How to take care of lace the old-fashioned way

How to take care of lace, the old-fashioned way

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The care of lace: Cleaning your lacy trimmings: Tips from 1910

Los Angeles Herald (California) December 18, 1910

Now that lace, in varying degrees of expensiveness — from the 50 cent a yard variety to the rare pieces that cost hundreds of dollars — is used so extensively in my lady’s wardrobe, the home renovating of this flimsy trimming becomes a necessary part of the housekeeper’s knowledge.

Only the careful supervision and care our grandmothers exercised over their fine laces have preserved them for our use on gala day frocks, and following in the footsteps of our ancestors we, too, can keep our laces in good condition.

Quaker lace 1913

Many women are doubtful about sending their laces to the cleaner — and when all is said and done, the necessity is not there, for any woman of average intelligence can clean her own laces, all that is needed being patience and care.

Always remember that all laces, no matter of what sort, should be gently handled. There should be no pulling or rubbing or hard shaking. Then, too, soap must never be rubbed on lace, as it spoils the color — instead, use soapy suds made with pure white soap and hot water.

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It is always beat to avoid washing lace unless it becomes a necessity. At any rate, try first the dry cleaning processes. One good way is to cover the lace with common everyday corn starch flour, wrap it up in a clean white cloth and lay away for a week, then take out, shake and brush, and it is fresh and clean.

Some people use flour for a dry bath. Sift a quart of flour into a bowl, dip the lace and squeeze — not rub — with the hands. After a good shaking, the dirt will be removed.

Antique 1890 Bloomingdale's catalog page 31

Still another method is to lay the lace out evenly on clean white paper, cover it with magnesia, then put another paper on top. Leave it inside the leaves of a book for two or three days, when it will look as fresh as when new. White lace, after cleaning, is always better for being kept in blue paper.

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When lace must needs be washed and there comes a time when dry cleaning will no longer answer, soak it first in boiling water in which borax has been dissolved. Then make a lather of good white soap and hot water and, taking the lace from the water in which it has been soaking, squeeze it in the lather until clean.

Never rub it, and if fine, either wrap around a bottle or baste carefully on cloth. If the lace is not perfectly clean, make another lather and repeat the process, at last rinsing it in clean water until all of the soap is removed.

If the lace is pure white, a little bluing in the water will help the color, in ordinary lace when stiffening is desired dip it in water in which rice has been boiled, or when pressing sponge on the wrong side with rice water.

It is said by some professional cleaners that old lace should be boiled for several hours with a change of water occasionally. This, of course, is when the lace has become discolored by age.

Old lace

To secure a nice color, the lace, quite wet, is exposed on a slab to the rays of the sun until dry, then a little clean soapy water is thrown over it to keep the lace damp.

The process is repeated for two or three days, turning the lace now and then. In this way, the color is restored. Rinsing in skimmed milk is said to impart to real lace the desired soft creamy tint so much desired.

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Several thicknesses of flannel should be used for pressing the lace, and the iron should not come in contact with the lace, but the pressing be done between clean white cloths. When half ironed, remove the cloths and carefully pull out all of the points and loops, then cover with the muslin again and iron until quite dry, pressing hard to bring out the pattern.

Antique 1890 Bloomingdale's catalog page 16

Honiton lace should not be ironed, but put under a weight on clean white paper after being washed, blotting paper giving the best results.

Valenciennes lace is best cleaned if folded in regular lengths, sewed in a bag of fine linen, and soaked in olive oil for ten hours. After this, the sack should be boiled in pure white soap suds for fifteen minutes. Rinse well in rice water and iron under muslin.

It is well to remember after washing your lace jabots or collars to stretch them out on the ironing board and stick pins in the edges, stretching well as you go and pinning down each point carefully. In this way, the shape of the collar is kept, and when dry it will look like new, needing no ironing. Fine lace handkerchiefs may be treated in the same way, the center only being ironed.

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