Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Vintage Stamped Linen Tablecloth: The Quandary of Salvaging


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A couple months back, I received one of those surprise packages that are fun to go through but often put me in a quandary!

It was a collection of linens and other fabrics from a reader who was de-stashing and who wanted the goods to go to a good home. (Thanks, Laura!) In the box were nice scraps of linen and silk, good for experimenting on and for using for demonstrations and tutorials.

Due to the whole Christmas hubbub and general life happenings lately, I didn’t have an opportunity to go through and sort the package until just recently. One of the items in it was an older linen table cloth – huge in size – pre-stamped for embroidery. It presents a bit of a quandary.

I’m going to tell you a little bit about the tablecloth, explain the quandary, and tell you my plans. And then, of course, I’d love your input, too! Especially if you’ve had similar experiences (and I know many of you have, because you’ve written to me and asked what to do…), but even if not and you just have some ideas, I’d love to hear from you!

Pre-Stamped Linen Tablecloth for Embroidery

The tablecloth, as I said, is large. It’s linen, and rather weighty, made of a medium to heavy weight linen.

The design is essentially two rectangles, one inside the other, of scallops crossed over with single daisies, as shown above.

On first impression, under regular room lighting, the linen came across as off-white or even ecru, and from afar, it looked “ok,” though perhaps a little dingy.

Pre-Stamped Linen Tablecloth for Embroidery

Some of the motifs have been embroidered, or partially embroidered. The embroidery skill varies between the motifs, so I’m guessing they were done by different people.

I don’t know the history of the whole piece, but I would guess that it was either handed down or found through a second-hand shop and purchased with high hopes of salvaging, or some similar scenario.

Pre-Stamped Linen Tablecloth for Embroidery

The thread isn’t in bad shape, and it doesn’t look too old. It’s stranded cotton.

There is some evidence that there was embroidery on some of the daisies, and the embroidery has been picked out.

Pre-Stamped Linen Tablecloth for Embroidery

On the back, you can clearly see the structure of the stranded cotton. It looks like three strands were used for most of the stitching.

Pre-Stamped Linen Tablecloth for Embroidery

If I were to salvage this piece, I already know that I would pick the embroidery out. There’s not a lot of stitching on it – maybe five or six motifs have the stems and leaves stitched, but that’s it.

There are several reasons I’d pick the embroidery out:

1. I would want to start over with plenty of fresh thread, in a color scheme I prefer. To spend time stitching a project like this, you really want to love the thread and colors you’re working with!

2. Starting over would give me the opportunity to make the embroidery consistent across the whole piece. Again, when you’re putting in time on a project this large, you want the outcome to be as consistent as possible.

3. Mentally, I’d have a different outlook on the piece in general, if I’m starting fresh. To me, there’s something a bit more stimulating about starting completely fresh on a big project, as opposed to picking up where someone else left off. And to approach a project this size, I’d have to have that stimulation!

Pre-Stamped Linen Tablecloth for Embroidery

But, you see, the linen ground is not really in the best shape. It is stained from storage and time – yellowed inconsistently among the folds of the fabric and spotted here and there with what looks like rust stains.

And this presents a problem, especially when dealing with pre-stamped linens.

I don’t think this piece is exceptionally old. But I don’t really know how permanent the design impression is. On most used, pre-stamped goods that I’ve had experience with, the stamping is permanent. I have come across some, though, with stamping that washes out. The latter seem to be older linens. Like I said, I don’t think this piece is too old. I’m guessing it was probably made in the last 20 or so years.

I do know that I don’t want to put any time in on the piece, if there’s any chance that I can’t restore the linen to an acceptable level of beauty. If the ground fabric is permanently stained from the outset, stitching the whole tablecloth would be futile.

So….what to do?

Pre-Stamped Linen Tablecloth for Embroidery

There are two choices, really: 1. Stitch it and hope that the stains in the linen will wash out; or 2. wash it, and hope that the stamped design does not wash out.

The least risky, time wise and expense wise, is the latter: wash it first and see if the linen can be restored. If the stamp washes out, so be it. (I don’t think it will.)

So, to wash this piece, it’s going straight into the washer. No hand-washing here! This needs a heavy duty washing, with a good period of soaking before hand. I’m not going all delicate on detergent choices, either. I’ll use anything it takes, save bleach, to restore the fabric. I’ll start with regular detergents – including a good soaking with Biz – and move on to something like OxiClean if they don’t do the trick.

As far as my time goes, I’m ok with spending some time and effort to clean the piece. But I would never put time into stitching it, if the linen ground can’t be restored.

What it boils down to is this: the most valuable aspect of your embroidery is – and always will be – the time you put into it. It’s the one commodity that we only have so much of, and that we are incapable of creating more of. While I hate the idea of wasting the piece of linen, I am more jealous of the notion of wasting my time.

The linen, if it can’t be stitched, can be salvaged for other things. The areas that clean up ok, for example, can be salvaged into decent toweling for kitchen use, for example.

Your Thoughts?

How would you approach a thing like this? Would you try salvaging it? Would you consider stitching it, before washing it? What would you do with the linen, if the piece can’t be salvaged for stitching? I’d love to hear your take! Feel free to join in the conversation below!

Thanks to all who have inquired about my mom, and for all your prayers, good wishes, and encouragement. She is home and doing much better. The recovery process will take a while, but things are going well so far. Thank you!


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(356) Comments

  1. Mary, I would be tempted to give up! The piece would have to speak to me powerfully before I put time into it. I inherited a small, appliqued quilt top with some of the applique in a strong scarlet color. I was sure it would run in the wash but the white pieces were stained and that had to be tackled. After a couple of years thinking about it, I washed it. The scarlet did not run! Apparently my grandmother had pre-washed it or bought colorfast material. Bless her, she did not leave any notes. One very small rust stain is left but I will embroider a butterfly or applique one over the flower as it is luckily in the right place. I feel very fortunate to have the piece and it’s so worth working on. Good luck! Best, Charlotte

    1. Hi Charlotte!
      Don’t you know how to prevent colour from running and spoiling the item or other items in the wash? Toss a handful of salt in with the wash. It works every time!

  2. Hi Mary,

    It’s a no brainer for me: Wash it first.
    I wouldn’t waste a minute doing anything with it before it’s clean. Just the thought of having to work with dirty fabric is depressing.
    It’s not a piece of sentimental value or historic significance and you plan to take the stitching out anyway.
    I’d wash it even if I didn’t care for the border and just wanted the rest of the fabric for something else.


  3. If it were mine, I would try cleaning it first using a natural approach meaning vinegar soak and wash followed by sunshine if possible. Winter is very uncooperative with the last part of the plan at the moment. If that doesn’t work, synthetic cleaners might work. My one “go to” is the cleaner “Awesome”, which works beautifully and may help here. If all else fails cut and salvage what you can or try to cover up the bad areas by extending the embroidery design. The latter may or may not be possible.

    1. Eve, never heard of the cleaner you mention “Awesome”. Where do you buy it? Who makes it? I’d like to try too as I also some some antique linens – some inherited worth saving, others not. Thx!

    2. Hi Lynne,
      You will not believe this but at a Family Dollar store. It’s inexpensive and yet it really works! Had a friend recommend it for grease removal and I honestly didn’t believe it would work due to the price point but…..works like a champ! I use it all around the house, especially in the kitchen and for stain removal on clothes. Love the stuff!

  4. Good morning Mary (and all other needle enthusiasts)
    I read with pleasure this morning’s post and you asked for our input. Like you, I would remove all the current stitching but then I’d replace it with white work before trying to clean the linen. I love the look of white-work. I’d hate to lose the design to pre-washing although I suppose I could make a copy of it first as it seems to be a simple one.
    And now for more information than you ever thought you’d need about minerals in your water, including that beast, IRON! I live in an area that has a high level of iron and manganese in the water (Pacific Northwest of USA for those who are interested) . The water is treated to keep these elements in suspension however the treatment loses it’s effectiveness over a period of time. The iron will oxidize and ‘fall out’ becoming sediment in your water heater which is really where the iron stains originate. (Knowledge gained from working for the local water district for a number of years.) We recommended to our customers that they drain and flush their hot water tanks on an annual basis and also use a non-perborated instead of chlorine bleach. Chlorine exacerbates the problem even though it makes for an easy disinfectant in a water system. Our water mains were also flushed annually and ‘scrubbed’ by forcing foam cubes through the line with water from a nearby hydrant and called for some reason ‘pigging the line’.
    I’ve stored for future reference your related article of 10/24/2014, it will be very useful should I have to deal with stains. My personal preference would be to store the linens w/o starched and w/o ironing, and has anyone ever thought of using pool noodles to wrap their items on, they can be cut to length or they can be duct taped end to end. Wrap the noodles with muslin or old sheets first of course to make a barrier against off-gassing of any chemicals in the noodles, carpet rolls could also be used the same way if you’ve got a place to put them and have something really large to store.

  5. Agree with your thoughts on time investment. I would also wash the piece, and not particularly gently. My experience with the old stamped linens is that the marks may fade with aggressive washing (more aggressive than I would use on a finished stitched piece), but they never entirely go away.

    If the stamping disappears in a couple of places where you have spot-treated stains, so be it. The design is quite simple, and I am guessing, symmetrical. It can be hand-drawn back in from a tracing of an intact area.

    Even if the cloth is too badly stained to be used intact after washing, I’m betting there will be large good areas, too. I’d consider trimming out the stained bits and reusing the remainder to make one or more aprons, a peasant blouse, pair of cafe curtains, or placemats, or napkins, or tea towels, or a smaller, summer tea cloth or runner, market bags, or a child’s pinafore or romper… The list of things a nice piece of linen can be used for is near infinite.

    Finally there’s the desperation scenario. Too much of the cloth is stained, and very little is useful as-is, even cut up. Then there’s the option of overdying the linen, either in a color dark enough to mask the original stamping and stains, or enough to just obscure the halos where the stains used to be. In the latter case, you might be able to make out the stamping and still stitch it, with threads chosen to coordinate with the now colorful ground. (Thinking tea-color all over, with the flowers done over into fall chrysanthemums).

    In any case – all of these options start out with a vigorous wash. Go for it! We are all looking forward to seeing how your experiment plays out.

    1. Kim,
      What wonderful ideas for using the fabric if the tablecloth resists removing the stains. I would actually never have thought of the market bags, but linen is such a workhorse fabric isn’t it. Thank you for those suggestions. Looking forward to seeing the results myself.

  6. Mary, I’m so glad that your mother is on the mend.

    My mother-in-law left me a whole stack of fabulously well-embroidered linens that must date from her marriage in the 1940s. Most had some of those brown spots. I put them to soak for several days in a watery mix with mild laundry detergent and a good scoop of Oxyclean. Then into the washing machine on the hand wash cycle — and they are pristine now.

    None of these were stamped, though. You might try a spot-soak if you’re so moved to see if the design disappears. If it came clean & you don’t want a big tablecloth, would it turn into light, summery curtains? Maybe with a Craftsman-style simple border, or a pojagi panel that glows like stained glass when the sun comes through? Kathy

  7. Definitely start with Oxyclean. If the motif disappears, you now have the opportunity to do something else with it.

    1. Several ideas come to mind with the tablecloth.
      – Sometimes I purposely wash the pattern out of something because I love the piece, but not the design on it. Then I can put my own selection on it.
      – If the stain doesn’t come out, could it be cut down to a smaller piece?
      – As a last resort, stitch it and send to a quilter to cut up into a unique quilt or make into something like an apron, a bag, etc. Add a little lace, buttons, ribbon, etc., and you have something very beautiful.

