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A Down & Dirty Guide to Care & Cleaning

Discussion in 'Care and Cleaning 2004 By Pastperfectvintage' started by pastperfect2, Nov 14, 2004.

  1. pastperfect2

    pastperfect2 Alumni +

    Part Deux - The Glamorous and Exciting World of Cleaning

    When handling your vintage, whether store stock or private collection, some guidelines that will help avoid problems:

    Wash your hands. Frequently. Consider purchasing white cotton gloves if you handle a lot of early textiles. Change gloves as they soil so you don‘t transfer dirt from one item to another.

    No ink pens , Use pencil in the work area if you are labeling tags .

    Don’t smoke, eat or drink in your work area. Accidents always happen.

    Remove sharp jewelry that can catch on , snag or tear textiles.

    Remember that food, flowers , fur and old woolens may bring insects into the work area.

    Keep your work area clean, especially the table top where you will be placing textiles.

    Now that you have your finds in your home or shop, this is a good time to sort out what needs cleaning, what needs repair and what needs no work at all.

    Let’s focus on cleaning.

    Let’s face some realities.

    There a many, many pieces of vintage clothing that are just too delicate for handling. We need to leave these alone.

    The vast majority of stains don’t come out. The solution to this is to leave that dress alone or live with it.
    Shattering and splitting can’t be solved. Same solution as above.

    Most older textiles will not tolerate washing or dry-cleaning, so you have to learn to live with flaws.

    Now, let’s talk about what we can do:

    Brushing. This just involves removing surface dust and dirt. And it’ s amazing what a difference this can make. I have 3 brushes I use -
    a small, very, very soft bristle brush,( I think it was a mushroom scrubbing brush in another life - an artists brush would work as well) for delicate pieces and smooth textures such as satin
    a stiffer bristle suede brush for suede shoes and encrusted dirt on tougher, newer textiles
    and then a lint brush. Now I do have one of the sticky tape roller lint brushes and this is fine for woolens and sturdy textiles. But never use these on older or fragile fabrics. The tape will grab your fabric and tear it. It will also grab beads and any loose trim and pull it right off.

    Vacuuming. Jonathan mentioned this in his Shoe Workshop. A low grade brush attachment, can do wonders. With fragile garments, vacuum over a screen so that you don’t pull the fabric into the vacuum. Plastic screening will work, be sure to get the edges smooth or cover them with bias tape so the screening won’t catch at the garment.

    Airing. Many a smelly garment has hung out to air around here. If it works, it’s the gentlest way to get rid of odors. This can also let any wrinkle relax before tackling them with steam.
  2. pastperfect2

    pastperfect2 Alumni +

    Washing - this and dry-cleaning are The Big Ones. Lets start with a definition of term. When I say wash, I mean hand wash and lay flat to dry. With the exception of newer , say 1980s an forward, garments, I would never put a vintage textile in the washer and dryer. It’s too rough. The agitation and tumbling are just too much, plus the heat. Andyou can't control that environment.

    What Not To Wash:

    Velvet. Any velvet.
    Brittle or powdering fibers
    Moiré,( the pattern will disappear)
    Glazed cottons ( the glazing will wash off)
    Silk embroidery ( dye runs!)
    Cotton embroidery that isn’t dye fast
    Painted surfaces
    Leather or feathers
    Sequins ( they can melt)
    Garments with a combination of fabrics (e.g. a cotton and velvet dress, a lined suit with horsehair construction). Here you have the potential for different rates of shrinkage, dye runs and many older interfacing used a lot of starch, which will wash away.
    Printed silks -many of these are not dye fast

    Now washing is irreversible. So you have the potential to ruin the garment. Rule No 2 comes in play here . When in Doubt, Don’t. There is a corollary to this rule I didn’t mention - When it’s So Bad You Can’t Keep It In The House You Can Wash It.

    Now please understand. I am not advocating wholesale washing of all textiles. If you have Museum quality or important textiles, say a 1920s Chanel, an ca 1800s silk dress, or an Charles James evening gown, please, please take them to a pro.

