Old Lace

Saturday, January 15, 2011
Unashamedly, I love old lace. I am especially drawn to old crocheted edgings and doilies. Maybe because I crochet edgings and doilies and know the work involved in making them. I simply cannot leave them behind when I find them. Recently when I was digging thru my seasonal goodies looking for Valentine’s themed things I found a pink doily that I had stored away last summer. It is a garage sale find. I think I paid .50¢ for it. I rarely am asked more than that for these beauties.

Since I needed to wash and starch this it before it could go on my table I thought I’d share a couple thoughts on the care of old lace.

Old lace must be handled with the greatest of care because it is fragile in nature. Age weakens the threads so even the gentlest agitating while washing can cause a break and I don’t even want to think of the damage that can be done by harsh detergents and bleach. No machine washing. The way I clean them is to use warm, soapy (homemade laundry soap but Dawn dishwashing liquid is also very good for this purpose) water in a wide-mouth canning jar.

Tuck the lace inside the jar and simply turn it around and shake it. Rinse using the same method and clear water.

Do not wring or squeeze the wet lace as you can really stress the threads.

Instead lay flat on a towel and roll it up. Gently squeeze the roll. Unroll and allow to dry flat. When almost dry press with a warm iron remembering to put a piece of muslin between the iron and the lace.

Some crocheted pieces really need starching or stiffening so the items will hold shape. There are many recipes for “stiffeners” including some using glue, sugar, flour and shellac. Avoid those. I use old-fashioned laundry starch. Although I have heard of people using spray starch, I don’t see how you can get the same penetration of starch in the threads. You can buy laundry starch in both powdered or liquid form although I have to say that the powdered starch is getting harder to find. Too bad because it really is the best product. Some day I need to do a post on all the wonderful products you used to be able to buy and now cannot. I starch between hard and medium, which gives the doily nice body but doesn't feel like it is too rigid. Using liquid starch, that is a solution of 1/3 starch and 2/3 water. Use the same method as above for wringing out and drying but use rust-proof pins to block your doily into shape.

Stop by again this next week to see what my plan is for these beauties!

Sharing at Beverly's Pink Saturday, Laurie's Favorite Things , Marty's Tabletop Tuesday and Lady Katherine's Tea Time Tuesday. Please visit these inspiring ladies and their lovely blogs.


  1. Barbara said...:

    It is very beautiful, and where you put it makes it show off well, thanks for sharing, hugs Barbara

  1. You had my attention RIGHT OFF. I'm a Lace-aholic. AND I'm proud of it!!! The ladies that made these wonderful treasures have been short changed OTHER than people like us WHO LOVE THEIR and APPRECIATE Their Work! I have trunks of them and LOVE THEM ALL!!!
    Thank you for this wonderful post,
    Hugs to you,

  1. Olive Cooper said...:

    I love love it. I have a lot of old lace that my cousin gave me. Thanks for the tip about the jar. ♥O

  1. Mimi said...:

    16 years ago, believe it or not, I fractured my back while simply sorting laundry. I had squatted down and was reaching to the left to grab two towels, and then snap, crack and that's all she wrote. Two compression fractures later, I was in bed for weeks! I had to do something while recuperating, so I crocheted a doily. My daughter has it now, and it is the only one I have ever made. Each little stitch.. How I appreciate what others have done and continue to do. They are BEAUTIFUL! My back is better now, and I love arranging all kinds of things at home and in my office on antique doilies.

  1. Beth said...:

    Very pretty lace!Thanks for the lesson on washing it I have some old lace that needs washing!

  1. So pretty! I've only ever crocheted one doilie and it was far from perfect, but I love it anyway. My oldest sister was great at crocheting using the tiny thread. She made doilies and also angels. I only have a couple of pieces of her work.

    Thanks for reminding us of how we should care for these delicate treasures.


  1. Kathleen said...:

    Beautiful! I have a crocheted bedspread that is 40 yrs old that dh's aunt made for us. I can't bear to get rid of it, so it sits in a box in the basement!

