This old quilt: Help! Nicotine Stains!!!

I got this question from Ali P in the comments of the first installment of This Old Quilt:

I am in need of advice from you and Mr.Peabody: I have been laundering 2 of my grandmother’s quilts. One is looking mighty fine and does not smell like cigarette anymore (my mom and Dad are big smokers). The other is terribly stained by nicotine. I have tried washing soda soaks, long sessions in the front loading washer, laundry bar soap applied to the stains and then soaking again, and today’s stinky and futile treatment with Lestoil. Next attempts will be with peroxide applied to the stains.

HELP!! Do you guys know of a way to get out nicotine stains???

Well that’s quite the pickle. I personally don’t have huge stain removing experience, especially with nicotine being a non-smoker. Consulting with Mr. Peabody we came up with suggesting visiting a dry cleaner with the quilt in question, or leave the stains as they are. I wouldn’t want to use harsh bleaches or peroxides on a quilt as it will deteriorate the fabrics and damage the long term life of your quilt.

A little google-fu has turned up this ehow suggestion:

Thing you’ll need

  • Sponge
  • Wet spot cleaning solution
  • White vinegar
  • Cotton pad or cloth
  • Laundry detergent
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Castile soap

Making Dry and Wet Spot Cleaning Solutions

  1. Make a dry spot cleaning solution to remove nicotine stains by mixing one part coconut oil and eight parts liquid dry-cleaning solution.
  2. Mix one part glycerin, one part white dishwashing detergent and eight parts water to create a wet spot cleaning solution.
  3. Store your dry and wet spot cleaning solutions in tightly capped bottles to prevent evaporation.

Removing the Stains

  1. Remove nicotine stains from rayon, acrylic, nylon, polyester or spandex clothing by dampening the stained area with a sponge, applying gentle strokes beginning at the center of the stain and working outward. Apply a few drops of wet spot cleaner and a few drops of vinegar directly on top of the stain. Cover the stain with a cotton pad or cloth and allow the pad to set, picking up the stain. Keep the stain most until it disappears, then flush the area with water and wash as normal.
  2. Clean nicotine stains on “dry-clean only” clothing by using a dry spot cleaning solution. Dampen the stained area with a sponge and dry spot cleaner, applying the same gentle outward motion. Allow the solution to set for five minutes. After five minutes, dab the area gently with a cotton pad or cloth, repeating until the stain is removed. Hang the clothing to dry thoroughly.
  3. Combine 1 qt. of warm water and 1/2 tsp. of liquid laundry detergent to remove nicotine stains from cotton or linen clothing. Soak the clothing in the mixture for 15 minutes before ringing out the excess water. Sponge the stained area with rubbing alcohol until the stain is removed, and launder as normal.
  4. Mix one part liquid castile soap and four parts warm water to remove nicotine stains from leather or suede. Stir the soap and water mixture briskly until it forms a heavy foam. Apply the foam only to a sponge, and gently rub the stained area, beginning at the center and working outward. When the stain has been lifted, hang the clothing to dry thoroughly.

I think with a lot of patience, these instructions could work without compromising the integrity of the quilt’s fabric. Though the rubbing alcohol makes me a little wary, I think I’d use it with a very light touch as a last resort.

I hope that helps!

Sweater Saga Ends in Steam

Someone asked me in the comments some time ago about what my steaming method was. I don’t own a real steamer, so use my iron to steam. Molly Ann of Ariadne first showed me this method of steam blocking and for Jane of the short attention span, this has become my new favourite blocking method.

I took a bunch of pictures while steaming stuff and here we go. When re-working the Pink Lopi Raglan (one of the many many times), I steam blocked the yarn before re-starting knitting (one of the times). Mr. Peabody and I thought the crimp leftover from having knit the yarn was affecting the gauge of the knitted sweater.

Here’s the yarn after the sweater was frogged. Crimped was in style in the 80s and it should stay there:

I used a ball winder to make little yarn cakes when I ripped out the sweater. Then I took those cakes and wound them into big loops using a couple of chairs (officially skeins, but I wasn’t going to be re-twisting them for storage).

Once in big loops, I used my iron (set on the wool setting and steam set to MAX), I steamed steamed steamed the yarn straight again. Barely allowing the iron to touch the yarn, I hit the steam button and let the steam work it’s magic through the yarn. One end of the loop around my ironing board and the other in my non-ironing hand, I steam away like this:

Afterwards I had something like this:

Practically brand new yarn! Ready to be knit again without monkeying with my gauge.

Alternative methods of straightening out your kinky kinky yarn would be to hang it next to your shower for a few days. May work faster/better with a weight of some sort on the bottom of the big loop.

Or getting the yarn wet and hanging to dry. If you go for the wet, be sure NOT to agitate it AT ALL and to use ROOM temperature water. Felting=bad. Leave the skein in water to thoroughly wet then hang to dry where you don’t mind it dripping a lot. I usually use a hanger off of a shower curtain ring in my bathtub.

Today I finally got around to steam blocking the Pink Lopi Raglan. To prevent from damaging the sweater, I one of those cloth dishrag things soaked in water to provide the steam. Tea towels work well too and give more coverage. I use a cloth dishrag because I don’t use them for much else and the cleanliness of my tea towels can be questionable. In my kitchen, the rags are a safer bet. Keep in mind that ironing wet fabric can put scald marks onto the fabric so don’t use something precious to you for the purpose of steam blocking.

Lay the wet (but not sopping) cloth on top of your garment to be blocked. Set your iron to the appropriate setting (here I’m blocking wool, so I use the wool setting):

Once your iron is heated up, got to town ironing the CLOTH and not the sweater. The water in the cloth is vapourised by the heat of the iron and the steam settles works it’s way into the wool causing it to take a new shape.

After ironing the water out of the cloth a bit, I set down the iron, move the cloth out of the way and tug the sweater vertically and horizontally to even out the stitches. For this sweater, I don’t need any more width, so really tugged vertically more than anything.

The cloth will dry out after a few passes with the iron, so I use that spray button on my iron to rewet it. It’s probably the only time I’ve ever used that button.

I worked my way around the sweater, turning it over to steam both sides of the sweater to make sure everything’s nice settled down.

Before blocking the knitted fabric looked like this:

After steam blocking, the fabric is much smoother, and has better drape:

For those of you that actually have real steamers, check out Crazy Aunt Purl‘s Block ’til you drop! tutorial.

Here is the (FINALLY) finished sweater. You can see the only detail on this basic raglan, a purl stitch in between the raglan decreases.

Pattern: Sweater no. 4 from Lopi no. 20
Modifications: Lots of adaptations for gauge (Létt Lopi instead of double stranding Alfoss Lopi)
Materials: Istex Létt-Lopi
Start Date: November 30, 2007
Finished By: April 20, 2008 (took so long due to initial, unfounded angst upon immediate completion)

By no means a perfect sweater, but not horrible either. I’m happy enough with the final product.


But I do wish I had properly blocked the gauge swatch so I may have avoided the ‘perfect’ sleeves growing well beyond a reasonable length.

I may work up the gumption to fix this while working in those final ends. At least now I don’t feel like a complete sweater failure.

In other news, I am still spinning like a mad-woman. I’ve even tried a wheel. The cuttlefish socks are still in progress, the Noro Surprise Jacket is being reborn and the Sideways pullover is frogged for good.