    Having said all that, I have washed many items with success. Cottons, linens, solid color silks and some woolens . Now realize, all you may accomplish with washing is returning garment to a clean , neutral state. You may not change the appearance of the garment at all.

    So if you are sure you want to wash, here’s what to do:


    You will want to check for dye fastness. Take a wet Q-tip and test in an inconspicuous place. Blot with a white towel. See if any color transfers. Then test with a bit of the soap you will be using. If all is clear - off you go.

    Remove any metal parts or buttons, including covered buttons with metal shanks. These can rust.
    Remove shoulder pads, these can leave huge rings as the garment dries.
    Remove buttons or parts with rhinestones - the rhinestones can be ruined in water.
    If the problem is that old hooks have left rust marks, you really need to remove the hooks, or you will just get more rust.
    Fasten all remaining fasteners so they don’t catch on the dress while washing.
    Get some plastic window screening from your hardware store. Cut 2 pieces the size of your washing area, say a bath tub. Cut the edges so they are nice and smooth. Stitch these together by hand or machine down one side. Place this screening open on a table like a book. Place the garment in this, laid out as smoothly as possible, If you have two small sam color garments, such as white cotton Edwardian blouses, you can do them at the same time. Close the screen and either safety pin or hand baste it closed.

    Run your water in the tub - somewhere in the 80 - 115 degree range is good, although I have used hotter water on heavily stained white cotton. You will need just enough water to cover the garment. I use Orvus for almost everything, although I have read that Ivory Soap will work as well. But I will use an oxyclean type detergent with the Orvus when the garment is cotton and heavily stained. I never ruse it on silk or wool.

    When the detergent is dissolves, lower the screen with garment into the water. Press it down gently to remove the air under it. Let this soak. I have been told 45 minutes will neutralize the garment. But with sturdier items, I have left it in longer. With heavily soiled items, I have also changed the water and soaked again.

    Do not agitate, rub or swirl around. Just let it lay there.

    Now - Drain. Rinse by running clean barely lukewarm water, press down lightly to push the water through the textileand drain again. Repeat the rinse at least 4 times. When I asked the curator at The KY Historical Society how clean the water needed to be at the final rinse , she told me: ” So clean you can drink it“ . This last rinse should be distilled water for a really good textile. Actually, if you have a really fine peice, distilled water would be great for the whole prcess.

    After the last Drain - lay clean towels over the garment and roll it up. This will take a lot of the moisture out and help you transport to the drying area.

    Lay clean towels on a flat surface large enough to lay out your garment as flat as possible. Unroll the screen and remove the wet towel from the tub. If the garment has become wadded or folded over, open the screen, and while leaving the garment on the table, adjust it to have as few folds an wrinkles a possible. Close the screen. If you have pets, place a towel over the screen. Let dry.

    In humid months, I use window fans to circulate the air and help the garment dry more quickly. You can also change the damp towels to dry ones to speed this up.

    Never, ever hang older textiles to dry. The fibers are weakest when wet. And gravity can be so very cruel.

    Steaming or Pressing.

    Steamiomg is gentler and often much more effective. You will use a good steamer over and over again. It'ss best for velvets, satins, brocades, suits and ocats. Pressing when needed is best done on the coolest temp that will do some good and from the wrong side of the fabric. If you can get to the wrng side a press cloth will protect the surface of the garment from the hard metal plate of the iron.

    Crepe and chiffon can be permanently changed by steam, so a coolish iron on the wrong side or with press cloth may be your best choice with these.

    Avoid pressing dirty fabircs. It just grinds the soil into the fibers and makes it even harder to remove.

    If you do press, be careful with your motion. When sliding the iron around you can catch threads and lace with the point of the iron. An up an down motion is safer.

    When steaming, avoid letting the hot metal head come in direct contact with the fabric. I usually steam from the wrong side and have found this works quite well, particularily with velvet and satin.

    PersonalPursuits likes this.
  3. dibs2002

    dibs2002 Registered Guest

    Hollis can I iron my silk blouse? I washed it, laid it flat to dry, and now it is quite stiff (looks like the oil & vinegar came out though - yay!)

