I have two vintage red and green quilts from the mid-1800's. They will time-share the guest room bed for the holidays; each getting about a week to be on-stage. Both are old enough, and fragile enough, that they need to be removed if someone is going to use the bed.
|88" x 88"|
The Irish Chain done in plain white, turkey red and a green print is a simple graphic delight; one of the very earliest pieced quilt designs.
It's densely hand quilted and has red piping in the binding, a treatment most common between 1840-1880 according to Barbara Brackman in Clues in the Calico.
Double line quilting in the white open areas alternates between a double diagonal grid and double overlapping wineglasses spaced a mere 1/8" apart.
Straight lines are quilted through the 'chain'.
Here you can see the piping, all fabrics and all quilting motifs.
When I first laid it on the bed I noticed that there was a greenish tinge to the background fabric. It's been used and washed in its life but probably stored for many years. The most likely explanation is that the green print had 'crocked' - not bled or run - but rubbed off, onto the creamy white. It bothered me. But this is an OLD quilt. Washing it would be a real risk. I needed to give this some serious thought.
After several years - yes really - I decided to take the risk. I was aware that I could ruin it but whatever happened it would be a learning experience and I was not happy with it the way it was.
I use my top-loading washer leaving the lid open. With the diluted Orvus soap and water already in the machine, I gently immerse the quilt and move it up and down by hand - I do not let the machine agitate. After it sits awhile I gently push it up and down again.
The water quickly turned almost black! I drained that water, refilled the tub and repeated the process.
After rinsing in clear water one or two times I use the gentlest spin - positioning the textile at the outer edges of the tub to minimize pressure on it. Removing the excess water is important as the stitches and fabrics are even more fragile when wet and heavy.
I then carefully remove it, blot it gently with large clean white towels and lay it flat to dry; first out on our deck but then on the grass with a clean sheet under it. I also put a clean sheet over the top and weight it down to avoid accidents with birds or other debris in the air but for the photo I took it off.
When nearly dry I put it in my dryer with NO heat - just air fluff for about 5 minutes. This causes the batting to fluff up and removes some of the wrinkles from drying flat. Perhaps some of you are fainting by now....but
Ta-Da! Success. The green tinge was gone - the quilting really stood out and the quilt was clean. If there was slight loss in some of the turkey red fabric, which was quite worn to start with, the overall look and removing the soil and the greenish tinge made that worth it to me.
I advocate careful methods and due consideration before washing any older quilt but I also believe that storing a 'dirty' quilt is not good for it. Luckily, in this case, I had good results!
|Center Stage - What a show off!|
Coming Soon: Red and Green II - An Applique