Tuesday, December 22

Cleaning Antique Linens: Cottons and Linen

I call my laundry process the "Me & G" laundry system:  first part I do, last part Mother Nature takes over on a warm sunny day!   For any linens (linen and cotton) and lace follow these steps and your lovely antique linens will come to life again in shining beauty!   

Many items are best treated in a small bucket or tub first.  I do use my front loader washer often (gentle and hand wash cycles) depending on the item, but if they are at all delicate you'll want a lingerie bag to protect your piece from pulling.  

Bucket Cleaning

1.  Soak your item in cool, plain water for at least an hour - or two. Change the water often as you see it get greyish and yucky. After last dump, rinse out and squeeze out water.

2.  In warm water bucket add a gentle detergent, soak - squeeze - soak your piece for a couple hours more. I often use a small scoop of OxiClean and my favorite laundry detergent.  Whatever works best for your normal laundry will be fine. Don't over-use the quantity of cleaner.  It's better to use a small amount (pending the size of your bucket/tub) and then repeat as necessary.   

3.  Time is your friend in this process of cleaning. Old yellowing and old starches need time to loosen and lift.  Gentle squeezing by hand is enough to push the soaps/cleaners in and out of the weave & threads.

4.  After you've reached a preferred point of whiteness with spots gone, start a rinse process. See notes below about bleaching.

5.  Rinse till the cows come home!  Just dump soapy waters - squeeze - rinse in clean water.  I do this MANY TIMES until I no longer see soap residue in the water. Sometimes I'll do 5-6 rinses. For small pieces, hold in your hands directly under the faucet and squeeze/rinse. The water needs to be clear.  Old soap residue in a fabric does more harm than dirt!

6. Here is where the “G” part comes in: Sun it!  If you are fortunate to still have a backyard clothes line, let your linens dry in the sun. No line? Just put a large white cloth on the ground (or patio) and lay your item flat. (I actually prefer to lay mine directly on the grass when I am doing a longer sunning.) Be sure to do both sides.  

Here's a great secret for fine weight laces and small pieces:  dry on a pane of glass.  "Finger iron" as you lay it out.  You will be amazed when it is dry and you "peel it" off.   (I used to do this in my shop on the jewelry cases!  When I came in the next day I had a stock pile ready to go :)

7.  When ironing, make sure the fabric has been dampened with a water spray. Iron fully and only use a light spray starch at the very end - as a finishing touch. The spray starch adds a wonderful finish which is also protective.  Scorched starch will yellow - watch your iron heat.

Notes about Machine Washing
I do use my washing machine often when doing antique linens.  If you are lucky enough to have one of the newer style front loader spin washers, you can do the soaking part by bucket but then finish in your machine on a gentle or even a hand wash cycle.  Make sure the load is balanced (add other whites like pillowcases if necessary.) If you have lace on your item, still bag it to prevent pull. If it is just straight fabric with cotton eyelet trims, you don't need to bag it.

Even when doing a full hand washing process, I use the spin cycle of my own machine to really spin out the final soaps and water. Just "lay" your pieces around the tub (top loaders).   Just spin - no back and forth agitation.

Notes about Bleaching
Most old whites are cotton and respond quickly to a bleach bath.  If you decide you need an extra umph of whitening use a very small amount (less than 1/4 C in your hand washing tub) in hot water and just swish items for a few minutes.  You should use a spoon or laundry stick - not your hands. Chlorine works fast. Then dump the water and start rinsing. Again: rinse till the cows come home and no odor  is left in your fabrics.

Severe Dark Spots
Sometimes small dark brown (almost black) spots occur on antique linens as a result of oxidation over the years. These will NOT come out - be prepared to live with it. If you have rust, spot treat with a rust remover before washing.   It is a chemical reaction and works immediately.  If not - it's not rust.   Another great product to spot treat is hydrogen peroxide.  Spot treat and rinse well before full washing. 

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to email me.   If you have antique items you are in question about, send me a picture.

I've handled pieces of all shapes and sizes over the years - it's really not a "mystery" and I just urge folks to use good common sense.   Remember, our grandmothers had much less fancy equipment to use!  Cotton and linen are sturdy fabrics and clean well with appropriate care.  Be aware of the weave and needlework and just be gentle where needed. 

And last but not least: rinse till the cows come home

Me & G Laundress,

Friday, July 3

Antiquers Retire?

A funny thing has happened during the last 37 years of running a business:  I've discovered that I don't know how to retire!  No one has written a book yet on antique'rs and retirement.  I always thought there would be an obvious end point some day and I could walk on into that beautiful sunset and slip away in my kayak.   Such is not the case though.  Silly you say?  Well let me explain.

