Thursday, September 14, 2017

Washing a Vintage Quilt Top & Hurricane Irma

Washed, Dried & Pressed

Isn't She a Red & White Beauty!

Hurricane Update: Like this vintage quilt top, we have been spared by Hurricane Irma. A neighbor's tree fell in our yard, and we lost palm fronds. Power came on last night, and the house is drying out from general humidity. That is nothing in comparison to the devastation south and north of us. I am so grateful to those of you who kept us in your thoughts and prayers. Thank you.

My heart truly aches for those who are trying to make sense of what has happened, and pick up the pieces. The need is so great between Harvey and Irma, but understanding the process of clean up and rebuilding is very important when you think of how you can help. This short CBS story will open your eyes to how relief efforts can actually slow the process. Thanks to my niece for sharing it with me.

Austin Pets Alive! is a no kill shelter actively engaged with the community to help Harvey victims. Because they were not in the heart of the flooding, but nearby, they were better situated to help get pets out and keep them safe. They took in animals during Harvey, and are now reuniting the families. As animal lovers, we cannot imagine losing our pets! There are Pets Alive! shelters in many communities, and they are especially grateful for donations during disasters. Check out American Pets Alive! on Facebook for more information.


Finding and Buying Old Quilt Tops

You might say I have found a few quilt tops lately that were very intriguing. So much so I felt they should come home with me. Your attraction may be different than mine, but I favor certain styles more than others. Scrappy are my favorite by far because I can read the fabrics, but well constructed is just as important. Old tops can be hand or machine pieced. A gentle tug to the seam will tell you if it was well stitched or not. The top above is not scrappy, and all the setting triangles are cut on the bias. Still it was entirely red and white, well-made, and I was smitten.

Why Are There So Many Old Quilt Tops Yet?

If you wonder why a quilt top was never quilted, it likely has something to do with the construction. Maybe it was so 'off kilter' it was hard to get in the frame. Practice due diligence, and look it over before buying! We will be talking much more about this in the coming weeks.

This is the simplest of all of them, and yet has given me the most trouble in trying to date it. The fewer the fabrics, the fewer clues.

The pattern is deceiving when seen from a distance (above). It is actually a nine patch block on point.

Can you see it now?
I thought it was appropriate for this post as
it reminds me of the Red Cross.

 The tiny dark print is black. The figures in the turkey red are slightly irregular and unrefined. The red looks to be dye applied over a white or ivory background as the back shows only a little bleed through (see picture below). There is a slight yellow cast to the background, but there was a lot of yellowing to the whole top when I bought it. With my allergies to dust and mold, I knew it had to be washed if I wanted to work with it. I set forth cautiously and carefully.

My Washing and Brightening Process

A friend strongly recommended Retro Clean to brighten some of the dingy tops. I researched the product, and found the same active ingredient as in Oxiclean. Oxiclean has been a staple in my household for years, far less expensive, and already sitting on my counter. 

First I took a Q-tip, and tested all temperatures of water on the turkey red fabric. At the most, I got a tiny bit of pink after scrubbing at the red. I was happy to start, and first hand washed the top with Dawn liquid dish washing soap in a large wash tub. The water was filthy even though the top had looked fairly clean and white! Several wash and rinse cycles followed it was getting clean. I never left the top to soak at this point. I have experienced dye transfer with textiles sitting bunched up in water often enough to be aware that is always a risk even when it passes the Q-tip test.

Lovely hand stitching!

When I was fairly sure the top was clean, I moved it to a large bath tub. (We have a jacuzzi type tub from the 80's I have begged to tear out and replace with a smaller, more efficient model. I am rethinking things after finding how wonderful it is to soak big vintage tops and quilts.)

I filled the tub just a few inches with warm water, and dissolved a small scoop of the Oxiclean. I spread the top out so there were few areas of bunching, and agitated slightly by hand. (Remember those bias edges!) Then I let it soak coming back every hour or so to check on it, and move it around. The yellowing was coming out of the quilt into the water. I was slightly panicked that it was the red dye, but it seemed to be mainly brightening the muslin and white print. 

I imagine I changed the water and Oxiclean 6 times at least over 24 hours. Even very warm water did not cause the red dye to bleed, and that was the biggest surprise to me. When I saw little change in the bath water, I went through several rinse cycles. Never twist or wring fragile fabric. I gently scooped it against the side of the tub, and pressed all around to release the excess water. 

When I felt it was properly rinsed, I laid it out atop old, clean towels on a concrete floor to dry away from direct light.

The white is nicely brightened!

Several pieces within the blocks have been pieced. Can you see the seam above?

It is ready to press here, and then it will be tolerable to work with. I know other people might not have chosen to wash a vintage top like this, and I understand that. For me it is first and foremost my health, but I also find out if the top is colorfast. If it would not have been, I may never choose to quilt it. This one would be ideal as it can later be washed with confidence.

"So how old is it?"

I know someone will ask, but no, I do not have a good idea of the age. It came from Coshocton County, Ohio, and it is pre-1930's. There were several other quilt from the same source in that age range, but this definitely looked and felt much older. I will let you know when I have more information about the fabric prints. Until then...

Come on, Doxie girls.
Let's go sew.

Linking up with~
Crazy Mom Quilts


helenjean@midgetgemquilts said...

I did love your new additions but more important I laughed at you washing quilts in your hot tub!

Angie in SoCal said...

I have no problem understanding why there are so many still unquilted quilt tops. Making the top is my favorite part of the process. I bet I am not alone in that now or long ago. The white fabric looks like shirting from around the 1910s. Good person to ask is Barbara Brackman. She has some posts on shirting There is even a photo captioned Scrappy was popular too that has a shirting in it that seems to be a different colorway of the red fabric - white background instead of red; black shamrock (?) instead of white. ??

PaulaB quilts said...

Thank,you for the excellent advice on the washing and drying of the quilt top. I have any number of adopted Quilts and tops, but do not expect to wash any. They are such a treasure of information, a history book to learn from.
. I would agree that the top is,probably before 1920. It certainly was a successful rescue. Enjoy it.

Kate said...

What wonderful save for this quilt top. Even if you never quilt it, you've done so much to bring it back.

KaHolly said...

It's lovely! I have one that mu great great grandmother pieced. She had a trunk full of flimsiest when she died. I always figured it was because it's faster to piece a quilt than hand quilt it, so there is a back up! The storms were horrendous. I'm collecting blocks to help fund pet rescue in Texas. Those agencies went above and beyond!

Sandy Panagos said...

What a labor of love! This will be treasure for sure.