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Monday, September 7, 2009

Cleaning and Organizing Lace and Eyelet Trims.

Today, between gardening and having some dear friends over, I tackled a bit of the heirloom goodies. As I was thoroughly enjoying myself, it occurred to me this might be a good time for a post on how to clean old laces and other heirloom trims like eyelet and entredeaux. What I am going to put forth here is what works for me, without incident. If you have a treasured heirloom, and I have washed many, I hope my methods work for you, but do not claim to be any sort of expert here. This is simply what has worked for me, what I have learned from many other sewists, and what I thought was pertinent to what I am dealing with in my sewing world right now. We will begin with the no matter what no-nos:


OK, that's it for starters. Let's run thru the process. Assume here that all the info I give you refers to natural fibers, linens, cottons, and blends with synthetics, linens, and cottons. Rayons aren't included here.

* First soak and rinse out your laces in just plain clean water. This alone will remove a lot of the prelimanary soil. Once you have done that it is BIZ time.
* Biz is the heirloom sewist, lace collector's best friend. I get mine at K-Mart and it always seems to be way up on a top shelf, no matter what KMart I am in. I have a special Biz bucket, or actually a plastic storage container with a lid. Mix about a cup of Biz to two cups hot water and stir until dissolved. Once dissolved, add more hot water to your bucket. For really soiled items I would use a cup of Biz to a half bucket of water. Put in your laces. Let them soak overnight. If they are heavily soiled, let them soak a few more nights. I have soaked mine for up to a week, sometimes changing the Biz solution, sometimes not. It may take a few days. You can see in the pictures above how super white everything came out. We don't ever use bleach on these trims as it can never be totally removed and will continue to rot out your beautiful trim. I learned this the hard way. You don't want to do that. Yes, there are neutralizers for bleach, but now you get into the whole chemical thing. I have used them and they still smell bleach years later and then start feeling dry and fragile. So just don't go there with the bleach.
* Once you have decided that your lace is clean enough, it is rinse time. I rinse in cold water, rinse, rinse, and re-rinse again. It is very important that all soap is out of your lace. Cooties, moths, and other fabric hateful critters just love to eat soap and starch. So clean clear water, lots of it is the order of the day.
* Once rinsed lay your trims on a fluffy towel. Roll up the towel and press out the moisture. Unroll and now you are ready to dry.
* It is best to plan this for a sunny day as Mother Nature will help the process along. She will take out odors and move along the whitening. Up above you can see some laces draped thru a coat hanger on a post outside. Yes, some of the lace is on the ground. That's OK! The trick is to have grass underneath, not driveway gravel or mud. There are many who subscibe to the theory of putting such items straight out on the green grass in the sun on a sunny day. The theory is that there is some chemical interaction between the sunlight and grass that promotes whitening. I have done this. I am not sure it is nothing more than an urban legend, but at the least I don't worry about my lace hitting the grass.
* Leave your laces out in the sun but not till totally dry. Bring them in slightly damp and get ready to iron.
* Use a dry iron and a slightly damp lace. NO STARCH! Cooties and moths love to eat starch. Don't we all? Well, they are no different so don't give them any to eat. Just plain old ironing damp to dry.
* Now it is on to organization.

It dawned on me yesterday to fold my trims just like I fold my fabrics. I use a 5 inch ruler here but that is because it works for my containers. Simply fold the trim around the ruler and when all trim is on the ruler, just slide it out. This will give you trims wrapped to all the same sized. DO NOT wrap your trims around pieces of cardboard. The cardboard promotes staining and rotting so just don't use it. It is OK to sell a bias binding but for storing your precious laces, fugetabotit. Also, the temptation to pin the end of your trim must be dealt with. JUST DON'T DO IT! Pins can rust but even steel pins just get stuck in the yardage and almost rip the trim as you pull them out. You don't want to know how I know this.
Now it is on to storage. Per Magazine Maven Martha Stewart, who I personally think is just a blonde shill but whose opinions on all things household I respect, you can use plastic storage bins for your fabrics and heirlooms if they are not CRYSTAL CLEAR. I love those clear storage containers and use them for my threads and shoes, but for your special fabrics and laces you need to use the frosted plastic containers. There is some big chemical name for these but they are OK and don't put off damaging fumes for your lovelies.
You can see here how the trims lay very nicely in my little container. I use a five inch ruler to fold my trims instead of my 6 inch as it works perfectly for these little containers. I LOVE these containers. They are double decker and have slots to pull out the trims which I use for ribbon storage. I get them at Joann's at Christmas time as they are intended to store ribbons. Use that 50% coupon and you are good to go.

