt is? Is it an applique quilt or one entirely pieced?

Hope this helps,
Jenna
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Old 01-11-2004, 09:09 AM
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I can't seem to edit this post, sorry, I meant to say "thin" in the second sentence, not "thing"!

I am sure this will help my bad typing make more sense!

Jenna
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