Visit The Gatherings, to see all of the beautiful antique and vintage textiles I have ~ antique clothing, hats, accessories, children's clothing, vintage bed and table linens, antique children's toys, vintage sewing notions, quilts and so much more!
As I am a collector at heart my thoughts are always of preservation. How to preserve these textiles I love so they can truly stand the test of time to be handed along to the next caring & loving collector.
Most textiles that can be safely cleaned are cleaned before I offer for sale. Those that can't or not easily cleaned are inspected. Possibly a good airing on a well shaded protected porch will do wonders to release odors or loose soil. Those items that can be laundered I look for any damage that would need repair prior to laundry. If not repaired before hand more damage may occur during the washing process. Please keep in mind that dirt sometimes is what is holding a piece together. It is so very disheartening to see a lovely piece shredding before your very eyes once the fabric meets the water. Occasionally it does happen. A piece which seemingly could be washed doesn't survive.
Linen and cotton are two of the most easy to clean fabrics so these two fibers will be the focus in this article. You will find as I have, many cloth pieces are begging for a good bath. I must say, a good soaking does do wonders to restore vitality to the fabric, helping the piece to emerge from an unkempt desperate look. Again, there are a host of products and ways to clean these fabrics. Although I have tried many of them I find my method of choice, that works for me, is to use the product Oxiclean . This product is easy to obtain and is a relatively safe washing product, but may I stress do read the label.
I start my laundry by placing a small group of textiles to soak over night in a plastic tub. Some items may take several soakings to remove all stains, changing the water a number of times during the soaking process. Upon completion of this process I rinse the items several times to remove all traces of the Oxiclean. Then, again, I fill the tub with water and a small amount of detergent to further clean and remove the remainder of residue. Repeat rinsing until no soap remains.
If you are so fortunate to have a clothes line these pieces can be lined dried. Take care of hanging delicate fragile items as the item weighted with water can place stress on the cloth. These pieces are best laid flat to dry on white Turkish towels. I have often resorted to heavy plastic hangers for drying some clothing & small items of cloth hanging on a sheltered porch. Another word of caution wooden hangers and wooden clothespins can sometimes leave a stain on freshly laundered whites so I have refrained from using.
These lovely heirloom pieces are now laundered and dried. As the pieces I launder are offered for sale ironing is the final step, however, please read the information in the following paragraph if your pieces are to be stored.
If you plan to store the items for a period of time you will want to store properly. It is not recommended to store starched iron pieces for an extended time as the starch can cause a deterioration of the cloth via insect etc. One method for storing would be to purchase archieval tissue paper to wrap the lovelies especially if pieces are to be stored for any length of time. Another recommendation is to store the item/s in cotton sheeting as cotton is a natural fiber which will allow air circulation and breathing of the textile. Do use 100% cotton sheeting only, with no blends or synthetic. If you don't have old cotton sheets look to purchase vintage pieces. It is a perfect solution for wrapping and storing heirloom textiles. Please, never store your treasures in plastic, cardboard boxes or against wood of a storage cupboard. The last two can cause oxidation stains to the textile. Plastic is never a good choice as it does not allow the cloth to breath.
If you have decided you want to use your treasures after freshly laundering, here are my steps for this process although you may have your own method. When I launder the pieces but before drying I use liquid starch mixed to the directions on the bottle. Each item is dipped in the solution & then aired dried to a point of being almost dry. I roll each piece and place in towel in refrigerator for a few hours or over night. Each piece is usually in a just right "dried" condition for successful ironing. Caution: all pieces must be ironed within a day or two otherwise mildew can develop.
The process of ironing freshly starched textiles by this method does require more time and is more satisfactory in the end result but a method of using bottled spray starch on completely dried fabrics just before ironing can also be employed.