      Saw an episode of Martha Pullen where she talked about removing stains from vintage items. Her recommendation was Oxiclean. Keep soaking and changing water. Might take many days.

  8. oh for sure Id try to salvage! Id probably start with rust remover tho….then soak in oxy before I wash it. I luv OXY! great results on some of my vintage things! Go for it! Large linens are hard to find.

  9. I’d say follow your heart on this one, to many options. One never knows for sure on an acquired piece like this. You have plan B in place if the stamping washes out or the stains don’t. Keep us updated on this please.

  10. I would do the same thing you plan to do–take out the existing embroidery, and wash, wash, wash! If the designs come out but the cloth is clean, you can do your own designs on it; or what I would probably do is use the cloth for smaller embroidery pieces. I don’t use tablecloths anyway.

  11. I’d go about the same way you described … wash the dickens out of it until it’s clean enough that I would say I’d put it on my table. After all, it’s not like you are trying preserver great-grandma’s heirloom.

  12. Hi Mary,

    I definitely would approach the tablecloth just as you as planning.

    Absolutely no point in embroidering a piece “in the hope” that it can later be made serviceable

    Keep us posted on the outcome

    Gayle in Maine

  13. I agree with you about your time being more valuable than the linen. It would be discouraging to stitch the whole beautiful thing just to find out the linen couldn’t be cleaned and the project was all but ruined (not to mention all the time, effort and hope spent). Not much to lose by washing it first! I hope it turns out well and can be salvaged!

  14. I would find a place this is stained but has no design. Concentrate my cleaning effort there to see if I can get it clean. If I can, I’d do the embroidery then wash it.

    My second choice would be to copy the design on a stained section, then wash that area. If both the stain and design come out, I’d have a copy of the design to put it back to do the embroidery.

  15. Hi Mary,
    I have had this same predicament from pieces I inherited. I washed the linen first. This took out the embroidery lines. I then cut up around the stains that wouldn’t come out. After salvaging what I could, I used the individual pieces for pillow cases, if large enough. The smaller pieces can be used for little potpourri bags or pillows. These look wonderful with tiny embroidered motifs. These make wonderful gifts.

  16. I had purchased prestamped cotton pillow cases at an estate sale that were slightly stained with age. I soaked them in hot water with oxiclean & they were revived. The prestamping was slightly lighter but still visible enough to embroider. I would try to restore the fabric before investing time in embroidering. If it can’t be restored, then I would try to reinvent it as you have suggested: tea towels, teaching tools, curtains. But definitely, I would want it to be something that I could enjoy without regrets!

  17. Is there a way to spot test the fabric to see if the markings are permanent? You could also test an isolated rust stain to see if it will come out before tackling the whole piece. If it doesn’t clean up well you will probably still have a lot of open areas in the table cloth that could be repurposed for other projects. I definitely like your idea of removing the stitching that has already been done. That way you can be sure of the quality of the thread you use to finish the project, and also to pick your own colors.

  18. Yes, a delimma Mary!!! I found my long over due embroidery stamped table cloth to finish…the needle and the metal hoop was left awaiting my return from years ago. The ring and rusting dots did not look promising.

    I have used a Biz soak for stains with only some whitening of the fabric. Good luck on the cleaning, but save your beautiful talent and skills on worthy cloth!

  19. I also have a linen tablecloth I got in Germany many years ago. Same problem with rust stains.
    Need a solution to getting these stains out

  20. Thank you for going they that process
    I really appreciate your line of thought
    Time is too valuable to waste

    I would consider if all the stains don’t come out could sections be cut to make a smaller item or would it fray the linen to much

    I was thinking maybe a small center to a crazy quit wall hanging or the back of a shadow box for some of granny hand work items crochet hook , thimble , scissors etc

  21. Could you test the color fastness of the pattern first? If it wasn’t colorfast, could you mark over the pattern with pigma pens? I have a spot on my shirt that has proved to me that those pens are FOREVER! lol

  22. Mary, I think your plan is sound. It would be so disappointing to stitch the piece and then find the stains won’t come out. If you wash it and the stamped print comes off, you would still have a lovely piece of linen that you could use for other projects. And, if all of the stains don’t come out, then you could cut the piece up and just use the good parts. I love working with old linen fabric and don’t feel compelled to use it for its original purpose.

  23. I, personally would wash it and see what happens. If it cleans the linen and leaves the stitch pattern, then I’d stitch it. If it washes the stitch pattern out with cleaning the linen, then I would use it for some other project. If it doesn’t clean completely nor wash out the design, I would probably cut it up and use it for smaller projects. Use the stained sections for a fun primitive design and the good parts for something nice.

  24. Because I believe my time is valuable, I would wash first. However, I have found 2 products I really like for washing vintage items. Retro Clean and Retro wash. The Retro clean is for presoaking and the other obviously for washing. I got both off the Internet and have no affiliation. A woman I know who has a vintage clothing business introduced me to them. I’ve had great luck with them. Worth a try perhaps

  25. I think it is beautiful. Pair it with napkins as close to same fabric. First get the tablecloth clean. The stains should all come out with the OxyClean. Then remove all the stitching. Use your embroidery software to adapt a similar daisy and stem design that will replace with a bit larger size, the current stamping.
    Thanks for your photos!

  26. I would do the same as you. I would not take the chance of putting a lot of time into this and then find out I can’t get the stains out. If it doesn’t come clean cut the best parts out and use for small stitches or linens

  27. I agree that the linen should washed first. I am sure that there are multiple possibilities for design if the original washes out. I found a linen table cloth in a box of my grandmothers WIP. One corner was complete, I finished it and gave it to my sister. It was lovely to work on. the quality of stamped goods has fallen in the last few decades. I’m searching for my next project, this has made me reconsider the stash of pre stamped linens in my cedar chest waiting for me.

  28. I believe that you need to have your heart in it ( you need to love ❤️ it) if you are going to enjoy working on & finish such a large project. You cannot mentally figure out if you should or should not. Of course it helps in your decision, but the final choice needs to come from your heart, since you will be spending a lot of time with it. I would wash it first or else I would be wondering all the time that I am sewing if the stain would come out after all of my work.

  29. I would try cleaning it first as you are. Salvage larger pieces if necessary for towels, or dresser and furniture toppers, and stitch those.

    1. Probably not. It takes quite a bit of time to pick out the stitching. I’m not willing to put in a lot of time on the piece, unless I know it’s going to clean up.

  30. Such a nice surprise to get this things on the mail. One who loves fabric and thread is a joy! I support the idea of washing first. You can always redraw a design on top of a clean fabric.

    If there are some yellowing after washing, I would try with a soap by hand. Here in South East Mexico we have a hand washing soap called “Azul Princesa” which is translated as Blue Princess. This is a blue soap and works wonders in my linen garments. We wash the stains with this soap by hand, long soaking, and sun baths. Long sunbaths and this soap works wonders in my children socks and husband´s linen shirts.

    If all fails I would dye the linen with tea or coffee.

    I hope this tablecloth works out!!!

    Sending love


    1. Hello!
      When I was a little girl, I lived in Mexico. We always used a washboard and this fantastic pink soap for the laundry. Do you know the name of that one? I would love to get my hands on a bar of that, it took out everything!

    2. Dear Erin

      Im not sure I am posting this reply correctly.
      the soap you remember is a DREAM. Its called JABON ZOTE

      Here is an article on it and some pictures. I would like to send you some bottled scent of it.

      I love it too! I discovered the other one, the Azul Princesa when I moved to the south region of our country. Its a deep blue and able to clean the children sport socks!!!

      If you like, I may try sending you a bar!!!

      Warmest regards.


  31. Mary, it is wonderful news that your Mother is home, and improving.
    About the stamped embroidery piece in question, there is often the name of the manufacturer and a code number stamped zalong an edge. This would give you an opportunity to test the fastness of the stamping, washing that small area by hand. To remove the rust stain (looks suspiciously like needles parked in the linen and left there in a humid climate), you can try oxalis acid applied as a paste, followed by exposure to sunlight.

    1. Thanks, Nancy – Yes, that’s what I was thinking they might be, too, especially since they are on a corner! I always seem to park my needles on corners…

    2. I’ve never tried it on fabric, but Barkeepers Friend stainless steel cleaner is basically oxalic acid, which is a great rust remover, in liquid or powder form. Also, I would personally never discard a large piece of fabric. There are countless ways to repurpose it, and even the idea of a nice piece of linen thrills me.

  32. I would definitely try the laundering first. As you said our time is very precious. I have soaked many pieces of completed linens that were badly stained with wonderful results. However, the stamping is the main question here. Go for it.

  33. Hi Mary– Long time lurker, etc. I’m a professional conservator and one of my particular interests is in safe bleaching methods (also historic vestments…). Not all bleaches are Clorox! I can give some good advice on this if you want to ping me. Thanks for your wonderful site!

    1. Mary, may I offer one more product that may make your reclaimation a success? A friend who is a retired antiques dealer recommended Vintage Textile Soak for it’s effectiveness on all signs of aging textiles. Since you’re not crazy about the design, losing the stamping may actually be a bonus, giving you a lovely blank slate. (Amazon carries the product.) Best wishes and keep us updated!

  34. Hi, Mary! I’m glad your mom is doing better. Always a relief to get out of the hospital and home again!

    You could test the design’s permanence by rubbing a small section with a wet/soapy q-tip. You could run some tests on the stains the same way to find out if one product works best or to work on a particularly stubborn stain without having to treat the whole fabric. I’ll be interested to see how this comes out!

  35. Hi Mary,
    I agree with you, a good wash first. Do you think those rust(?) stains will come out?
    If they don’t then I would cut out the best bits and use them for other projects, assuming that the fabric doesn’t fall apart in the wash!
    Good luck with this one……

  36. Hi Mary,

    I love old linens, especially embroidered ones, and have a lot of experience in cleaning them. I have a shelf full of cleaners and detergents, ranging from mild to heavy-duty, but the BEST and most reliable method I have found of removing rust stains from old linen is soaking them in the sun. If the method you describe using your washing machine doesn’t work, here it what I would do. In summer (starting about May in Kansas?), put an old bedsheet on the deck or on the grass in the yard, then put the linen piece right on top of it. Using a spray bottle, spray the brown-stain areas with a mixture of 50 percent lemon juice and 50 percent water and let the sun “bleach” the stains. Keep the stained spots moist–when they dry out, just spray them again. In the worst cases, this takes two to three full summer afternoons. You have given me so much expert advice, it is gratifying to think I might be able to help in this small way.

  37. I would soak with a generous scoop of oxyclean and detergent—for an hour, then wash, rinse and see if it needs another treatment. If you like the motifs, can you copy them before you wash and then touch up if some of the lines fade?
    I recently soaked a linen project that the pencil lines just were too messy and dark. After about 3 hrs, the oxyclean lightened the pencils marks to barely visible. I lightly penciled in the design and it looks much better. If I had soaked it longer, I am sure the pencil marks would have been totally gone. It works on ball point ink—but that’s another story of my husband’s disaster.