  1. Ann said...:

    I have alot of my Grandmother's lace and crocheted doilies so I appreciate the care tips!

  1. Lynn said...:

    Your blog is wonderful, Gail, and the tips you shared on caring for vintage lace is so helpful. And I loved your post about your dishes. God is so faithful and GOOD. What a sweet testimony to His loving kindness. Thanks for sharing and for visiting Cottage and Creek. I so appreciate it!
    God bless ... Lynn

  1. Sherry said...:

    Thanks for the lace tips. I dry my items the same way you did with the towel, but I have not thought to use the soap or starch. Beautiful pink doily.

  1. xinex said...:

    I love your doilies, they are very pretty...Christine

  1. Donnie said...:

    Just think of how much work someone put into that. Thanks for the tutorial too.

  1. Dani said...:

    I have a rather large collection of old lace + a beautiful lace tablecloth my grandmother made back in the 1930s..thanks for the washing tips...always learn something new!

  1. farmlady said...:

    Thank you for this information on washing these old doilies of mine. I love to find different kinds of patterned doilies at thrift stores and when they are dusty or dirty I usually throw them in the washing machine with my delicates. From now on I will be more careful.

  1. Simply Debbie said...:

    You had me from the start also...I just love lace and drool over others people lace. Thank you for the tutorial on how to care for our lace. I ALWAYS...WINK...WINK...ROLLING MY EYES...USED spray starch on my doilies but when not in use I wash the starch out. I better get some powder starch before you cannot buy it any more. I really enjoyed this post. Thank You
    Have A Sugar Sweet Day
    Simply Debbie

  1. laura said...:

    Hi there, just found your lovely blog; i have recently become addicted to old lace and pretty crocheted doilies. Thanks for sharing your tips; they will come in very handy for me!!
    Laura c xx

  1. Thank you so much for that information! I have a trunk of crocheted doilies and lace and embroidery that my grandmother made and this is the year that I am going to go through it.

    I love your blog and I will be a follower.


  1. Leslie said...:

    Love the pink doily. I am an old doily collector also. My grandmother had a fine selection of doilies that she brought from Germany. I just wish that I was old enough to have enjoyed them when my mother sold all of them years and years ago. I would have snatched up all of them!

    Leslie = Your newest follower from Tranquil Acres of Alexandria

  1. Beautiful crocheted doily! And a great tutorial as well!
    Thanks for sharing this!

  1. I have a weakness for doilies too, love them! Crochet is art, I've seen so many beautiful designs! Thanks for the tips Gail:@)

  1. Gail, Just the post I needed! I am starching some old linens and want that stiff as a board look. Spray starch just doesn't do the trick. Now I know why!
    I think these doilies are so pretty!
    I LOVE the idea of using a large mouth canning jar to wash small delicate items without hurting them.
    Have a blessed day, friend!

  1. Sherrie said...:

    Thank you for your post today. You don't know how timely it was. I just got a huge box of linens that needed some attention. I have been putting it off because I wanted to do the right job. I just copied your notes and am now off to the store to find some liquid starch. Yes I usually use spray starch on my other things so I will be trying something new. Thank you for the education. This is why I love blogging.

  1. Thanks Gail, I always am picking up these myself. My aunt just sent me some of my grandmothers linens and doilies so perfect timing!

  1. Char said...:

    I love the way to care and clean your vintage linens and I so appreicate the advise. It all makes sense and the jar is a wonderful idea. Happy Pink Saturday, Char

  1. I have my share of lace doilies and I sure needed those laundering tips, especially about using the starch. Love the pink doily and the one you photographed! Thanks, Gail!


  1. I would never have thought of using a jar like that...what a wonderful tip. Your pieces are beautiful and I can tell from your writing how much you love them.

