Mystery stains on Grandmas quilt

linnea56August 14, 2008

I have a quilt my Grandmother made that has been in storage for probably 30-40 years. There are mystery brown stains on it: looks like someone had a nosebleed, but it could be food or something that turns brown with age. There are several shades of brown so it could be several things. I have vague memories of her making this when I was a child: I think she finished it, someone promptly spilled on it, then she died and my mother put it away "safely" not realized it was stained. It would date probably from the late 1950Âs or early 60Âs

It is not a pieced quilt: the surface is all one piece of off-white cotton. It is heavily embroidered with dark indigo blue cross-stitching and white hand quilting. ItÂs all blue and white like Delft porcelain. The back is the same fabric. I donÂt know what it is filled with but this was before polyester batting so it is either cotton batting or some plain cloth. It is thin, not puffy. I donÂt know what the embroidery thread is but probably some kind of polished cotton: I know she normally bought regular embroidery thread.

I donÂt think it has ever been washed: it still has the marks of the pattern on the cloth under the cross-stitching.

I have spot treatments for laundry and for carpet stains but since some of the stains go over the embroidery, IÂm afraid those will bleach the blue color. Also the base fabric is off white, not white-white.

Any suggestions about what is likely to be safe for this? Thanks!

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Soak it in Orvis and distilled water (water from a dehumidifier is good as is rain water).Soak for at least 24 hours, watch to be sure the embroidery isn't running and bleeding, but it shouldn't if it's cotton embroidery thread.
If the stain is fading but not gone, continue to soak, Then spin out and rinse many times. Just fill the washer....push it around by hand and spin the water out.
When done carefully spread out to dry. Don't allow the weight of a wet quilt to hang from one edge.
Orvis can be found at places where they sell quilting supplies.
Linda C

    Bookmark   August 14, 2008 at 9:46AM
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I second Linda's advice, but have one or two things to add:

I have to say I disagree about the cotton floss not bleeding, in my experience cotton floss can bleed like CRAZY. Get some Shout Color Catcher sheets to toss in the water when you wash the quilt, it absorbs excess dye in the water.

If you have a livestock or farm supply store in your area, get the Orvus there--it'll be a lot cheaper than buying it at a quilt store.

And be sure to let us know how it all works out.


    Bookmark   August 14, 2008 at 11:51AM
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Thanks for the help, Linda and Annie! I did a google search for Orvis, unfortunately since there is a clothing and a couple of other stores/manufacturers named Orvis, all I got was hundreds of false hits. Since you can find it at feed stores too, that's what I'm looking for next. Apparently they are not big on online advertising. IÂd rather not order online as it is. Now I just need to find a feed store or quilt shop. I live in suburbia (NW suburbs of Chicago) and donÂt know where any of those might be. If anyone has an idea how to find one, please chime in.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2008 at 2:22PM
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Orvis is a non ionic soap....meaning it's PH neutral...very good at getting out stains...from heirloom textiles and cow's tails!!
Where you live you are not far from riding stables and tack stores....they will have orvis.
Think show animals...cows horses and maybe even dogs...perhaps you know someone who shows white dogs?? LOL!
Linda c

    Bookmark   August 14, 2008 at 4:39PM
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It's Orvus with a "U".


    Bookmark   August 14, 2008 at 8:35PM
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AAH.....No wonder I could find directions for using it and recommendations but none for sale!!

    Bookmark   August 14, 2008 at 10:47PM
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Linnea56 ---

I'm taking a wild guess that you can't be too far from Janesville, WI?? Try Farm and Fleet -- they usually carry it.
There is a store in Woodstock, IL.

LOVE Farm and Fleet!!!!


    Bookmark   August 15, 2008 at 1:10PM
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linnea, before you do anything to your quilt, I urge you to do a couple of things.

1) read this. It's not my favorite antique quilt restoration website, but I'm on the wrong computer.

2) ask again on the quilt form here at gardenweb

3) contact a quilt authority in your area, probably an owner of a local quilt shop - or they can recommend someone.