  38. Hello Mary
    I totally agree with you if the martial can be salvaged then its worth the time investment. It also allows to choose the colours scheme.
    Keeping fingers crossed that the base is workable.
    All the best to your mum and good luck with the tablecloth. Looking forward to seeing how it comes out.
    best wishes

  39. I agree with you that the tablecloth needs to be restored before you spend any time on it. If it is not coming clean, then your option is to cut it back and that would destroy the symmetry . However, as you teach, you may be able to cut it into sections to use for sampling or teaching and add more motifs to it to address the stitches that you are teaching. More flowers and leaves. I would not embroider it unless it can be cleaned. A waste of time.

  40. Hi Mary

    I’d actually trace the design, just in case it did wash out, then you can at least put it back on… providing it isn’t too large to trace, but like you, I’d try and restore the fabric first and get all the marks and stains out, including soaking it in an oxy-cleaner. I guess if you didn’t trace the design and it did wash out….. providing it hasn’t left any faint marks, you could then always put your own design on it!

  41. This is by no stretch of the imagination meant as advice – just what my take on it would be if I found myself in this situation. First of all, I am completely of your opinion when it comes to time. So partly for that reason, I will not take on any “second-hand” project (i.e. one that I didn’t either design or buy myself) unless I absolutely love it. There is little enough stitching time in my life as it is to spend it on things I feel so-so about. In this case, I’m afraid the tablecloth would either be passed on to someone who does want to stitch it, or salvaged for materials. So I’d probably do what you suggest, wash it to within an inch of its life to see if the fabric is salvagable, but even if the transfer was still there I wouldn’t stitch it but use the linen for projects I really wanted to stitch.

    1. That’s just it, Ilke – I’m not entirely in love with this design, though I do like daisies. I think they’re sweet. Unless the thing cleans up and looks pretty fantastic, I’d not be too inclined to put a lot of time into it, since there’s no really “connection” to it for me. We shall see!

  42. This is right up my alley! I source my fabric almost entirely from ebay and goodwill and find a lot of partially stitched work. I unstitch almost all of them. And yes, the very vintage ones tend to wash out (I have a great late Victorian Hungarian piece that I dare not wash). The stamp is a key part of my art, so I especially don’t want the ink to disappear with a washing. I’ve noticed that even some more recent (circa 70s or so) that are larger will wash. Even when it is a brand that tends to stamp with non washing ink. However, those tend to be a more pale blue ink. So the long of it is that I don’t think this specific linen will wash out. I look forward to your results!

  43. I agree wholeheartedly with your plans. We need to feel positively toward our projects, and not feel like it’s a chore. There are way too many projects ideas I would love to do to spend time on something I wont be happy with when finished. I look at my sewing projects like I look at my food choices – is it worth it? If you lose the design, the fabric can be salvaged for towels and smaller projects.

  44. One other thing- is there a small section you can test for ink permanence? Like a brand stamp? I’ve found the quickest way to do this is to wet a spot then iron over it with steam. It will disappear pdq if it is not colorfast, and without a huge output of effort.

  45. Try Borax, we have used it to get stains and mold out of cottons. My husband used it to wash rope from his sailboat in the washer, they came out great. It seems to work without hurting the fabric. Now I keep a box by the machine for dog bedding or stains.

  46. What a find! I’m guessing from the photos that the piece is some of that nice heavy linen that used to be available perhaps 50 or 60 years ago. If so, it’s worth trying to salvage for the fabric if not for the design.
    I belong to the Lace Museum Guild here locally ( http://www.thelacemuseum.org ) not because I make lace but for their intermittent sales of vintage textiles. I collect mostly pillowcases, which I use in the guest room, and lace scraps and motifs for crazy patch and other embellishments. These folks are wonderful at fabric rescue!

  47. Hi Mary, I appreciate the dilema! I know that I value my time and for that reason alone I like to work on fairly small pieces with more concentrated embroidery rather than large pieces with little embroidery. If it were my decision, I would do all I could to bring the linen back to life and before cuttin I would try to make a plan on what I might want to use it for. If no decision can be made I wouldn’t cut it. Who knows what you might want to try. Maybe a pretty small table topper. Or maybe???????. Something beautiful for the kitchen. I know someday soon I’m thinking I’d be making a basically red fruit picture.
    Have fun reading all the replies and ideas. Valerie

  48. There is a product called Retro Clean used by many quilters to safely clean vintage quilts and other linens. It will remove many old stains and yellowing of fabric. I hope you find something that cleans the base fabric for you-the table cloth looks like it will be beautiful when completed. Good luck with the project 🙂

  49. I agree cleaning would be my first option. If you really love the pre-printed pattern ,I would copy it on tracing paper and be able to reprint on linen latter. If the quality of the linen is as good as it seems and it doesn’t’ clean up, time to repurpose to smaller projects.

  50. That looks very like a tablecloth my grandmother made for me about 50 years ago. While I don’t use it as often as I should, after several washes through the years I can still see a little of the stamping. So I’d say wash it!

  51. I would definitely wash first. Since it is linen I would soak in oxiclean or the white reviv product. If the stains don’t come out or the stamping washes out, I would try to use the good parts for a table runner or place mats. Maybe some pieces could be used for other smaller projects. Failing those possibilities I guess I would consider it unsalvagable and call it a day. As you said time is our most valuable asset. Good luck. I will be anxious to hear how this turns out.

  52. I would wash the piece first and frankly, I would hope the marking came out. I don’t like seeing the blue behind the stitches. I’d rather remark and it might just be a great piece of linen for a blank canvas.

  53. Dear Mary, if you decide to wash this tablecloth and think the stains may be rust, I have found that “salts of lemon” or “oxalic acid” will remove the rust. I have purchased this at a pharmacy. You must be careful using it as it is very poisonous. It comes as crystals and is mixed with water. I use rubber gloves and apply the liquid mixture with an eye dropper. You need very little of this. I mix it up in an egg cup or very small dish. It works instantly on the stain and doesn’t seem to harm the fabric. Perhaps,this is why lemon juice often works on stains. I hope this suggestion helps.

  54. If this was my problem, I would do what you are doing. If that doesn’t work, I would dye the whole thing with tea or coffee…it will give variations on the color and the stains that won’t come out will look like part of the dying process. If it still looks awful, then cut into the blocks the parts that are salvageable and create something else with them.

  55. You might want to try one small area to see if the pattern comes off with the application of water…then proceed. Biz works best..especially on rust.
    Good luck

  56. Wash it and go from there. Even if it still has the design after washing and all the stains come out is it a design you will want to spend time on? If it is have fun. If not cut it up and use for your benefit. This is a gift without expectation meant to be used or not. Do what brings you joy without feeling obligated in any way!!

  57. I would wash it, whatever it took to restore the linen. To be blunt, a large piece of linen is a lovely, lovely thing. BUT if you spend the hours upon hours needed to stitch it, and then find the stains won’t come out it is a disaster.

    If the stains do not come out, perhaps you could use it as an “aged” background for some folk art stitching?

  58. I know you want to throw it in the washing machine but for future reference here’s an option. My neighbor’s daughter was getting married and wanted to wear her (mother’s) wedding dress. A simple satin dress with pearls and some lace that had been stored for 45+ years. The dress had yellowed and had rust stains. I suggested to soak the dress in denture tabs dissolved in water to return the dress back to it’s original beauty. It worked beautifully. The pearls were not adversely affected and the fabrics were restored. I have never found any products that removes rust from clothing (with the exception of the denture tabs) and will be interested to know if the Oxy Clean does the job. Good luck with your project.

  59. Like you said, time is the most valuable commodity of any embroidery project. I would clean it first. If it cannot be cleaned, I would salvage the cloth that is not stained. As creative as you are, I am certain that you will find many uses for the non-stained portions. If the stains do come out and the stamping comes out as well, this will open up a new creative opportunity.

  60. For me, the real problem here would be if my mom had done the original stitching on the piece. And if a lot of the stitching had already been completed. Guess that shows that I’m a real sentimental, doesn’t it? If the piece belonged to a stranger, it wouldn’t take me as long to wash it, get rid of as much of the rust as possible. If it wouldn’t come out, I would not save the piece. Period.
    I still have a tablecloth that my mom started in her later years. I really don’t like the pattern and if it were completed, I can’t ever envision using it. So it sits in a closet in my laundry room. One day in the not too distant future, it will likely be sent to the rummage shop.

  61. Mary, I do a lot of embroidery in my crazy quilting so I understand your dilemma. Being a quilter as well I would give it a wash and if the results were not to my liking I would pass on it or make a wall hanging (if the size allows) covering the stains with some lace or doilies and do my embroidery and some beading on them. If you are familiar with Cindy Needham’s work you see where I am coming from. Just a thought from a vintage and linen lover.

  62. I instantly recognized this design because I have a small, round tablecloth embellished with a similar design that I purchased from a yard sale years ago. It was clearly a stamped design on nice linen and all of the embroidery was done in white- the daisies, leaves and even the cut/scalloped edge. If you do decide to stitch the piece, may I suggest that you consider completing the design in all white or cream (depending on how clean you get the piece)?

    Regardless, I do think that you are smart to try to wash the piece first, before you stitch. Those rust stains and yellowing along the folds are going to be tricky and may require some serious elbow grease. If it were me and I wanted to keep the design, I would trace a small section of the design onto tissue paper or trace before washing the piece. BTW, I know you mentioned that you might try Oxi-clean and I have been told that it will not work on rust stains because of the oxidation process. In the past, I have used regular household-strength hydrogen peroxide, sometimes mixed with a bit of liquid dishwashing detergent (like Dawn) for really tough stains on white fabric (test first!). Normally, I would not suggest this for vintage linens, but as this fabric is good-quality, sturdy linen, I think that you can spot treat and then rinse very well before washing.

    Oh, don’t you just love a box of old linens! It is always fun to think of all of the possibilities! Good luck.

  63. I totally agree with you. Wash it to try to clean it first. I have gone through many stashes including my family’s and have run into the staining, fading and rust issues! Time to stitch it is worth more than stitching on something you can’t get clean!

  64. I’d do as you’re doing. If unsalvageable, I’d think about cutting it into napkins or maybe blocked into a table runner or centerpiece?

    Good luck and have fun.

  65. 1. Make a copy of the design.
    2. Remove stitches
    3. Wash it in the hope of getting the marks out
    4. If clean, go ahead.

  66. I would start with the oxiclean soak, making sure to move it around and change the solution so that the dirt doesn’t resettle. If there are stubborn stains after the soak, a paste of oxiclean might do the trick. I have soaked old linens like this and have had good results. I would do a gentle was at the end. I’m curious to see what will happen to the printed design.

  67. I agree that if the fabric isn’t cleanable, you don’t have a project!

    I have a different conflict with a beautiful old stamped linen tablecloth. The fabric is gorgeous. It is in “new” condition. But the stamped design is large cross-stitch — which I would NOT be inclined to do! So do I give the cloth away to someone who might want to do the design as stamped, or so I try and remove the stamping???

  68. My mom always said “if you have to talk yourself into something, pass on it”. Since this is not that old of a piece that really needs “saving” and your enthusiasm is a little low, I would not start on it. Too bad there was not a small piece to embroider and make into a doily. BTW I am no where near the accomplished embroiderer that you are and could never do most of your projects, but I look forward to reading all that you are doing. You also give great advice and suggestions that help all of us.