    I also have a 1960's crepe dress that I washed in the washer. Can I iron that? I think it shrunk a bit but ironing may flatten it out. (No, it's not like a museum piece or anything).

  4. pastperfect2

    pastperfect2 Alumni +

    Washing Machine!!!!!! I just keeled over.

    Yes, you can press. I would do so on the wrong side of both pieces. And with the coolest setting that will do some good. You can steam the silk , but go very light on the steam with the crepe.
  5. pastperfect2

    pastperfect2 Alumni +

    It's Dry-Cleaning Time

    I must admit I am an anti-Dry-cleaning gal. So bear that in mind. I just have not found it to be effective for most vintage clothing.

    The Pros:
    You can dry-clean items that can‘t be washed.
    They do the pressing
    It can be effective on oil based stains.

    The Cons:
    It is harsh, harsh, harsh on delicate and old textiles
    It causes a lot shattering and splitting
    It smells
    It doesn’t remove body odors or armpit stains
    It is costly
    It is an irremediable process
    If the pressing is incorrect or flawed, it is usually permanent
    And about 80% if the time, it doesn’t remove the stains or soiling.

    Having said that, what garments would I consider dry-cleaning if they were visibly soiled?

    Modern textiles, sturdy woolens and crepes from the 1940s to the present, some velvets and sturdy manmade fibers from the 1960s to the present. You are probably safe with garments from the 1970s to the present.

    What Not to Dry-clean?
    Anything pre 1940s. It just isn’t worth the risk
    1940s to 1960s Silks - It can be risky.
    Anything that appears delicate or fragile
    Anything painted or with old leather or feather trims.
    Wool suits and pants that have silk lapels, trimss or linings - the silk can shatter .
    Bias cuts - the process with often takes these permanently out of shape
    White cotton and linen - these can come back dirtier than when you left them

    Now if you choose to dry-clean, some things to do. Try out cleaners with modern garments until you find a good one. Take all glass or breakable buttons off. Remove shoulder pads. Note to the cleaners if there are belts or scarves. Ask you cleaner if they can clean fragile items in mesh bags. Do the pressing yourself. Ask them when they change the cleaning fluid and do your vintage when it’s fresh. Ask them to clean white and light colored items with like colors.

    Spot Cleaning

    This is a tough one. It is so tempting. And there are a ton ( Zout, Dryel, Carbona) of cleaners on the market. But remember, they are meant for contemporary textiles. And many a drycleaner will beg you not to use them, as they often are ineffective and complicate the cleaning process.

    Spot cleaning has Big Drawbacks:
    Scenario one - you end up with the stain and the solvent making a dark ring around the original spot.
    Scenario 2 - the garment is evenly, but not noticeably soiled. The spot cleaner then leaves a nice clean spot in an otherwise even field of slight soil.
    Scenario 3 - the cleaner is too harsh and you get a hole.

    I have tried out some of the products available on unimportant items, but the only real success I have had was on rough textured wools. Satins and shiny textures, even wool gab, always get a tide ring and velvet doesn’t respond well to the water base. I have used Carbona’s wax and crayon cleaner on those unfortunate red wax prices you sometimes see, but it did leave a ring on the lining. I did feel that wasn’t any worse than the red wax pencil.

    So generally, spot cleaning is best left to a pro. If you must experiment, do so on garments that fall into the - 'I have nothing to lose' category.
  6. pastperfect2

    pastperfect2 Alumni +

    Now - it’s onto the Fabulous World of Mold and Insects!
    We will take on storage issues a bit later.

    What do you do if you already have mold? Lower the humidity in your space. Improve the air circulation. You can take items with mold outside on a sunny day and expose them to light for about an hour. Or, according to one of my texts, you can use a blow dryer on low setting about 12” from the surface, then vacuum the textile. If it is washable ( see above!) then you can wash .

    Insects - these are likely to be moths, carpet beetles and silverfish. Moths and beetle like protein - silk , wool, fur, and feathers. They also like soil. You will usually just see the results rather then the actual adult critter. Silk cocoons, holes, and tunneling will tell you they have been there. Silverfish like starch ( think paste and sizing) . Vacuuming can help but is not the total answer. Cedar will repel, but not kill . Freezing is the easiest and most practical thing to do.