Next I take out my Ptouch. I love this little baby too. I label the containers with my Ptouch. I don't get into yardage but just what is in the box. This saves a lot of digging and I am able to logically group up the trims in the boxes.


Right now I have a ton more trims to iron and store. One of the eyelets I was ironing had a strange shape and the trim ran down the middle of the batiste. Then I found another strange shape, and another. The light went on and I realized and saw the seams. Ima had cut apart a dress to save the beautiful eyelet. I have the two sleeves, and the dress front and back. This is exactly what I would have done with the same situation, cut up the dress to save the beautiful trim. I swear I will channel this woman forever................Bunny


  1. Wow, that looks like a lot of work. But I bet it was fun! If I do another Chanel this winter, I will let you know!

  2. Wow, thanks for all the info. I agree about Martha S, BTW. Don't like her, but she does know her stuff (and/or have other experts who she goes to for the answers.)

    This is a very, very helpful tutorial; thanks for spending the time on it. And again, lucky you!

  3. Wow I just learned alot..but let me ask - I've used a weak solution of Oxy-Clean on old laces with pretty good results. Is Biz similiar or different?

  4. Excellent information!! I posted a link on Craft Gossip Sewing:


  5. Phyllis, Oxy Clean can do a good job but myself and most heirloom sewists have found Biz to be the best. It is different than Oxy. Biz is an enzyme product and its little enzymes break down the stains. I have found for my grandchildrens poopie mistakes nothing beats Oxy but for my antique laces, nothing beats Biz.
    Are you out there, Martha? I know you will second this.

  6. Bunny, that lace is such a treasure trove. Thank you for the step-by-step process of washing the lace. I never knew how to do it correctly and most likely have done it very badly. My MIL is completely addicted to bleach and I KNOW she has bleached my antique lace tablecloths before. But now I know what to do. THANK YOU!!!!

  7. How cool. Would never have thought to stack the eyelets like that. Great idea. Mine need some organzing. I have had really good luck with Biz. Oxy Clean is okay but I think Biz is better. Sometimes you have to soak something for several days to get it white. I have also used "Refurbish" that I have gotten from Sarah Howard Stone to be really good on OLD really yellowed trims and an even my own christening gown. The gown was yelllooooooooo and had some really set in formula or drool stains. It came out snow white. Sometimes if it is a really old lace or trim it is good to soak for a day or so in just plain water to rehydrate the natural fibers.

  8. Bunny, If you want, you can use sodium thiosulfate to neutralize chlorine. You can find this at pool supply stores. It's usually called "thio".

    What is the brand of the plastic boxes you use?


  9. Thanks for all of the great information and also for sharing with us your treasures from Ima. I love seeing and hearing about them.

  10. Thanks! My son-in-law's aunt sells antique linens, and she suggests using oxi-clean. What do you think about it instead of Biz? Or are they about the same?

  11. See my response to Phyllis. Oxy clean cleans by "oxygenating". Now I am not a chemist here, but here is a link to help you understand. It is a great product.

    Biz cleans in a different fashion, with ezymes. "Enzymes are very efficient catalysts for biochemical reactions. They speed up reactions". Here is a page on Biz:

    Biz and Oxy Clean are two very different product. I have removed age old yuk with Biz. It is definitely the product of choice for lace collectors and heirloom sewists.

    1. My 32 year old daughter just had her 3 mo. old baby Christened in the Christening dress she wore and quite a few of her 12 siblings wore. The dress was eyelet and lace , with the lace only slightly yellowed, and she soaked the whole outfit in the BIZ solution, from this site. The outfit looked brand new, gorgeous and we thank the author of this site so much. After saving something for so long, we have a new trend starting.

  12. Great post Bunny!!! I can just smell those trims from being in the sun!!! I love it!!

  13. I've got a box load of laces that are screaming for this treatment. Thank you for the instructions!

  14. I love reading your posts of tips and information you have proven to be helpful. Thanks for your hints.


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