Most folks work for an employer during their career life and many of the lucky ones also get a change to build up some kind of monetary retirement fund.  My 401K is currently neatly stacked in a well maintained storage unit in banana boxes and on racks!   Wall Street never dreamed of having a bank account like this!   It requires a different kind of "transaction" process for sure.  What I may have once called "the end of the lot" over 20 years ago has now become a stock of choice.  Time is such a funny transmuter!

Could I run it into an auction?  Yeah, probably and I'd likely received an amount equivalent to the crash of 1929!  Because certain kinds of old items are of specific interest and value to specific people, the only way to liquidate these vintage goodies is to find that special person.   I like to call them kindred keepers.

Drum Roll - Welcome to the 21st Century of internet selling!  Not only can I find that special someone, I can do it on my own time!  Now the challenge is to be a good photographer, marketing guru, computer tech and creative online seller.  And that is in addition to all the older hats that a sole proprietor wears to operate a small business.  Sounds like a lot but it keeps the heart pumping and the brain intrigued.  What more could you possibly ask for?

Who ever thought retirement would be so much fun!  Oh I suppose there will be a day when I do call that auctioneer...but not in the immediate future.  It's fun learning new things and meeting people from all around the world.  I never would have dreamed 30 years ago that someone as far away as Australia would also love my vintage treasures!  That's very exciting!

Tuesday, June 16


As an eBay member, I received the letter below yesterday.  EVERYONE who wells online - in any venue - should be aware of the current proposal for taxing small business internet sales:  Remote Transactions Parity Act. 

    "Yesterday, Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT/3) introduced the Remote Transactions Parity Act, legislation that would impose burdensome remote sales tax collection and remittance requirements on Internet-enabled small businesses. If this legislation sounds a lot like the Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA), that’s because the two are strikingly similar.

Like the MFA, should the Remote Transactions Parity Act be passed into law, it will:
Compel small internet-enabled businesses to collect and remit sales tax to every remote jurisdiction across the country to which they may sell, regardless of where their business is physically located. There are over 9,600 sales tax jurisdictions across the country, all of which have unique rates and rules.

Additionally, the Remote Transactions Parity Act includes a weak small seller exemption which will be far too low for most Internet-enabled small businesses. The legislation phases down the exemption to just $1 million in annual receipts and, even worse, disqualifies businesses – regardless of size – that utilize an electronic marketplace like eBay.

For years, eBay has pushed policymakers to eliminate harmful tax burdens for businesses and consumers – and we continue to need your help. If you agree that this is bad legislation, click here to tell your representative that you oppose harmful tax laws that stifle business growth and harm consumers."

Because I operated a local store for many years, I fully understand the quandary of fairness in sales tax and the effect of internet tax free goods on local business shops.  Sales tax law in our country is backwards - it is charged according to where the product is shipped to: destination based.  I believe we need to shift the entire sales tax system to a point of sale base for sales tax jurisdiction.  
1 Business - 1 Jurisdiction
Other states should not have a claim on my work in my own state.  Furthermore it is inconceivable how a small business owner will be able to operate should the RTPA ever become law!  The expense, required permits, paper work, tax codes knowledge, etc will force many business owners to cease operation.

As an online seller, sales tax collection issues affect us all - regardless of size and/or location.  I encourage you to speak up now to your congressional reps in all houses.   

Friday, January 9

Is that Crochet?

Etsy Shop - Linens

Probably one of the most common vintage handmade laces for sale in internet shops is vintage crocheted lace.  The technique was an easy lace to make (in relative terms!) and, historically, many women at home could accomplish laces for their own decorative uses.

 Crochet is made using a crochet hook. The size of the lace work depends on two elements: 1) size of the hook and 2) size of the thread or cord used.  Smaller hooks and finer thread = very fine crochet patterns.  Most old crochet books include teaching techniques.

Photo shows just one format of crochet work - filet crochet stitches.

American Victorian and Edwardian era women embellished just about anything for the home or body with crochet laces!  From nightgowns to dresses to baby clothes to table linens and doilies to pin cushions to purses - you name it.  Instruction booklets have always been a popular item for home use and teaching.

Here are some examples of different objects with handmade crochet lace work. 

For those not completely familiar with the work, the patterns might look similar to other kinds of laces.  All of the following examples are machine work.  Note the carry lines in the enlargements.  These laces are not crochet work. 

machine laces
Exploring the world of any lace can pleasantly lead you into a lifetime of study!  There are as many ways to make a lace as there are stars in the sky! Crochet work is just one star.   Some of my favorite lace sites are noted in the side links bar.  Take a leap, grab a good book, hit that keyboard - your journey awaits!