  69. I would probably wash the tablecloth first and try to get those stains out.The time it takes to embroider the pattern ,which would be beautiful, would be greatly diminished by the stains and discolouration. From the pictures,the fabric is lovely and of good quality.

  70. I would try to wash it first also. If the fabric cleans up and the stamping stays intact then you have another problem. It is a large piece. Do you like it well enough to put so much time into starting/finishing it? Perhaps making smaller projects out of it would be more satisfying. Don’t you just hate these dilemmas?

  71. Hi! I certainly can relate to your problem! The first thing I would do is test an inconspicuous area of the printing to see if it would stay or wash out. A soft toothbrush and some warm soapy water should do the trick. Second, there are products on the market to wash antique linens in, and bring them back to almost new condition. I just wish I could remember the name of the one I used on some heirloom doilies I have. It worked pretty good, but I really doubt that it would remove rust stains. The worst part about rust stains is that rust tends to eat through the fabric, however slightly, and will be noticeable in a short time. Try hydrogen peroxide too, to see if it will remove the rust, or even Coca Cola–we used to use it on car bumpers years ago (remember Chrome bumpers?) when they would rust, and it just might take it out. Again, I’d brush with a soft toothbrush dipped in the Cola….I hope you resolve this to your liking, and if you DO find a solution and embroider it, please be sure to post a pic of the finished project!
    Thank you!!

  72. Hi Mary

    I like stitching on old fabric and finding a new purpose for it. I would wash it and then cut it up and use the good pieces in a new way. Patchwork, a cushion or whatever takes your fancy. Not a traditional use but it would be giving it a new lease of life.

  73. Mary I like your plan about restoring the fabric before starting the embroidering. If that doesn’t work out, as you mentioned, just use the clean sections for other uses around the house. If this were a family heirloom I might stitch the whole thing with new thread to be passed on.

    Thanks for your hard work.

  74. Hi Mary,
    Is there any way to cut up the cloth? Often, those large tablecloths have clusters of the design close to the corners and ends. Maybe aim for small tablecovers, like 8=12 inches either circular or rectangular.
    I agree with starting over.
    Good luck with whichever choice you make. I’m sure the final results will be spectatular, like all your work.

  75. Great thoughts as to work on it or not, and I need to think this out more on my projects! If washing takes out the stamping then you still have fabric that you can use in other ways! I waste too much time in saving projects that really could have looked better had I taken the time to think about the end result!! I love your thinking process & ideas!! Glad your mom is better!

  76. Several ideas come to mind with the tablecloth.
    – Sometimes I purposely wash the pattern out of something because I love the piece, but not the design on it. Then I can put my own selection on it.
    – If the stain doesn’t come out, could it be cut down to a smaller piece?
    – As a last resort, stitch it and send to a quilter to cut up into a unique quilt or make into something like an apron, a bag, etc. Add a little lace, buttons, ribbon, etc., and you have something very beautiful.

  77. This would look lovely when finished. As a collector of old linens of any type I often find myself in this dilemma! First I think I may never had it to begin with, so go for an oxiclean and detergent soak first then wash in washer with detergent. I have read for something like this to oxo soak first, then wash I would probably try to test a small part with just oxi to see if the outline disappears. I may not even pick out stitches that are done unless like you say there is not much. Good luck to you. Glad to hear Mom is home.

  78. I agree with all of your thoughts. My only other thought is that there is only a bit of stitching on it. It is not an heirloom. Be happy that you got a good quality piece of linen and clean it up as best as possible Use the linen however you can.

    I actually hope that the design washes out. It’s not that elegant of a design. You do much more beautiful work than that design.

  79. I would also wash the fabric first to see if the stains disappear. If not then salvage what you can. I would also cut out the previous stitching and make it your own.

  80. I bet you could recreate the design if it washes off. You have already got good photos, maybe some measurements and tracing/photocopies as back up.

    I have had good luck with sunlight soap and with oxyclean.

  81. Hello Mary, Howard lucky you are. Here is take on the project. Assuming the design is repetive I would copy the design over some sort of paper, mark with a white thread the main points of the design and soak and wash.
    Thank you so much for your great reviews and projects.

  82. Hello, live your website and daily teaching. I live old linens and work with them often. I have a few thoughts: you could go over the pattern with a permanent marker that won’t wash out then wash it. I use a product from Engelside cleaning products called restoration. I buy it in line. Soak your linen in that then wash. It works like a miracle. It will whiten and remove any stains. Easily, just soak and you won’t believe the results!!

  83. Good Morning all,
    As a matter of fact this is a situation I’m in… I have a tablerunner that a friend made and I want to keep! but it has stains that I can’t get out… SO… I’m going to add some beading and make those stains into flowers… She did candlewicking and embroidery on it also.

    Hope this helps.


  84. I’m with you, Mary: tackle the stain removal first. For many years, Citra-Solv was my go to product, full-strength if needed (for less delicate fabric). But recently I discovered Ecover Stain Remover. It comes in a squeeze bottle with a soft round brush built into the top. It’s a very effective formula and pleasant to use. You can squeeze it onto delicate cloth and skip any contact with the brush top.

    That said, unless I really, really wanted to stitch the tablecloth I would pass it along with no regrets, given the size of my stash and the length of my project list.

  85. I agree with ur thoughts. As 20 yrs. old isn’t antique, trying to make the fabric n better shape is best!! What I saw of the design, I really liked. Basic, simple but neat. Can’t wait to see results!

  86. Mary – So glad to hear of your mom’s healing. I know you treasure every moment you have with her. Tell her prayers from a whole choir of stitchers are sent every day!

  87. Oh this is such a good subject! I have a very different take on your dilemma, although I surely understand all of your points. I seek out hand-stamped projects at estate sales. When I find one that’s partially done, I decide whether or not to buy it based on the design, and based on the type of fiber used for the part that’s embroidered already. I like the idea of finishing a piece that’s been started by another person. I like the idea of following in someone’s footsteps (or stitches). I like the idea of completing the work that someone else couldn’t (for whatever reason). And sometimes, when I like the piece well enough, I don’t even let little stains stop me.

    In this case, I think I might use this opportunity to experiment. Give the tablecloth a good soak and see what happens. Have the stains budged? Is the print fading or washed out? From that point, you can decide what to do next. Can’t wait to see what you decide… and how it turns out.

  88. I had a similar situation with a piece that my grandmother had started before she passed. She had obviously started it some time ago and it had suffered the ravages of time while stored. My first step was to wash the table cloth, which with good fortune removed the stains and restored the white fresh look I wanted. My grandmother was a master at needlework and to pick up where she had left off would show my less talented attempts. I left her finished work untouched, removed the unfinished sections and then finished the piece with my work which I did with the utmost care. I was quite pleased with the way it turned out and I believe my grandmother would have approved.

  89. I had something very similar, although it wasn’t linen, but cotton with a stamped cross stitch pattern on it. It was clean, with no stitching. I used it for making muslins (test garments). I worked perfectly!

  90. I agree with you. I would definitely wash it and if stains cannot be removed it might provide lots of linen for smaller projects. Tea towels, napkins, small pieces for negative embroidery that could be framed. Possibly a large piece that could be a smaller table cloth.
    I so enjoy reading your posts and your website!

  91. PICK IT(first) and WASH IT! And wish for the best. Sure wouldn’t want to put all that stitching time without reward of a beautiful tablecloth. That said, I have a large medium weight linen tablecloth that was stitched by my stepmom. It is very heavy and even heavier when wet. But the feel of the linen is so soft and comforting when touched, that I don’t mind a few wine stains that will not wash out. The strains are reminders of family get togethers over the years. Of course the stains on your piece are not your family memories, so there is no connection to them. I liked your thought that the linen, if not “redeemed” would make wonderful kitchen towels.
    Re-invent, re-use, be sustainable.

  92. If the majority of the linen is dirty or marked, I would go for washing the whole of it and risk the stamping washing out. You can always do your own stamping if it comes clean. No point in putting in a lot of work unpicking or finishing off embroidery if, after then washing it, the marks remain. Good luck with whichever choice you make! I’m pleased to hear of your mother’s progress.

  93. Hi Mary.

    I’m so glad to hear that your Mom is doing better.

    If I liked the pattern on the tablecloth, I would try to salvage it. I would remove the stitching if the colors didn’t appeal to me, and I would definitely wash it!! Like you, I value my time. If the stains do not come out, I think your idea of using the good portions to make towels sounds great.

    I look forward to to seeing how the tablecloth looks after washing.

  94. Not always, but USUALLY, a good soak in a baking soda and vinegar bath, followed by a good rinse in the sink and then a cycle in the wash does the trick.

    Keeping in mind that I’ve only done this when I’m pretty sure the piece itself is less than 40 years old. Inks used for stamped designs changed somewhere in the mid-70s, so older designs tend to wash right on out.

  95. Definitely would wash it first. You really have nothing to lose. I would pick out the stitches, put it in the washing machine for a good soak, wash it,and if the pattern washes out and the rust doesn’t, there will probably be parts of the linen to use for other projects.

  96. So glad to hear your Mom is on the road to recovery. Best wishes to all.
    I too have received the same type of stamped linen table cloths, embroidery started and then abandoned. After assessing the condition of the linen and was satisfied that it was in good shape I then looked at the size. If the tablecloths were too big for my table (which they always were) I moved on to the next question, Who do I know who would use it? Definitely not my daughters! They do not iron anything. My youngest daughter doesn’t even own an iron. As I can’t think of anyone besides myself who would appreciate it, well, the next step is how to recycle. The good news is I have turned them into linen napkins and beautiful gift bags. I have to admit it was sad cutting off and disposing all the stamped/embroidered areas. It just wasn’t worth my time trying to save. One last thing, I always made something small out of the linens for the person who gave it to me.
    Cheers, Robbin

  97. I would take out the stiches before pretreating the spots and soaking (my preference) or washing. It would be a shame to wash out the discolored areas only to have the thread bleed, however unlikely. I would also take photos of the design so it could be replicated in the event, also unlikely, it washes out.

  98. I have had great success in cleaning old linens with a product called Restoration. There are other good vintage linen cleaners also. I think I would try one of these products, as they are made for getting old spots out.

  99. Mary,
    Have you tried Sodium Preborate.
    It was recommended to me as safe for vintage linens and I have soaked many different linens in it and had very good luck. (Crochet bedspreads, table linens , bed linens and miscellaneous items)
    It will not remove rust but it does remove age spots and crease stains.

  100. Mary, I have done a couple oF these. Frog, the embroidery. Boil the linen in oxyclean. Run through the rinse and spin. Hang to dry. All my spots came out. Although fainter, I was still able to use the guidelines. One had to be done twice. Usually those linens from 20 years ago are Belgium linen. They will last another 30 years with hard use. I turned one into a summer bed cover.

    I also donated the thread and chose new colors. I used the new Blendables cotton petites from Sulky. The napkins have been in regular use for three years now and still look great. I did the others in a Perle cotton. Have fun.