    Freezing textiles:
    <i> In Preserving Textiles a Guide for the Non Specialist </i> , Harold Mailand and Dorothy Alig suggest:

    Fold or wrap the garment in acid free tissue or muslin to absorb any condensation. And them seal it in plastic sheeting. Eliminate as much air as possible and tape it closed with a sticky tape such a duct tape that will stick at freezing temps. The bag must be completely sealed.

    It must be brought form room temp to freezing quickly so the insects cannot adapt to the temperature change. They recommend freezing for one week to ensure all insects and stages of insect are killed. When removing the garment from the freezer, allow it to come to room temp slowly . This may take a day. Some condensation will form on the outside of the plastic - this is okay. Do not open the package prematurely as condensation may happen on the textiles When it is room temperature, remove form the plastic, and examine, then brush or vacuum away any insect debris.

    Don’t freeze very brittle materials , such as glass, metal , or ceramics. Some plastic garment components are vulnerable to damage as well.
  7. dibs2002

    dibs2002 Registered Guest

    Yes Hollis, I threw it in the washer with a bunch of 70s polyester, which all came out beautifully! LOL.

    Thanks for the advice. If I get around to ironing before this workshop is over, I will report back!

  8. pastperfect2

    pastperfect2 Alumni +

    So far I have been focusing on garment. Let’s look at hats, shoes and purses just for a bit.

    As Jonathan already noted, but lets reiterate, shoes will respond well to brushing, vacuuming and a clear polish ( for smooth leathers). Spot cleaning and suede cleaners really aren‘t effective.

    Hats also respond well to brushing, but be careful vacuuming It is very easy to damage hat trims and feathers. I have taken a blow dryer on low fan and no heat and ‘dusted ‘ large hats with ostrich plumes.

    Purses - again, a brush on suede and saddle soap or polish on smooth leather can be very effective. Fabric purses can be brushed or vacuumed inside and out. If they have stains or soil - best left alone. Because you will get a ring, and there won't be much you can do.

    Beaded bags - take care. If you vacuum, be sure to use a screen as beads can easily be swept away. If you brush, use a very soft brush and do this on a sheet of muslin or acid free paper so you can see if any beads come off and you can rescue them.
  9. Jonathan

    Jonathan VFG Member

    Hollis, I thought I would just stick my nose in for a second, only because just today I was speaking with an old friend of mine who works as a conservator and her speciality is preventative care of textile and ethnographic collections. I happened to ask her about the freezing method once again for my own clarification and she reminded me of the most effective method, as well as a new method which is now being used by many museum conservators.
    First of all the freezing method. What is key is in the sudden shock to the system of the insects and their larvae. It is vital to freeze the item as quickly as possible and again to bring them back to room temperature as quickly as possible. To be on the safe side, it should be repeated, so that the item in question is frozen quickly for between 1 day and 1 week, brought up to room temperature as quickly as possible fore 1 - 3 days, and then frozen once again. This ensures the destruction of the larvae.

    Another method which has been experimented with just recently and which is proving to be even easier is a heating method. This method raises the temperature of the article in question as quickly as possible for about 4-5 hours, which essentially cooks the larvae but is less injurious to the clothing item. The best method is to once again wrap the item in a plastic and put it outside in an area where the suns beats down and creates a hot spot. Put the article under heavy black plastic, which absorbs the the heat and shields the article from damaging UV rays from the sun. One afternoon in this hot spot should kill anything alive in the boots. Moths can adapt to freezing, which is why it is imperative to freeze them as quickly as possible - to shock them into death before they have time to go into a hibernation mode, but in the heat, they can't adapt and die more effectively.

    So, there we have a state of the art method just being used now by many museum conservators and probably easier for many who don't have efficient enough freezers or cold enough winters to try the freezing method.
  10. pastperfect2

    pastperfect2 Alumni +

    Thank you for that Jonathan - That is excellent!

