Today I am hand-washing some of my vintage fabric. I have 2 loads to do.
When it comes to vintage fabric, I prefer to buy it unwashed. (but hey, I am NEVER going to turn down vintage fabric in any form!) If the scraps are too small for washing, I just use them as is, being especially careful with the reds, blues, blacks and any other ''risky'' fabric.
Many times, vintage fabric is found in attics, basements, garages, storage units, and other dusty, yucky areas. Since I am allergic to dust, I have to clean them the best that I can, without causing any harm to them in the process. Please, fellow quilters, follow a few tips from a gal that has done this for years, again, and again.
- Don't wash vintage fabric in your kitchen sink (I don't) unless that is your only alternative. If you do wash in your kitchen sink (please don't) be sure to disinfect it very well afterwards. Unless you know exactly where these beautiful fabrics came from, you don't know what kind of things have happened to them in storage (think cute tiny animals with long tails). So, yeah, being a former farm gal, I definitely wash my vintage fabrics. I like to wash mine in a cheap plastic Rubbermaid bin in the bath tub.
- If your fabrics are delicate, and you are concerned about washing them, you may want to reconsider even using them in a quilt, which does require a certain amount of strength to hold up, even if you are using them as applique pieces. Remember, many vintage fabrics are just a few decades away from being antique. Weed out the ones that might not make it in the ''survival of the fittest'' selection process.
- Fill your wash tub with warm water (I like to use hot when I can). Separate your fabrics into like color piles (no reds in with the whites) to reduce the risk of bleeding fabrics. Add detergent. I recommend Vintage Textile Soak, or even Oxy powder. An acquaintance of mine, Kathleen McCrady, uses Oxy. Kathleen has over 75 years of experience quilting, has had numerous quilts on the cover of Quilters Newsletter, enough show ribbons to make another quilt out of them, and is a former quilt appraiser, and quilt historian. I figure if a lady of that caliber used Oxy, it is good enough for little ol' seam ripper like myself. I have also used Arm and Hammer Free liquid detergent, which has no dyes or perfumes, on extra dirty fabrics with stunning success. (after doing extensive research on liquid detergents) Now, just let the detergent mix with the water well, before adding the fabric.
- Carefully add your fabric to the wash tub and mix it up with your hands. Don't agitate the fabrics too much, just a few minutes of plunges should do it. Let that soak for about 15 minutes. Plunge away for a few minutes, soak for 15 minutes. Dump the water out of your wash tub, being careful not to lose any scraps of fabric (this is why I love having the Rubbermaid bin in the bath tub.) squeeze as much of that (DIRTY!) water out of the fabric as you can. Do not wring.
- fill the wash tub with fresh, clean, cool water. Add the fabric. Plunge it for a few minutes to rinse out that detergent and let it sit for 5-10 minutes. Plunge again, and drain the water. You may have to rinse twice to get all of the detergent out.
- Squeeze (don't wring) the water out of your fabric. Let the pieces dry flat if you can. I have used my dryer on low heat setting on rare occasions.