Quick Tip – Cleaning Vintage Needlework

I’m awed by the patience and skill it takes to create a doily. It has quickly become a lost art in most of the world. Twenty years ago, give or take a bit, when I was more ambitious, I crocheted two easy doilies. They took a lot of time, and if I remember correctly, several times I had to unravel a mistake and try again. I’ve walked by doilies at yard sales and thrift stores with hardly a glance in recent years. Doilies have fallen out of fashion in today’s decorating. I think I am going to reconsider that decision and start to buy some of the exquisite work now and then. Just like old postcards I like to hold them in my hands and imagine the life of the needlework artist.

This doily of mine recently became soiled. The stain lifted right out when I soaked it in warm water with a little Dawn detergent and peroxide. After soaking, you must block the doily back into shape by gently smoothing/pulling it and drying flat.

I came across a few recipes for cleaning vintage pieces of needlework. If you have a stained heirloom, perhaps one will work for you: Cleaning Old Doilies

18 thoughts on “Quick Tip – Cleaning Vintage Needlework

    1. Thanks Susie, I do remember you are a fan of crochet. I love the way the pattern of the doily emerges as it is crocheted. I remember also how long it took. Your grandmother must have had great patience and skill to do a bed-sized sheet. Have a wonderful day today Susie, Kathy

      Liked by 1 person

  1. i2zhorn

    That was a common task for my mom’s mom and older sister to make doilies. I still have them and cherish them because I know they came from Italy. Embroidery work was part of my grandfathers tailoring shop.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I went to the site for cleaning old doilies and to be honest, I disagreed with almost all of them. Scrubbing and the like is the WORST thing anyone could do to a doily. The Smithsonian in D.C. used to have a help line, and about 50 years ago I called the textile department and they gave me this advice, a simple solution to making all your doilies, linens, cottons, silks, any old fragile, organic textile come back to snowy white…and I mean snowy.

    One large canning pot filled with plain water (no need to use filtered); one quarter cup dry Clorox II (with the blue speckles, not the green ones) and one half cup Dawn Dishwashing Detergent (the white, not the blue). Add the soaps before taking the water to a boil and put in your items. Slow boil the lot until for about 30 minutes. Never leave it alone as it can boil over. And never fear of ruining the fibers. They all seem to love a good boil. The only danger here is that if the needleworker used two different dye lots of thread in her lace, you may have two different snowy whites. Sounds weird, but you’ll definitely notice the difference because the boiling removes the “white” dye and simply leaves the natural white.

    Can you use this method on multicolored lace? Yes and No. I’ve tried it on some things akin to your doily with amazing success, but my tastes run monochromatic, so my collections of pillowcases (I have hundreds of pairs) and doilies, handkerchiefs, gloves, etc. are all white. In 2011 I posted Needlework, Needlewomen, and a Very Old Story on my blog. Here’s a link: https://whimseytopia.wordpress.com/2011/06/19/needlework-needlewomen-and-a-very-old-story/. The story is poorly written (I wrote it over 40 years ago), but the essence is sweet and not unlike your story of wanting to know about the woman of yesterday who took the time to create delicate heirlooms. There are several pictures of just “some” of my collection. I hope you enjoy reading my story. I enjoyed your post. Patsye

    Liked by 1 person

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