    And fascinating. And it is so much more practical for most of us in the milder climates. It isn't that common for us in KY to have a week long hard freeze.
  11. Hattysattic

    Hattysattic VFG Secretary

    hello! - first off this is so interesting and (obviously) useful, thank you!

    i have a ton of questions as although i am not new to selling vintage i think i have erred on the side of caution for too long and not attempted to clean the majority of things (to begin with i was scared of ruining even the simplest cotton dress, and would rather wear/sell as is than risk irreperable damage! )

    as i sell more i am slowly tackling more (only one real disaster in 2 years now!) and even buying things that i previously would have seen as lost causes. the freezing technique is something i intend to try - i have an empty chest freezer in the shed ready! - i just wanted to ask when do moths hatch? is there a season? or is that a silly question!

    and also i know it's backtracking a little but i am terrified of chiffon overlays on dresses and would love to know what you'd recommend when they really need cleaning.

    thank you so much - am following intently

  12. dibs2002

    dibs2002 Registered Guest

    Speaking of chiffon overlays...

    How would you fix the shoulders of a dress with a chiffon overlay? I have one that is frayed in the shoulder seams. Is it difficult?

  13. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    Hollis, I am learning a lot!

    I have a wedding dress. Not as old as some of the items that you come acrossed.

    Anyways, the whole process of "gown preservation" mystifies me. Especially since sometimes they aren't really "preserved" and end up yellowing. I was thinking, if i can take care of vintage, why can't i store it myself.

    Mine is "spot clean only." (i know that was dumb, but i loved the dress and bought it at consignment so it would be more one of a kind) The bodice is dotted with faux pearls with a sequin behind each one. It has a huge built in crinoline, so i have it hanging in my closet inside out and by the waist band so the shoulders are not stretched out, and it has been that way since after the wedding.

    Can i steam this do you think? There are no stains whatsoever, but it was 90 degrees for the outdoor ceremony, (air conditioning for the reception), so it would have been exposed to mild perspiration.

    If i were to steam it and then store it acid free tissue, or store it in a muslin or cotton bag, would that do the trick for keeping it nice instead of taking it to be "preserved".

    I have heard of people even taking very old dresses to be "preserved"....is it just a farce to get more money when brides are throwing money at things anyways and whats a few hundred more...or is this something that you advocate? Or better yet...what can we do ourselves with some common sense?

    Heck...maybe i will put it on a dress form in my office ha ha. but that might be a little...well..space prohibitive and not as protected...

  14. pastperfect2

    pastperfect2 Alumni +

    Hatty - I do believe Moths are a year round event. Nasty little things.
    If the chiffon is a manmade or nylon, you shoud be fine with whatever cleaning techiques you are using for the rest of the dress.

    If it's silk - and you can tell by feel - it can shrink when wet. So I would wet clean only if it's a disaster as it is. You may have to rehem the chiffon to be even, and rehem the underlayer to match. That's a lot of work.

    Debs - if the two fabrics are seamed together as one, you can open the seam, shift the chiffon a bit and restitch along th original line. If the chiffon is a completey separate layer, you can handle it on its own. But if it's a garment where the shoulders are separate, but the neckline and or armhole are finished together with say a collar, sleeves or binding, that is a bit more involved as you will have to open the armhole to get to the chiffon shoulder seam. If that involves taking a sleeve off, that may be a job for a pro. If it's just a facing, you should be able to take that off and restitch that fairly easly. Binding is tricky to have look good when you alter it, so that might be a job for a pro as well.

    Chris - the short answer is yes you can preserve this dress yourself and the truth is anybody can, really. It's not brain surgery.

    You will need to spend a bit on some supplies, but it will be a better job than many places do and will cost a lot less than they charge.

    If you don't mind, thats'a topic I was going to cover on Thursday. But go ahead and get that dress steamed up!
  15. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    thanks Hollis. No, I don't mind you discussing it later :) now to go get a steamer LOL
  16. pastperfect2

    pastperfect2 Alumni +


    Warning - I may not be a conservator, but I have been a proffesh seamstress and draper/patternmaker for 25 years. So I do have this club in my bag.

    Now that you have your fab find or two home and clean, let’s finish getting get in good shape. But before we go too far, if you are seller, I do want to state that any repairs that involve replacement of origiinal pieces, e.g. new buttons, need to be stated at point of sale.