Many times, those brown spots can't be removed and trying only weakens the threads in your quilt.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2008 at 3:14AM
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First of all, don't expect to remove all 'age' spots from your quilt...this is, after all, old fabric, and can not be expected to look like 'new'. It's important, too, how you wash your quilt. I often times wash mine in my washing machine, but NEVER agitate it...this is where the problems lie - fill your tub with water and some sort of gentle soap, and place your quilt on the water - allow it to sink to the bottom. You may, with your hands, swish it around, but never allow the machine to agitate it. Drain the water, fill with rinse water, and spin. The spinning cycle isn't harmful - only the agitation. If the water looks dirty, repeat the whole process, always with no agitation. I have many antique quilts, and this is the way I wash them all. To dry, don't put in the drier. I sometimes lay mine ACROSS 4 clothes lines, but never hang it below the lines, with pins. Sometimes, in summer, I take it outside and drape across my boxwood hedge. You could also put down a sheet on the grass and lay your quilt on this.
I also use a wonderful product called NANCY'S VINTAGE is a whitener made for anitque linens, laces and quilts....removed age spots and yellowing while protecting heirlooms. Color safe and nontoxic. It's a great product, and one I've used successfully, many times.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2008 at 11:10AM
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The yellowing doesnÂt bother me: the fabric was probably off white to begin with. ItÂs those darn brown spots that look like blood! They are so stark against the crisp blue embroidery and "white" background. ItÂs like a continual reminder that her work was not respected by her immediate family, and I want to make up for that. The fabric does not look at all worn or fragile: there are no thin areas or anything.

When I find the cleaner I was going to wash it in the bathtub but if spinning is OK that would certainly be easier.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2008 at 2:01PM
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I just machine washed four antique quilts. Two of them had horrible age spots. On these two, I first tried lemon juice, hydrogen peroxide and bleach for colors. Did not work. I then filled washing machine with cold water and quilt soap. Set it to gentle cycle. I covered a nearby bed with old shower curtain liners. I laid stained quilt on bed. I put a small amount of regular bleach in small bowl. I sprayed the spots with cold water, then I dipped a Q tip in bleach and then touched each age spot with it. I immediately put in washing machine after all spots were touched. Let set for 15 minutes then started washer. I lifted out gently so as not to break threads then laid on the shower liners to dry. Each quilt took a couple of days to dry but look beautiful. One quilt still had a few spots so I repeated whole procedure again on that quilt. Every tiny spot came out. The secret is to be fast so bleach isn't in fabric very long.
My quilts are all cotton and mostly white but one does have colored fabric applique. The spots on the colored fabric I left to last so bleach on them was for minimum length of time. Those old cotton quilts are stronger than we think.

The woman who wrote about mystery spots should, as someone else suggested, repair and quilt her antique before cleaning.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2013 at 9:04AM
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Thanks for the followup , Bobbie! I have yet to treat my quilt. Keep getting sidetracked. I bought the Orvus soap and long time ago. Funny, I just took the quilt out 2 days ago to put it on my bed for the summer. Maybe the quilt was summoning this thread?

    Bookmark   July 18, 2013 at 12:37PM
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One used to be able to find enzymatic boosters for laundry, but I haven't seen one in years. It might be something to try, and I'm thinking the only place I've seen anything like that lately is a pet supply store to remove organic stains from carpeting. If the stain is organic, it might be something to try. I've also stored fabrics for years and sometimes one finds a staple or straight pen in the pile of fabrics and they cause rust stains or blotches. Those are another issue and very difficult to remove. Often other stains, especially organic ones will eventually fade if the item is washed gently and sun-dried. The sun is an effective bleach. Also encourage you to try the same question on the quilting forum. There is a lot of collective knowledge there on handling old quilts.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2013 at 1:42PM
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Those mystery spots are from being stored in wooden chests which was the custom back in the day.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2013 at 1:09PM
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Take advice from your local fabric museum or auction house. Do NOT use chemicals on it.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 4:58PM
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