Crochet Techniques - Heirloom Care - Part 1
Part 1 - Cleaning
Crochet Techniques - Heirloom Care - Part 1
In 1993 I had the pleasure of meeting my great Aunt Lil. When I told her I designed crochet patterns, she told me about her sister Annie who crocheted beautiful doilies. Three of Aunt Lil’s heirlooms were Annie’s doilies. They were beautifully done with tiny thread, roses and filet crochet. Through my Aunt Lil and these precious family heirlooms I had finally found a “crochet connection”. Aunt Lil entrusted me with two of the cherished doilies - I was honored.
Heirlooms are valued possessions passed down in families from generation to generation. These family treasures are our connection to the past, linking generations in a profound, personal way by giving us a better perception of our family's history. Heirlooms can become extremely touching pieces of history. Your challenge is to keep them safe and sound as they make the journey from one generation to the next. A few extra steps taken now will insure that the next generation will also enjoy this wonderful link to the past.
You can become part of this historical connection by crocheting, knitting, tatting or needlecrafting a treasure for family, friends and future generations to enjoy. When creating a new piece, you have the opportunity to affect the preservation of your projects. You can make them outlast a lifetime by choosing the right materials and using good cleaning and storage techniques.
Basic Knowledge of Fibers
Textiles are particularly delicate. Inevitably the fibers in any textile will begin to fall apart. Nothing lasts forever, especially textiles. Original choice of materials, accidents that happen over time, how the piece was used, cleaned and stored influence the present and future condition of any textile heirloom. The best materials to use when creating an heirloom would be fibers or fabric of a single fiber type that have good preservation characteristics. The typical fibers used for making heirloom textiles are cotton, silk, wool and linen. It is important to know what type of fiber you are dealing with for proper cleaning techniques and for planning the creation of a new piece. The care and cleaning techniques vary depending on the type of fibers. There are things you can do with cotton that you cannot do with wool. When creating a new piece it is important to make sure you are not working with a blended fiber but 100% cotton, wool, silk or linen.
Immediately after wearing or using a piece it is important to hand wash it before storing. Storing something dirty will encourage bacteria to grow that could possibly damage or destroy your treasure. Bacteria thrive on old stains and spray starch. It is important to take care of any problems or stains before you store it.
1. Remove any pins, jewelry, etc.
2. Hand wash your piece in a very small amount of mild soap like Woolite® or Ivory Snow® and hot water for cotton, cold for wool and lukewarm for silk and linen. Gently swish the piece. Do not twist or wring.
3. Refill your wash pan with fresh water and put the piece in. Gently swish and squeeze the piece in the fresh water to rinse out the soap. Repeat the rinse several times until all the soap is completely removed.
Important Note: Because the piece is heavier when wet, make sure you give it extra support as you lift it from the water to avoid damage to the fabric.
4. Lay the piece flat and let it air dry
It is important to pre-treat stains because the longer you wait the harder it is to remove them.
Lemon Juice: Often mentioned is the use of lemon juice, salt and sun. This approach is too rough on the piece.
Bleach: For cotton mix two tablespoons of a generic brand of bleach (Clorox brand is too strong) with two gallons of hot water. This is a very dilute mix. Use of more bleach is not recommended because it may cause destruction of fibers. There is no need to agitate the piece, just let it soak for several hours or even overnight. It is very important that you know your fabric before using this technique. Silk will yellow and once it does there is no going back.
Do not take old linens or textiles to the cleaners because the dry cleaning chemicals can yellow them.
If you plan to use your piece you may want to iron or block it with spray starch. Items intended for storage should not be ironed or starched. Many museums get frantic at the thought of ironing. Ironing pieces can permanently flatten the fibers and give them that over ironed, flat, shinny look. This is especially true with pieces containing yarn and thread. Whenever possible it is better to block your piece before use and spray it with spray starch to get the desired look. If you must iron, make sure the bottom of the iron is clean and that you have water in it. Mist the garment, then spray starch it. Misting before spray starch will help prevent scorching. Be careful with the temperatures. For cottons you can use higher heat.
If you can not clean an item any other way you may be able to vacuum it. Vacuuming removes unwanted surface dust, debris and insect residues from some textiles. To safely vacuum you will need a piece of fiberglass screen, readily available at your local hardware store. Cover the edges of the screen with masking tape. You can also make a screen by placing a piece of nylon netting over an embroidery hoop. To vacuum, place the piece on a flat surface and place the screen over it. Vacuum with a weak-suction hand vacuum cleaner or hold the nozzle away from the piece. When you periodically vacuum your pieces, you can cut down on the number of times they need to be washed.
Enjoy the great heirlooms you have created or adopted, but be sure to care for them so other generations will enjoy them too. I encourage you to apply some of this information when creating your beautiful works of art. I hope you will create needlework for family and friends to cherish in this generation and the next.
Disclaimer: The information given are only suggestions. There are several sources for supplies and additional information - scrap booking stores, archival and conservation supply companies, online or museums. Consult professional conservators if your item is particularly dear. They are experts who can better help preserve your piece.
Here are links to great heirloom projects:
Blessed Christening Set Crochet Pattern
Vintage Floral Potholder Crochet Patterns
Vintage Blues Potholder Crochet Patterns
Lovebird Doily Crochet Pattern
Vintage Filet Crochet Pattern - Birds & Roses - Chair Back & Oval Doily
Vintage Filet Crochet Rooster and Hen Pattern
Vintage Christmas Doily Crochet Pattern
Vintage Square Grape Doily Crochet Pattern
Vintage Variegated Tulip Doily Crochet Patterns
Crinoline Ladies Crochet Pattern