    If you either collect or deal in vintage clothing, I heartily recommend you acquire basic sewing skills. I know - you avoided Home Ec like the plague. But some basic skills will save a lot of time and hassle, not to mention cash.

    A course at the local fabric store may be available, or self taught skills can be had by picking up an old Vogue or Singer How to Sew text in a used bookstores. Stitching techniques haven’t changed - a slip stitch in 1919 is a slipstitch now.

    Tools you need:
    Sharp needles - the finest and smallest eyed you can get.
    A needle threader for those of us who don’t see as well as we used to
    Wax to run the thread through to keep it from knotting
    A pair of small sharp snip type scissors
    A small sharp seam ripper
    Hig quality , thin, sharp pins. I prefer glass headed pins as they are easier on the fingertips and easier to find when done

    The main thing is to use sharp and fine needles and pins as they will make smaller holes in the fabric and will penetrate easily.

    Some guidelines - always try to match the existing thread of the fabric, which may be quite a different color than the material. Be gentle with the fabrics- no tugging . Match any hooks, snaps, etc in type, size and color.

    There are quite a few basic repairs that can easily be managed :
    Reinforcing loose buttons, hooks, snaps, etc.

    Stitching popped seams - be sure to follow the original stitching line

    Reattaching loose hems.

    Restoring hems to he original length when they have been

    Restoring hems to the original length when they have been shortened requires a judgment call. If the shortened hem ha s left a dirt or fold line, you are better off leaving is as is.

    Re-tacking facings and shoulder pads.

    Holes are more involved. If the garment is old enough or of enough interest to warrant it, the best thing is to match the fabric and invisibly stitch a small piece from the back. No visible thread is the goal. This is something you might do on an 1890s print dress, but wouldn’t bother with on a 1950 house dress.
    Patches placed on the outside just look bad and are very distracting. You may be able to find a small bit of fabric in a seam allowance. Match the direction of the weave and the pattern.

    Missing buttons and fasteners - there several ways to go here. If the garment is older and the buttons are of great interest, leave it as is.

    If all the buttons or hooks are gone, find replacements in the right size, and period. Modern buttons just don‘t cut it. Neither do modern hooks on an 1850s bodice. Plastic buttons on an 1881 dress ( I have seen it!) just don’t work and are a waste of time.

    If most of the buttons are gone, try replacing them , but keep the original ones with the garment as a record.

    Tears - smaller tears can be reinforced from the back by hand sewing a thin , sturdy fabric such as organza to the garment and arranging the edges a they were, then stitching them down with small, discreet stitches in a matching thread. If you can, match not only the color, but the fiber of the thread.

    Some people do small darts in the fabric to hide the tear. This still shows and distorts the lay of the fabric. It' s not the best solution.

    Traditionally, cotton garments were darned when they developed holes and tears. If you are good at darning and patient enough to do a good job, you might give this a try.

    Moth holes - these take reweaving which is a job for a pro. If you want to give this try and do a little practicing on new garments, here are some suggestions.

    You will need excellent lighting and most likely a magnifying glass. You also need tons of patience. This is Zen sewing. Threads are unraveled from seam allowances or hems, and threaded through a short needle using a needle threader. Since any thread you get from the seam allowance will be short, this has to be done frequently.
    These are then literally woven in each direction of the grain, working from the back of the fabric. For this to look good, the weaving must follow the grains very closely.

    NOTE: Some fabrics cannot be rewoven- sheers such as organza, chiffon and organdy will show all the work. Velvet, taffeta and satin are a no go as well. Changeables or multi color twills are very difficult. The best results even from a professional are on rougher textured wool weaves and tweeds, or coarser weaves of linen and cotton.

    Reinforcing loose trims. Duplicate the way it was sewn on to start. Many trims, especially from the turn of the century and before were sewn on from the back with largish stitches, so while secure, they seemed to lay on the garment effortlessly.
  17. pastperfect2

    pastperfect2 Alumni +

    Repairs, cont.

    It’s important that in doing repairs, you are restoring the garment as it is was, not redesigning it or trying to ‘improve’ it. Those type attempts are most often quite obvious and devalue the piece.