  101. I have exactly the same problem, with a twist. The cloth came from my mother, who died in 1962, when I was a young child. She had done some of the stitching, about @ quarter in a lovely Swedish blue.
    Unfortunately, I cannot get any threads to come close to matching it. Your idea to wash it first to get out any stains is brilliant. I haven’t looked closely at the piece since I couldn’t find a remotely close blue. It’s a cross stitch piece, rather than a fine embroidery piece, and as I have a few skeins of embroidery floss from my grandmother (her mom), I thought I’d use them to work on the rest of the piece with them.
    What do you all think? Should I stick with only blue, but use something I can find that is as near as possible, use my grandmothers thread to stitching other colors, or wash & pick everything out and start over again, maybe break up the piece into placemats and a runner or something?
    Thanks for any input/ideas, as I am truly in a quandary about what to do about it. My niece is not really interested in “old” things, but maybe her 1 year old daughter will be.

  102. Wash it. I attended a lecture by a person that brought linens from museums that were updating their collections, she said she washed all linens using beach too before re-marketing them. Said if there were stains she couldn’t resell. If the pattern washes out you’ll have some vintage linen to use for other projects!

  103. As a dealer wbo has sold linens for more than 25 years here is what I would do. First soak in a strong Oxiclean solution for a whole day then see what stains remain. If small rust spots drops of Whink Rust Stain Remover. This is strong stuff but at this point you have nothing to lose because if those stains do not come out there is no option but to discard. If the stains come out then soak in clear water until it will be clear of the chemicals used. If it comes out stain-free, only then would I take the time to pick out the embroidery.

  104. I worry the stains will not disappear. It looks like they have been there for some time. Maybe the cloth could be cut into smaller usable squares……such as a smaller table center piece, embroidered napkins…… good luck!
    Glad your Mom is feeling better.

  105. I would do exactly as you’ve laid out.
    First determine whether the piece can be cleaned such that the entire cloth will be a beautiful piece once embroidered.
    If it cannot be cleaned satisfactorily, any number of items could be cut from the entire piece and embroidered : hand towels, pillow case, child’s shirt, table napkins, pot holder, etc.

  106. I would stitch over it before trying to clean the stains away. That would let you utilize the pattern and cover some of the stain. If you can pinpoint the type of stain (oil based, just dirt, rust…) then there are specific methods for cleaning each. If you can’t pinpoint the type of stain, then I would use a soft toothbrush with the mildest cleaner for dirt with a towel beneath the work to blot up the moisture as you go. If that fails I would incrementally use slightly more harsh cleaners to ascertain which stain it is continuing with the blotting technique. Powdered Comet works in rust stains with that being the last ditch effort to clean it. I would NOT submerge the entire piece in water nor would I place it in a washing machine. Hand wash it at most. But that is just my opinion. BEWARE: make sure you rinse all traces of cleaner thoroughly prior to the next, especially if you use an ammonia based cleaner (for an oil based stain) prior to using a bleach cleaner. If the two chemical bases meet they give off a deadly gas.

  107. After I looked at what was shown, I would look at it this way. If the design washed out, you will then have a blank canvas to create with. If somethings do not come out, for example the rust spots, I would use French knots to camouflage the spots.

  108. Hello Mary, Thanks for sharing your situation and solution. I wondered if the tablecloth was in the original wrapping? Or is there any indication of the design or manufacture? I ask as (and I’m sure, you have thought of this) might be to see if there is a way to identify the manufacture or design by Googling? I know that at times I’ve been able to locate fabric, or other design that might let you know if the design is permanent. Just a thought from one person. If I were to venture an opinion, I would agree to find a way to remove the rust and stains before putting in all the work of the embroidery. Good luck and looking forward to your response.

  109. I would do all the cleaning processes you discussed. If the integrity of the ground was good but a few light stains remained I might dye it or tea stain it. If light rust stains remained and they were isolated near a motif, I would stitch over them.
    Paint outside the lines!

  110. I think I would go with your plan. I stitched one of those preprinted cloths back in the 80’s and still have it. The fabrics used in kits back then were of a really good quality so if the design washes out you can still use the cloth. And with your skills you could easily design your own motifs if the lines wash out.

  111. I do the same as you with stained vintage stamped linens. The value to me is in the linen, not the design. The designs on them aren’t usually very good anyway, or at least, not to my taste.

  112. Came across an old advent calendar my daughter crossed stitched for my nephews when they were little. My ex sister in law just threw it in a box and it some how wound up in my mother’s attic. We all live in Florida so you can imagine the filth and mold on it. I almost cried because I remember my daughter stitching this as a teenager so much work. I thought ok as it is it’s ruined anyhow how much worse can it get if I soak it in Oxi Clean. In it went. Like new. Now hanging every Christmas in my daughters house. So happy. In other words if you think it’s ruined anyway then you have nothing to loose, soak it.

  113. Hi Mary! My guess is consistent with yours, it’s not old & perhaps a Ben Franklins’ store special. We all practised on these when children! My feelings towards issues like this requires a very serious, honest, inner look at myself. I like to think the original person would be happy you did SOMETHING with it, whether start over fresh, cut to pieces, or finish it. Pretend you were the one that started it & for whatever reason, never finished. Then you saw another woman do something with it & it gave her joy & was used. You can’t save everything, shouldn’t save everything, but should do something with it. I would wash the heck out of it & go from there. ‘She’ would do the same. 🙂

  114. Mary…..if this were an old family piece, somewhat stitched, I MIGHT try stitching some more. If it were just a tablecloth, I might just wash and perhaps even bleach it, hoping to get a blank piece to use for other things.

    I only buy vintage linens in great shape in order to use them myself, or make small repairs either for myself or other family members who also enjoy such things.

  115. I started embroidery on printed cloth like this – right after the stone age! I also have a large tablecloth that has been sitting for a few years. Now I have to get it out and see the condition. I agree with everything you listed you were going to do. I also liked cutting the fabric into smaller pieces to make something more in line with the way I work now. A gardener friend of mine, in talking about plants – “If they do not work or die, just rip them out, they are not your children”!

  116. Your dilemma with this unfinished linen piece has been an issue in my needlework acquisitions over the years also. Your plan of action has my vote. First appraise to satisfy your judgment of quality of fabric followed by multiple soakings in Biz, laundering, fresh-air line drying, etc. to assure yourself it really is worth the time and materials necessary to complete a pattern that fits the ground fabric. In reality, more than half the gifted pieces of fabric in my stash have been used for completing “practice” work; i.e. learning new stitching techniques, etc.

  117. I’m relatively new here and this is my first comment. I totally agree with first taking out the old stitching. Time spent on a project this big, I would want only my own, best work reflected throughout.
    And as I am a cautious creature, I’d lay it over the copy machine, (!) sections at a time, until I had enough copied that I could retrace the design back on the cloth if it all washed away. Why bother tracing by hand for nothing? Then I’d probably test a spot on a corner to actually see if the pattern washes out, and if it did, so what? I have a copy of the design.
    Measure how far the design was from the edges and plot it all out on scratch paper.

    Then I’d gleefully wash out every last stain. If the cloth falls apart in the wash, I still have a representation of the design to work on another cloth or parts of it for a runner, or even pillowcases or napkins. These old designs are as valuable to me as the thing itself.

  118. I have been given a couple of linen cloths almost the same. The real problem with mine is the yellow fold lines. I have not thought of washing them first and seeing if they are worth the effort. As someone growing up without a lot, I find it very difficult to throw them out. I will probably use them and just comment that they are old. Even though I know they are not that old. I did have to take out some of the stitching because it was not what I wanted to use. Luck for me, there was not a lot done. I think that I will now wash it completely and than finish the stitching, if the pattern holds.

  119. Totally agree with your assessment, Mary. No way to move forward without determining what the linen ends up looking like. I hope you’re not even going to pick out the embroidery before doing the wash step. There is that Wink product too for rust specifically, and I have not had it hurt fabric, in case those spots do not respond to washing. I would certainly stick to cold water and no heat drying until you can determine what you have. You could photocopy the design if you wanted to replicate it in case it washes out. I enjoy salvaging things, but wonder if a different use for the linen, as you suggested, might be more practical than a huge table cloth? A lovely Japanese style apron in linen that Janet Clare has made popular, and the idea of pockets embellished with embroidery/bits of lace from doilies…so lovely. Will look forward to what you come up with!! Good luck!!

  120. Mary I would soak it first in sodium perbate for the yellow stain and then use Rust Stain remover by wink, I have had good luck using this product on rust. I would not start the embroidery until I got the linen clean. This will be a fun project!

  121. Have you considered the historical value of this piece? Is it one in a million, or unique?
    If it’s antique, you don’t want to alter it.
    I would research the pattern/kit before anything.

  122. I had the same issue with an “afghan” from the 50’s. About half of it was embroidered. However, it was from a kit which, while showy, was not all wool, and the threads were varied in quality. Finished it might look wonderful at a distance, but the finishing on the back was poor and the quality was just not worth the time it would take to supply missing threads and finish it. It goes in the trash.

    For your tablecloth I would split it down the middle, divide each side into towel sized rectangles, heavy wash the stained parts to see what happens and hand out the remainders in a beginning class for learning and practicing new stitches.

  123. Hi Mary,
    I think it would be soul destroying to stitch the whole piece and then find the stains were still there. If you want to ensure that you have the same design after washing and stain removing, try tracing the design off onto a piece of tracing paper and using a Sublime Stitching transfer pen to go over the lines on the underside of the tracing. If your design does wash out and the linen is worth re-using you can iron the design back on. It may be worth making a number of copies if it is a large design and you need to use the transfer a number of times to get the complete image.

  124. I think it depends if you like the design. You could always trace the design and then reapply it if becomes necessary. Usually you can clean good linen beautifully and I think the rust stains will come out with oxi clean. You can even soak it for a few days if needed. It just seems to me with such a nice fabric you would choose to design your own patterns for it in colors to match your china or dining room. Or even take a flower from your dishes to copy on the cloth. I love Mrs Meyer’s detergents as they smell so good (not chemical). I like Orvus quilting soap, or Woolite with the pink cap for delicates. Enjoy the process!

  125. Mary I would do just what you plan to do. Wash it first.
    I did a table cloth once – a big one. Took me forever and when it was done I was so, so glad! However, there really is no substitute for an embroidered tablecloth, and so I think you have quite the find there, IF you can get the stains out.

  126. Mary, I would definitely start with a good washing. If you don’t pick all the original stitches out, I highly recommend using Synthropol to bind up the loose color molecules that might leave the old threads. When dyeing I could throw in a armloads of stitches and variegated freshly dyed clothe and never worry about any loose dye depositing itself somewhere unwanted.

    If you can get the linen to an almost perfect white, cream, buff, etc, but still have a few spots, is there’s color you cold use in the dining room this would be used in to get a dyer that specializes in completely flat, solid dyes that could minimise the udesired colors?