  1. Oh Gail, I was just "oohing and ahing" over everything. Thanks for the tips on how to care for old lace ;) :) Those doilies look lovely. My favorite doily that I purchased at a yard sale cost me $1. It was a creamy color...and it was also rectangular with rounded edges. Its' old and very unusual...therefore extra beautiful :) :) Starch..I've never used that on my clothes..but I do remember that very well, when I was in dance school Whenever we had a show, all the mom's had to spray starch the costumes!!! Have ae great week, Gail!! Thanks for sharing this!! I LOVE doilies! Love and hugs from Oregon, Heather :)

  1. Wow! Learn something new everyday. Thanks for sharing this cleaning tip. Love all of your doilies and the pink one is so pretty. Can't wait to see what you do with the rest of them!

  1. Holly said...:

    I love old lace and linens too! Thank you for your helpful advice on how to care for them... that is good to know.
    Thank you so much for stopping by to say hello.
    Happy Pink Saturday!

  1. Diann said...:

    Hi Gail!
    That pink doily is beautiful! I can't pass them up when I am thrifting either. Whch probably explains my over abundence of them. LOL I clean mine the same way. I feel like it is the least I can do for these little treasures that someone spent hours and hours making!

  1. Gail, I so agree! When I see beautiful hand work like this sold for almost nothing, I always think of the time and talent that went into making something like that. Yours looks so pretty, all cleaned and starched. Thanks so much for the tips on taking care of these treasures, and thank you for linking to Favorite Things. laurie

  1. Shelia said...:

    Hi Gail! OH, what a beautiful doily. I too crochet and know there's lots of work in these. My granny crocheted and she used the colored thread like this. I have a few of her doilies!
    Thanks for popping in to see me today.
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia ;)

  1. Denise said...:

    I wish I knew all this when I first got married.You wouldn't want to see the results
    of the wash job I did on my Great- Grandmothers tablecloth.It's been 33 years ago,I've never really forgiven myself.I'm glade no one ever found out.Ouh-Its still painful to look at really nice lace tabelcloths and thank to myself-I had one of my own for free-ouch

  1. Picket said...:

    Morning girl..I love doilies..as a little girl I would love visiting one of our neighbors...as precious elderly lady named Mrs headley...she had them everywhere and she made them all...oh I loved her so! These are fantastic tips...I remember seeing some so starched and stiff and in pretty forms...you could have used them for a frizby and not made a dent in them! lol
    Thanks so much for coming by and congrats on those 60 lbs...that's like 240 sticks of butter!!!! Oh I dream of the day! lol Take care sweetie and have a great week..Picket

  1. Marlis said...:

    You had me at the word lace. What you say is so true, old lace is a fragile and needs serious tlc, but the rewards are so nice. Your pieces are beautiful.

  1. Bonnie Bee said...:

    Oh Gail- I have a bag FULL of these doilies, every shape, color & size mad by my grandmother! Now I finally know how to properly care for these 60+ year old beauties.My grandma was a genius with a crochet needle... NO PATTERNS for her, just her awesome creativity... wish I had a pinhead of her talents... thx for the great info..

  1. Julie Harward said...:

    I love the old lace too, I think I got the love of it from my grandma's homes. I use it through our my home too, Nice tips on cleaning it :D

  1. Your crochet pieces are stunning and fabulous information on how to care for it. Thanks so much for joining TTT. Love your vignette. Hugs, Marty

  1. Cindy said...:

    Very interesting and good information! I have lots of doilies, but don't have them out very often.
    Hugs, Cindy

  1. Jane said...:

    It's lovely! Great post! I never knew the right way to care for them. Now I know!


  1. bj said...:

    Your doily is just beautiful. I am glad to know how to clean them. I used to have a lot of doilies..my mother crocheted all the time. I have given most away to family and friends but still have a few. :)

  1. Lady Katherine said...:

    I do so love your doily's! I have some and yes, I have found by experience they are fragile! I leave mine to soak in a jar, never thought of shaking it. lol Now if you can tell me where to find the old powdered starch, for I haven't been able to find it! I do love your Teapot! Thank you for joining me for Tea Time

  1. Linda said...:

    I just found you by search for "How To Starch an Old Doily." I have just acquired many old doilies that were either made by my mother-in-law or her mother. They are beautiful. One item looks as though it should be a basket. I am going to attempt to starch it as a Valentine treasure. God Bless, Linda

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