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!

This old quilt

Mr. Peabody found out about this amazing shop in Park Extension that sells all sorts of “soft goods”. As in old fabrics, clothes, curtains, quilts, etc. He’s been at least 3 times by now and over the past few weeks has been bringing over his wonderful show ‘n’ tell items for me to peruse. One such show ‘n’ tell had this amazing quilt in it. After much conversation about how wonderful it is, I told Mr. Peabody if he felt like he had too much fabric piling up over at his place, I would more than happily take this wonderful quilt off his hands. Apparently he was just as happy to have me do so.

The quilt itself is likely from the 1930’s given the fabrics. There are a variety of blocks that are all pieced onto foundation fabrics and then joined together. I really get a sense that this was a scrap quilt, made out of whatever was available. The fading and wear suggests to me that this quilt was well loved and used. There’s no batting, just top and backing fabric which is nicely intact but still is somewhat stained and has some holes.

The thread used for quilting has been pulled out or disintegrated over time. At some point hand ties were put in some places, I think to repair the damaged quilting. I suspect that the thread used for quilting was a type of nylon. Every so often I came across some fluffy quilting thread remnants that were very nylon looking. You can see here the leftover tracks of the quilting, diagonal from corner to corner of the blocks.

It looks like someone started the rather large task of repairing this quilt. There are a few spots where patches have been removed. Last week, while sick at home with Tonsilitis, I took of the backing fabric and tidied up the front/back of each block going square by square, trimming excess threads, removing handties, any residual quilting threads, and some of the more heavily damaged patches.

This was the one spot where the binding had been left. I carefully picked out the seams and saved the fabric. There are several patches in the quilt that use this same fabric. It’s nice to know what was used and what it would have looked like in it’s original state. I’m also keeping these fabrics as a reference for replacements. I’m not sure yet if I’m going to try and stay true to the original choices, or go with a new look. I suppose it depends if I like the fabric or not.

The edge of the quilt is all ragged. And from the appearance of the remnant binding, I’d say someone cut it off. It’s really a shame. Now some of the nicer blocks that really have no other damage are left ragged at their edges. I think I’m going to extend the foundation fabrics to square out the edges. When I place the new binding, I think I’ll make it wider to compensate for the raggedness of the quilt’s edge.

Even the foundation fabrics vary from one block to another again making me think that the quilter used whatever she had at hand, even flour/sugar sacks. This block still has the printing on the back of it. How cool is that? Some of the foundation fabrics have held up better than others. Many of them will need to be replaced, while much of the front of the blocks are in decent shape.

I was left with this pile of threads when I was done going over the whole quilt. Those little strips of fabric are what’s left of the binding, and some selvedge pieces of fabric left over from long gone fabric patches.

These are the most damaged blocks that I very carefully removed. Because I’m a big giant nerd, I’ve preserved them in page protectors and taped them into my quilting notebook. I’ve also put the selvedge and binding remnants into an envelope taped into my notebook.

I’m so excited about this quilt. With a little repair, new backing fabric and some binding and I’ll have a beautiful finished quilt. I don’t think I’ll add any batting to the mix. I’m going to use it as my summer bedspread.

Replies to previous comments.

Ali P – I say dust away! You are more than welcome to join Mr. Peabody and me in our little quilting bee. We have many a quilt started between the two of us, but have yet to finish any of them.

Craftivore – Thanks so much. I’m having a lot of fun with all the fabric combinations in this quilt. I think it’s my favourite part. The construction is actually pretty smart and there are yet to be any yucky seams. I think it blocks will be pieced together in strips and only once the whole top is finished will all the hexagons be complete (sounds a little Tolkein-esque non?).