    There are also a few decolorants used to use on areas of Yong that an allow one to remove parts of complementary colors to die in the same cloth if careful not to mix them. It can removed dyed (& stained) colors to a white background then treated with its opposite chemical agent to completely deactivate the lightening effect. After that is done the additional dye can be added and get fantastic results having a small areas of complimentary color in the same cloth.
    I’ve had some of these work on stains the Dry cleaners can not remove and not have a bit of a problem. I’m not sure what the active ingredients of the past 2 generations are, but the first had bleach in it and no matter how the Bleach Stop was used, among other pastes to neutralise it, that part of the of the fabric always wore away first in my experience. But there are much less damaging pastes and rubs that work beautifully and available to us now.
    I really think there is one kind of dye remover & after rincing, a chemical reversal that would work on those spots. If you aren’t in love with the pattern, it Utd possibly take the drawin off as well if you have ideas for a different design.
    I’ve worked with Dharma Trading Company for decades and they have never failed me. They are in California so are open late for those of us night owls and will answer any questions all the way down to the molecular level if interested.
    Others prefer Pro Chemical and Dye in MA.
    I hope you find a solution to that great piece of linen!

  127. I like your plan.

    I’ve never embroidered a large tablecloth and don’t think I would take the time to finish someone else’s project, unless that someone was near and dear to my heart.

    I look for linen tablecloths at estate sales and thrift stores to use for some of my embroidery projects.

  128. I think you are on the right path with washing first. You have nothing to lose. Hope it isn’t too boring to stitch if you are able to salvage the imprint. Might be a good project to keep mind and fingers busy without having to think too much. Judith

  129. Oh, Mary, I love finding these orphans and adapting (adopting?) them to some use. If that tablecloth came clean the first thing I would consider would be completing the embroidery BUT only if it is jazzed up a couple of notches–change those ho-hum daisies by adding petals to make realistic or fantasy flowers, thicken the wimpy stems and scallops by chain stitching, couching or some border pattern. And I agree–old linen into towels or quilt squares. I have some of Ruby Short McKim’s Quilty patterns and the set of Roly Poly Circus blocks that I would like to work on older material using more imaginative stitching than stem.

  130. Before putting through the washer, you might try lemon juice on spots and dry in the sun. Find someone in your area who restores old quilts to see what they recommend to remove stains and spots. Synthrapol is a detergent many quilters use to prevent dyes from running when washing quilts. That might remove spots too, but don’t know if it will take the design as well.

  131. I think I would try to clean the linen first and if you lose the stamping so what? You have a world of designs at your fingertips. If the whole thing didn’t come clean but a major portion of it does, I’ve sure that you have plenty of projects where linen would be so much nicer than cotton to stitch on.

    I was at a yard sale one day and up for sale was an embroidered tablecloth along with 12 napkins embroidered just like all the squares in the tablecloth. I couldn’t believe how much time someone put into that set. The woman having the sale was in her 70’s or 80’s and estimated that the set was at least 100+ years old. She sold it to me for $10! I felt the need to rescue it from someone that wouldn’t appreciate it. I got it right before I got chronically ill and have not had a need to feed 12 people since I got it. But I see these pieces and can’t leave them to languish as if no one cared about them.

  132. Hi Mary. I have cleaned many a linen restoration by presoaking in hydrogen peroxide. I of course try a corner or small piece, then the whole thing. Works wonders on many marks/stains.

  133. I agree! My “stitching time” is precious to me so if this was my tablecloth besides evaluating the ground fabric, I would ask myself, “ is this from a loved one”, does this have a sentimental value to me. If the answer is NO then I would pick out the threads and then soak and wash the cloth, if none of this works I haven’t really invested any precious time nor sentiments and would have no problem using the linen for practice pieces. Kathy

  134. Definitely try restoring the linen by washing it. Then decide whether to use it as a tablecloth or for other purposes. My first thought is: would I be willing to wash and iron it after every use, or would someone you might gift it to, be willing to wash and iron it. I know of no one in my circle of friends and family that would be. It would be a lot of time and effort wasted if the newly embroidered tablecloth just sits on a linen closet shelf gathering more stains a rust.

    Pat in Lebanon

  135. Hi Mary I’m very new to both your blog and to hand embroidery, so take my reply with those facts into consideration.

    If you think the provenance of the linen is auspicious, like Queen Elizabeth’s first and only attempt at hand embroidery, then I’d conserve the linen just the way it is, and try to make a gazillion dollars off the piece.

    Since that’s unlikely I say wash it and take a chance on the design washing out. If you say there is only two choices, then I suspect that’s true since most of us (I think) consider you the expert around here.
    So good luck Mary and just FYI, as a new embroiderer, I love your blog/webpage. Lots of great info.

  136. Without a doubt m, clean it first! If the stamp comes out and the fabric comes clean at least you have a great piece of fabric for another project.

  137. I love browsing online for old table, teacloths, napkins and pillowcases that have been heavily discounted due to moderate to severe staining. Most are from the UK and all hand embroidered. Some with open work, pulled thread, lace insets, etc., etc. I enjoy the challenge of resurrecting the true beauty of these timeless pieces working very small areas at a time. I spot clean with full-strength Clorox bleach and Q-Tips with a bowl of white vinegar on the ready to neutralize the area. It IS time consuming and a good eye is important but I’ve never had a mishap and the linens; after regular washing, dry to their original brightness and beauty.

  138. I have put every old treasured textile I own, including samplers, laces, and embroidered linens in a bath of sodium perborate. The old aging yellows and browns pore out of the fabric in minutes. Some old black and red floss may run so watch carefully and rinse a lot for colors you may observe running and blot dry immediately. Recognizing what caused a specific stain may need an additional appropriate solvent before or after the wash. I can’t get sodium perborate any more from a lab source, I think because of rules against retail sale of this chemical, but the product I use now is called Retro Clean (www.retroclean.com) whose active ingredient is sodium perborate. The original instructions with using sodium perborate stressed rinsing very well otherwise any residue left on the fabric may cause staining when ironing. If your item is particularly brown from age, a second wash is suggested.

  139. I have been where you are. While going through my mother’s possessions after she passed in 2014 I found a linen tablecloth in the same condition as yours. I did not wash it fearing the stamped portion would disappear. I did pull out all the stitching done to that point – actually very little. Today, almost 5 years later, I am close to finishing this tablecloth. I worked on it every other month to avoid getting tired of it and completely setting it aside. After the stitching is finished, I will take it to have it professionally hemmed.

    The big difference in mine and yours is mine had a sentimental attachment that made me work on it even though it was not in perfect condition. It was my mother’s – I wanted to finish it. You have the option of walking away. Good luck in whatever you decide to do.

  140. I agree about washing it. If you lose the stamping or can’t get the stains out you can still use the clean parts for other things.

    So glad to hear about your mother. Just the fact that she is home will make her feel so much better.

  141. Personally I would wash it, but I would put it in for a good soaking in vinegar and baking soda first, then add some detergent and let it wash. Then let the sunshine do the rest.

    It would be an awful waste if the rust stains and yellowing were not to come out. But on the bright side you could always cut it into other useable pieces, napkins, towels, doilies and do some lovely work on those instead.

    Good luck. Will be watching to see what you decide to do with it.

  142. I would wash first and see the results before going further. Yes pick out the remaining stitches. Bottom line. Of what I saw this stamped design is not motivating so I would use the fabric for other projects.

  143. If I was emotionally attached to it or I was very much in love with the pattern, I would copy enough of the pattern to duplicate it, just in case the pattern washes out.

    Otherwise, I would consider it a source of linen and wash it. If the spots didn’t wash out, I would salvage it, cutting piece by piece of what I need. I.e., I would try to use some of the spotted/discolored areas, in areas that they would not show.

  144. I would go with salvaging the ground cloth. The ground cloth is the foundation. Like a house you need a good strong foundation or why brother building upon it. In this case the ground cloth seems strong which you will find out by putting it through the riggers of cleaning. If the existing design does not last and cannot be recreated then you will have a clean foundation to begin a new design and in the end you have lasting beauty.

  145. Hi! Yes you are correct in assuming that a lot of us have similar situations. After my mother passed away, I found a set of prestamped embroidered pillowcases that were 90 percent done. I was sure they were one of her own projects but no floss was with them. By searching through her sewing bags and boxes, I was able to find the floss. I finished them and so glad I did. But I also found a prestamped dresser runner that I think must have been my grandmother’s passed down to my mother. No stitching had ever been done on it. The fabric seems to be fine and not stained but the pattern it not very appealing to me. I have so many of my own projects I want to do I am having a hard time convincing myself to do my grandmother’s.

  146. I agree with thought process here, but perhaps photograph the design first. I would be torn between having a clean slate if the design washed out (woohoo) and wanting to honour the gift by referencing the design intention even if it was my own, but related endeavour.

  147. First of all, I agree with you and wouldn’t even consider stitching it until I knew the linen was going to be salvageable. The main decision point for me would be, considering all the projects I want to do, is this something that I want to invest time on? Also, is a huge tablecloth something I will need or use, or maybe I would cut out pieces (if the design supports that) and make smaller projects — I would still wash it first to see what happens. Just my thoughts.


  148. I’ve had good luck with rust stains using CLR. Either way you have to try and wash it. You wouldn’t use it dirty embroidered or not.

  149. I do a lot of “crazy quilting” with bits and pieces of old linens, some of which are embroidered. IF the washing doesn’t work perhaps sections could be used in a crazy quilt wall hanging. Karin Goudy

  150. I also have a similar item. Much older by comparison. I think mine might be from 1940s or 50s? The linen is unmarked and it had a similar amount of embroidery done. It is very good quality linen.
    I started by choosing some threads to blend and match. It’s coming up fine but it has a scalloped edge with a bound edging. Probably made for crotchet or tatting. I don’t particularly like this and want to modernise it. Any suggestions?

  151. What a delicious problem!
    If the design elements already stitched are few in number, go ahead and frog them. Then launder the linen by pre treating the stained areas with your favorite stain remover and allowing it to soak for at least 24 hours as our grandmothers did. Finish washing as usual and rinse several times but hang to to dry so any remaining stains don’t set. If there are any reddish brown or orange like stains remaining try a rust remover and launder again. If any stains still remain, use the old fashioned trick of lemon juice, baking soda and strong sun light for what is left. You might have to wait until summer to lay it out on a lawn or bushes.
    If all this fails to get you clean fabric then try to repurpose the linen working around the stained areas for the largest pieces of “good” linen.

  152. I live in Vintage Linens Heaven (aka the UK) and find gems like this one often, usually in charity shops or on auction sites. I would do exactly what you’re thinking about doing – in fact I’ve done it a few times myself. If I like the design enough to want to stitch it, before washing (and I’m as ‘ruthless’ with the washing as you’re suggesting for your piece) I take photos of the design (corners, centres, and the whole piece either on a table or hung on the washing line) in case it washes out (sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t) which has helped recreate a design I especially liked. The stains almost always come out in the wash – all but the rust looking ones but those tend to fade, and after stitching those spots seem to add to the vintage charm.

  153. I didn’t read all 91 comments, so I can’t imagine I’m the first to suggest this, but just in case–can you re-mark the lines with something permanent that WILL resist washing, and then wash it? That was my first thought–but only if I felt exceptionally motivated to preserve this particular design. Otherwise, into the wash, just for the sake of preserving and reusing the fabric (for another project if the lines wash out). Beefy linen is useful for so many things (underlinings, backings, etc), even if you wind up with just scraps. But if preserving the design to stitch again was the priority, then a permanent marking method before the bath might be the best bet. 🙂

  154. Have you used Retro Clean. Works great and doesn’t hurt embroidery. We have used it on old quilts and blocks come out beautiful. It will s a vintage soak. Carried in quilt stores. I have used it on what I thought was an ecru piece of antique lace with a large dark stain. Turns out it was white lace with no stain now.