    These are for the adept hand sewer with time and patience. Hand sewn buttonholes are an art. Directions are available in many older sewing texts. A great deal of practice will be required before attempting these on any garment you care about. Do purchase the correct thread - buttonhole twist is still avaible in some shops.

    Added panels and size alterations

    Many older garments have had panels added as the original or subsequent owners need more room. If added panels are distracting or a non matching fabric, these can be removed and the original seam lines restored by hand sewing. If it’s an older piece, you want to document what you have done.

    If a garment has been taken in or let out , usually on the sides, the question is: Can you put it back with out the old alteration lines showing?
    If a line of needle holes will be visible, it may be best to leave this alone.

    Beading. This requires matching beads, a beading needle and more patience. You may be able to steal beads from the seam allowance or hem or an older garment in poor condition.

    Most of the time, the losses will be on Victorian/Edwardian dresses or 1920s gowns. You must tie off the ends of the existing beads, or stitch these beads down at least an 1” back from the missing area. The difficulty is the on the older garments, the thread holding the beads on is rotting. If the more you handle it, the worse it gets - best left alone.

    On 20s dresses, the beads were usually machine stitched on with a chain stitch and can all come off with a slight tug, so handl ethese gently. .You must match the shape, size and color of the bead and the spacing of the beads. If you aren’t sure where they were sewn on , lift the fabric to the light and you will almost always be able to see the old needle holes.

    As you may note, I haven’t mentioned Fusibles, such as Stitchwitchery, Wonder Under or Iron On Tape etc. Some people use these to stabilize weak areas. Some use this stuff to iron on fabric behind holes.

    It’s only my opinion, but I hate them. To me, they are a detriment to the garment and devalue it.

    They stiffen the area where they are used, they aren’t removable and so are a permanent change, and They Show, leaving a ghost around the edges. Iron on tape is the worst. I have removed this by steaming the garment and gently working the stuff off. But it is a dicey deal. Better to keep the hole intact than use this stuff.

    I think I will save my thoughts on major restorations, reinforcement and replacement until later in the week as those projects are for the advanced seamstress.
  18. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    Speaking of repairs...a little backtracking as it is purses...

    I have had requests for information on repairing the metal mesh and alumesh purses, as well as the earlier similar mesh purses. I personally would be hesitant to even try. Do you recommend that people look more to someone in the jewelry field - an experienced vintage repair person in that realm vs the clothing accessory field to find a proper solution, or does it really take someone who is a master at that and the person that is handy but has never done it should not touch it?
  19. pastperfect2

    pastperfect2 Alumni +

    Regarding machine sewing on older textiles.

    I generally prefer hand sewing as it is gentler on the fibers and much easier to remove. If you are re-stitching seams on newer and post 1920s garments, machine sewing may be alright.

    Several things you can do - instead of machine backstitching each end, take a hand needle and thread the bobbin thread through to the same side as the needle thread and hand tie this off. Use the longest length stitch you can that will lay well. Then if there is a need so take the stitching out, it can be with a lot less strain to the fabric.

    If a garment was originally hand sewn, you really must hand sew any repairs. I purchased an 1837 silk gown where the skirt seams had all been re-stitched by machine. I felt duty bound to take it all out and resew by hand. I must say, at least the stitches were long and easy to remove.

    Shortened hems
    If the garment is older, say pre 1930s, be careful. Don’t pull the hemstitching, but cut the threads and remove very short segments at a time. You can tear old taffetas and silks by pulling the thread.
  20. pastperfect2

    pastperfect2 Alumni +

    On chain metal and mesh purses, I do think the best course is a jewelry repair person or a specialist.

    Now if I were taking a purse in to a jeweler, I would tend toward the small, older shop where the owner may have seen this sort of work before. I would also ask if they have done this type repair, and if they had any examples of their work available.

    Be prepared to pay for quality work.

    Now as for beaded bags, you really need a specialist. Many were crocheted and you have know what you are doing.

    I have been told by a friend who can do the work ( it's beyond tedious) that the French cut steel bead bags really can't be repaired.

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