  155. I think you analyzed this perfectly. Maybe, since this is a large sized tablecloth you could cut it down to fit a smaller table.

  156. I have not tried this yet but read numerous comments about how great it is. The product is Retro Clean and I purchased it on the internet. “Safely brings age-stained textiles back to life!” I would definitely attempt to wash this beautiful piece of fabric.

  157. Could the linen be tea dyed to hide the stains? I’ve done that with cotton fabrics, but don’t have a lot of experience with linen. Of course that would give you a new color for the background, but you can adjust your thread color choices accordingly.

  158. I would use a copier to copy the designs in question before the wash. I also happen to enjoy linens that have stains. I have several that have them. I display them on my table proudly as they tell a story of use and love. Good luck with your new project.

  159. I would stitch it first. In saying that I would struggle looking at the marks whole working with it. I have just purchased one at a market for $5 a bargain I thought now one motif is beautifully stitched just my colours. My dilemma, I want to stitch the rest as it’s meant to be. This is a very old Australian company and probably no chance of getting the stitch guide. Oh and when I opened it out I see a lot if flaws in the fabric. That I can live with.

  160. Hello,
    Your tablecloth resembles one that I stitched in the late 1960’s. I received it as a gift; I believe it was purchased from Herrschners catalog. It is Irish linen with DMC, or maybe Anchor, thread. I put it away years ago in a safe place-now to find it. Thank you!

  161. I wonder if a stain is close enough to the edge of the tablecloth to spot clean it with oxy-clean. It almost looks like coffee. I think its worth the try . If not that try a small spot of pattern ink and see if it washes out. Not sure what to do but let us know what works.

  162. I would defiantly not embroider it before washing it as if there are rust marks I don’t think they will come off by just washing and could develop into holes. If I really wanted to sew that particular pattern I would make a tracing of it (or part if it is a repeat pattern) first and then use whatever was needed to restore the linen and remove the marks as linen is robust. If the design washes out but the cloth comes up clean I would then put the design back onto it or do another design.

  163. Mary,

    You may want to try a product by Rit called Whitener and Brightener. It is great for changing materials from dingy gray to white. You may want to add 1 box to the first washing and if that doesn’t work, try using 2 boxes.
    If those spots are rust, you may want to try applying a product called Whink to them and then washing the tablecloth.

  164. If you like the pattern, I would put a large sheet of clear acetate over the fabric before it is washed and trace the design with a permanent marker. Then when you are done washing and cleaning the fabric ( and it’s still okay) you can remark the cloth and start stitching. Thanks for your newsletters. We try to recommend your web site to our newstitchers.

  165. If you still want to embroider the piece after washing but you don’t want the stamping to come out, why not go over the stamping with something which won’t wash out first,
    them embroider it. Otherwise go for it & get it clean.

  166. Hello Mary! I love Needle n Thread! This is a great topic! About a year ago my pastor gave me a vety old dingy alb and asked if I could please try to restore it. It was COVERED in those odd little rust colored spots. I believe it was linen and had heavy lace at the bottom. I placed it in my big spaghetti pot and boiled it on my stove. I changed the water and bolied it again with Oxyclean powder. It came beautifully white!! I left it soaking in my machine overnight with more Oxyclean. And the next day, after a gentle cycle and a day in the sun, it was as good as new! An easy and very satisfying project. If I had your cloth I would try washing it with oxyclean in very hot water. If the design washed away I would cut the linen up in small pieces and make church linens out of them. Can’t wait to see what happens!

  167. Dear Mary,

    As I’m not overly fond of the design, not being a daisy lover, I think I would wash the piece and using the appropriate pen/pencil include the remaining stained area into the present design.

    As far as the daisies go I would expand the design by including the daisies in a group of other flowers more to my liking which would give me the opportunity to include those stained areas into a “new” design. The new design would just be drawn free-hand. I realize not everyone has the ability (or desire) to hand draw directly onto fabric, but I wouldn’t even try to do it any other way as I find the transfer process takes too long.

    As I would now be stitching a more complicated design I would restrict my colour palette to shades of only a few colours. I really don’t like “busy” looking embroidery and the restricted colours would help prevent that impression.

    I’d do all this because I would simply hate to cut up such a large piece of linen; and because I can always find a use for a large tablecloth.

    Well that’s my idea.

    Take Care,
    Cynthia from Vancouver Island, Canada

  168. I’m nuts for upcycling textiles (and other things too)! I’ve had great results with these old stamped pieces by: removing the stitching, washing with some bleach, and then dying the fabric indigo blue (or whatever color the stamping is). Once in a while the bleaching/washing removes the stamp, but rarely. Who says our embroidery grounds must be a version of white! Have fun, hope you share your result!

  169. I just had to comment, here. It was like deja vue. My cousin sent me 2 boxes of linens she’s had stored for years, wanting to know if I wanted any of them. She’s de-stashing. Your blog today just made me chuckle at how folk are de-stashing and, yet, someone ends up taking them to maybe de-stash them at some later period. I haven’t the faintest idea of what to do w/most of the pieces. Some are very high quality, but what does one do w/ 2 dozen embroidered doilies?

  170. What a surprise to see that! I assumed you would simply cut it as I suggested, to use for test patterns and not consider trying to salvage it as there are clearly rust stains along with the stamping marks and several different approaches to finishing attempts. This was owned by a friends’ mother who collected those pre-stamped linens but did not finish them all.

  171. If the fabric is in nice shape I would stitch it before washing. If the stains don’t all come out I would recycle the piece into a pillow, a teddy bear or something similar with the parts that wash out…. or tea dye it to a darker shade…. please share with us what you do and if your process works….

  172. I would
    1. Photo copy the pattern to insure that I had the pattern if it washes out.
    2. Wash
    3. Prick and pounce if the pattern washed out
    4 Stitch

  173. I have been down this road myself where I learned that some motifs can be removed so if you really want the motifs I suggest you run it through a photocopier first in case it is washed out. Definitely unpick the existing embroidery. It is quite amazing how a piece will clean up and well worth the effort. Even is you can’t get it pristine it is a piece of social history, an example of how we used to live. I have quite a collection of old linen like this, ranging from beautifully worked pieces, part worked and unworked and sadly not valued much today but I do believe their time will come. They are examples of fabrics, designs, colour schemes and techniques of the past. Resurrecting a piece like this is very satisfying.

  174. I have put big crochet tablecloths that were my grandmothers in the bath tub. Put regular water then a big pan of warm water tea. First time I did it it was to weak for the color, so I did it again, darker. It had stains on it but not holes…… I have done more than. one and love them and have them on my dining room table so I can enjoy them. I f you are washing the linen to get the spots out, don’t worry about the transfer. YOU have better designs that you like put that on……easy with a stencil you know!!!! Good luck. Glad to hear your mom is doing better.
    Sandi V.
    Sooooooooooooooooooooooo sorry Kansas City lost!!!!!

  175. If you loved the design, you could document it digitally, with a camera, copier, etc prior to washing. Then if the design came out you could recreate it. Having been a longtime follower, though, I can’t imagine you could come up with a design that would make you 110% happy! 😉 Happy washing and watching….

  176. If there’s a spot where the yellow stain appears that’s not very close to the design, perhaps you could do a test clean of that area and see how it goes. I like OxyClean for stains that nothing else will touch – gets tea stains out of linen and cotton, for example. I would think it would take a little finagling to test just a stained area if there’s none a good distance from the design, but it would be possible. I would rubberband the area to be tested so that the stained spot is separated from the rest with the rubberbands. Then I’d support the majority of the cloth, and after preparing the solution of OxyClean, dip just that section into the cleaner, and keep the rest of it (draped over a hanger or shower curtain rod or the like) above the cleaner. Yes, the linen will wick up but the rubberbands may hep prevent that – you could “stack” several rubberbands, sort of like in tie-dyeing, only the opposite result 🙂 Alternatively, do the above but deliberately include a small segment of the design to make sure the ink will withstand this kind of treatment – something that you can easily redraw if it washes out.

    Lovely design, I would enjoy a project of that type if only they were available these days. And that’s my one of my favorite greens, though I agree I’d take out the stitches so I could do them to my (not very exactly 🙂 standards!


  177. I agree that I would wash the linen first. I would not want to use time to embroider it unless the cloth itself looked clean and fresh. To end with ONLY a very nice piece of linen would not be a disaster in my book. Lovely fabric like this is a gift and could have many potential uses. If stains remain, then they can be cut around. Have fun!

  178. My first thought was: I hope Mary’s going to say she intends to wash the tablecloth in the machine and cut up the clean and non-stamped parts for another use. Maybe supplies for the young people’s class since it would probably make lots of small pieces or dishcloths depending the condition.
    My favorite rule for sorting old clothing might apply here. If you can’t decide whether to keep that sweater or not, ask yourself if you would buy it today.

  179. I would do exactly what you suggested. Even when I was a lot younger (82 now) I did not believe in wasting time on something which may or may not turn out OK. It is like persevering on a novel when you didn’t enjoy the first couple of chapters. Life is too short with too many things to do.


  180. I feel exactly the way you do & would do exactly the same thing — throw it in the washing machine using whatever detergents (minus bleach) that it takes to clean it up. Like you say, if the pattern washes out or the stains won’t come out, a piece that large will make plenty of dish towels. Our time is a very valuable commodity!

  181. Mary, please wash first. |I was given a large dresser scarf with threads. It was almost one quarter done and pulling out was not an option. I knew there was a dirt line where it was folded and assumed it would wash out as it was in a spot where it would not be covered with any embroidery. I finished it with the existing threads, they were three strand as well. It was very vintage looking, washed it and the design did not wash out neither did the stain. I got so frustrated I even used old Comet cleanser…..my go to for a red wine stain on my sisters coat. It would not remove the age mark on the fold. Please wash first. I wanted to finish and return it to the lady who gave it to me, but not in that condition. In fact I cannot even find it now. I set it aside.

  182. Personally I would trash it, I don’t think you’re really going to be happy with the end result of time and effort put into it when the fabric isn’t in good condition. I think you’d be happier working on a different project you will enjoy from the beginning instead of trying to rehash this one. Time to move on.

  183. There’s a third option:
    If you’re happy with a monochrome look, stitch it without having washed the linen or done anything to risk the stamping, then dye the whole piece in whatever colour takes your fancy.
    I’ve seen old embroidered napkins and tablecloths treated this way by sellers on Etsy and they look wonderful. Often strong colours like purple, orange, chocolate brown, emerald green, which have obviously been used to hide stains but make the napery look brand new.
    Have fun!

  184. I’m with the majority. Wash it first. If you can’t get the linen clean there is no point in wasting more time. Once it’s clean, you can decide what will happen. If the design washes out, so be it. You can use another design that speaks to you. If the linen doesn’t come completely clean, you can decide if there are parts that you can use elsewhere. The first step is to wash it using whatever soap that you feel is needed.

  185. I agree wash like crazy. If nothing works, dishwasher detergent get even the rust out but you will probably have to replace the pattern with a new one. I would take out the already embroidered part because the color will fade. If washing hurts it cut it into napkins or table runners. We call it recycling at my house.

  186. I have become interested in Boro (Japanese mending) and sashiko. I would definitely wash the piece and then probably use the material to make something else – a vest, bag or jacket. If the stains did not wash out I would cover them with pieces from my stash of embroidered things. I have a stash of linen napkins (they were a wedding -resent 50 years ago and they were old then and I plan to do this with those napkins. If the design does not wash out I would most likely embroider what was there after I had cut the pieces for what ever I was going to make. Good luck with it.

  187. Hi Mary, If you like the stamped design and am worried it would wash away, place the unwashed piece on a copier and copy it. If the design is wide, reposition the fabric accordingly. Light boxes are useful, but I prefer taping designs and fabric to my window when it’s sunny outside (or not even) for transferring. Just remember to use the mirror side of the copied design to get the design right side up.

  188. I would wash it first. If it cleans then I would alter the embroidery motif – to add some fun – before going ahead.

  189. Dear Mary,
    I would also firstly try and take a photocopy of the pattern, with my printer. So at least if the pattern does fade a lot, you at least have a reasonable facsimile to reproduce.
    Then if I was happy with the copy of pattern, I would throw all sorts at it, as it looks like a fairly good linen cloth, and they are very sturdy.

  190. I’d go ahead with the washing plans you propose. Put it this way; does the linen end up ruined? If so, what’s to lose? Like you said, it can be used for other projects.

  191. I also would wash the piece. Before that I would test the material for colorfastness. I would also see if I could “help” the stains disappear. Carbona makes a variety of tiny bottles to take out everything from ketchup to grass to rust. Looking at your photos though, it appears that some of those stains don’t look like they want to come out. I like the idea of putting in extra “fancy” stitches to cover those up. Definitely like the idea of picking out all the stitches as none of them already in will work with your stitches.

  192. I would do what you would do with the linen. I agree that you would have to see if the linen is salvageable before it is stitched. If is is not or the design disappears, I would then salvage what I could for possibly tea towels, bread or rolls cover, table runner, placemats, napkins, table center cloth, ornaments, etc.. The uses for salvaged linen is limitless.

  193. My aunt passed after many years of illness. In cleaning out her residence I came across a pre printed card table size cloth that she had started as white on white. Maybe 5% of a corner. I decided to finish n blue and white variegated to match my Spode China. Had it quilted and it was used as old new borrowed blue at my daughters wedding. We used it on the guest book table w a little sign explaining the white corner. It was spotted and discolored along the fold lines but the sentiments of it far outweighed the flaws.

  194. I washed a small linen preprinted table cloth and the pattern washed out but I didn’t mind as I created my own design – I suggest Applique or embroider over the rust spots – good luck . If all else fails cut it up and make into another project .

  195. I’ve had good luck removing brown stains in old baby garments and such by soaking in sodium perborate (sometimes for days) in very hot water. Have been known to boil them in it. It seems to work when other things don’t. Thank you for your wonderful blog. Hope your mother is on the mend.

  196. I love acquiring vintage pieces. I get a sense of completion if it is from a deceased estate. At times the embroidery is beautifully executed and I will try not to have to remove it. If , however, I feel my embroidery is better than the original, I remove the original without compunction. It is also much easier to match the thread if you intend to do so. If the piece is really filthy and badly stained, I chuck it. If spotted I use the marvelous orvus paste recommended to me by a museum curator and I find it works on most marks. I always stitch before washing as the pattern will disappear. Invariably, I must add a crochet border as well, as the tablecloths are very rarely finished in this way.

  197. First, the design does not strike me as done within last 20 years. It looks mid-century-60’s at latest. All those daisies! And it does appear to be real linen, which was uncommon after the turn of the century.

    Were I really wanted to preserve it, I think I would copy off the pattern, which could be done pretty easily by using a casual diagram, then I’d copy motif units. If the design faded away in the cleaning, I could easily reconstruct it.

    Then I’d spray a little of my intended cleaning material on the worst spots before general wash. If it is large, it will be smaller after wash unless you stretch it. But stretch it, you can. Out of curiosity, how large is it?

  198. You are more painstaking than I. I helped an older man empty his wife’s craft room and ended up with a dozen large totes of miscellaneous stuff. Anything that was stained, I tossed. Her thread was beautifully sorted and stored and I have kept it and added mine to her system. Time is too short to work on anything I don’t love.

  199. As a quilter, I use Retro Clean to remove yellow and brown stains from vintage cotton fabrics. You can soak the item for up to two days. (Not sure how it works on rust.) I used it on a 60+ year old baby naming gown that has been passed down in our family for 3 generations. After soaking for a day, it was back to a beautiful white. This company also makes Retro Wash to use on delicate or vintage fabrics. I have no affiliation with this company. I discovered their products a few years ago at a quilt show.

  200. Interesting quandary! If it were me, I’d wash the piece. If the stamping comes out, and/or if you’re unable to remove the stains, salvage the pieces that could be used for other things. Surely such a large piece of quality linen has plenty of uses, even if not all of it can be restored…

  201. I’d personally personal it in Orvus*, Snowy beach and Ivory SOAP(not detergent). If this doesn’t do it, nothing will

  202. Glad to hear your Mom is doing better. As far as The linen table cloth. For sure wash it before you do any stitching. Remove the stiches that are in it,as the thread may run. I hate to throw anything away ,but don’t waste your time sewing it unless you love it. You could cut it up and use the back side to make pincushions, use it for backing on your projects, make Christmas ornaments,or just throw it away. I always feel quilty throwing things away. Your problem makes me realize that I should throw away some of the things I have been given. Love it or throw it away!

  203. Oh, clean it first! Unpick the embroidery, since you are intending to anyway, and then clean it. You won’t be happy with it otherwise. And if the stamping washes out, well, you have a good, large piece of clean linen all washed and ready to go with whatever you decide to do with it.
    I’ve accumulated a small stash of beautiful and less-than-beautiful stamped linen, some unworked, some partly worked. Because I am nowhere near your skill level, I am intending to use completing them as a way of learning and practising techniques. Could you use some of your pieces in the same way with your students?

  204. Hi Mary and other stitchers,
    I am glad to hear about your Mom.
    Regarding your tablecloth..I would try full strength hydrogen peroxide and my 82 year
    old aunt, who is good with old fashioned remedies, suggested using toothpaste (paste not gel) and gently scrubbing with a….you guessed it—-a toothbrush. Just an after
    thought, what about pure lemon juice and
    sunshine. Best of luck.

  205. I think I’d try to repurpose the tablecloth by saving as many good sections as I could and turn them into something like embroidered dish towels.
    I love your “forensic” examination of the piece–noticing different styles of stitching, the number of strands used, the estimate of the age, etc. It’s like you’re investigating a fabric mystery. I’m wondering who started on it, why, why didn’t they finish…

  206. I agree with the wash first in heavy duty soaking, rinsing and soap. I think I would be tempted to pick out all the stitching. before washing. If the printed designs stay, consider finding a larger design and cover it over with new stitching. You could even stitch some of the daisies then add a new design to cover over the ones where the stamping wouldn’t fade. Incorporate your new designs in with the daisies. If all else fails, the parts that clean up the best could be used for pillow backing. Good luck but I have a feeling, we’ll all see your new tablecloth stitched up with a beautiful new design, looking brand new!

  207. I think if I were you, with so many opportunities to create, I’d sell this on ebay or get someone else to sell it or work it. Your time IS precious and this doesn’t look worthy of your effort. But on the other hand, I do love to see these sorts of vintage cloths given new life.

  208. I too would wash it and then put it in the sunshine. Here in Australia where our summer sunshine just now is VERY strong I’m sure the sun would bleach the fabric. But I’m guessing you are not in the Southern Hemisphere :(.

  209. I would make a tracing of the pattern and wash the tablecloth. If it can be properly cleaned you can trace the design back on if you wish to use it.

  210. WhoHoo Mary, What a find! I agree with your comments about Time and how precious it is. Sometimes we can work on a piece and in reality is is never going to be what we wanted or executed well. So we do need to be a little hard hearted and say “No more!” and move on. But this piece looks worth some time. I would approach this as you suggested.
    Prior to cleaning, I would photograph and graph all the key designs, just in case the pre-inking fades with the oxygen treatment and then I would make a template of these so I could re-ink the cloth once sparkling clean.
    I would give the cloth an overnight soaking, followed by a thorough wash, allowing it to nearly dry naturally and then iron damp. Perhaps for those age spots I would prepare a paste of NappiSan, which I suspect is something akin to your product, and first treat individual brown spots where possible with a paste of this and then the overnight soaking. NappiSan is a product which we have here in Australia and has wonderful success in lifting stubborn stains with its super oxygenation process.
    I think the cloth looks worth it. Thank you for bring this to your reader’s attention. I must peruse the Opportunity Shops here to see what I might pick up like your unfinished tablecloth.

  211. This has been a very interesting and enlightening topic, since many of us are faced with inherited handiwork dilemmas. (And how else did we get the needlework gene?)

    I enjoy these “what do you do about?” topics.

  212. Yes! That is the best thing to do. If the stamping washes out, well, so be it. It’s a nice design, and you could replicate it if bewitc by it. You can use a different design, or cut the linen into smaller pieces for other projects.
    It’s far too much work to do the embroidery and then find out if the linen is salvageable.
    I love old linen, the current products don’t seem to be as heavy and made to last quite so long.
    I’m glad you are the one caring for this.

  213. I’m with you on this, Mary. Time is precious and to spend lots of it on embroidering this piece only to find that the stains remain would be futile. So wash it, soak it, even (if all else fails) bleach it. The stamped design is probably less important/valuable than the linen in the end.

  214. I was going to suggest repurposing this into something small like napkins or table runner but by the end of the piece you had pretty much gone there. One of our ‘quilting ladies’ uses a product called Retro Clean that she gets from Amazon. It really whitens and makes those old yellowed linens look white and brand new. I wonder if it is good for the fabric, but it does do an amazing job. I would do as you are and give it a good wash after picking out the existing embroidery. You can start afresh or use the fabric to something more appealing. Good luck!

  215. Because of my love to do handwork, I have been given numinous donations of old linens. Many in exactly the condition that you described. And they have been stored away waiting for me to do something with them. I believe in your assessment and solution. You have given me the courage to proceed. I will evaluate each and go down the path each one dictates. And, if all that I am left with is some usable linen for another project, I have still come out ahead. It will see the light of day and hopefully empty out a small corner of my sewing room. Thanks for your suggestions!

  216. My thoughts are along the same line as yours. I have noticed the older I get the less time I want to waste in finishing something someone else started, especially when it is in the condition this is. I do the same with sewing or quilting. I will try to find other uses for the materials if they can be thoroughly laundered and not fall apart.

  217. I agree with you about option two. You don’t have much to lose by going that way.

    Here are a couple of my thoughts. The good sections would make lovely napkins if there is a possibility to cut them to size.

    Another idea is something a friend of mine does with old quilts that are torn or damaged in places. She cuts out the good parts and puts them in picture frames to give away as gifts. The linen could be backed with batting. Pieces could also be stretched around a painting canvas.

  218. Dear Mary,
    Perhaps there is a third option: wash it in hopes that the pattern does completely wash out. Then the material could be used for other projects, cut up, perhaps for sharing in a classroom of children who need something nice to stitch on. If it does not come completely clean perhaps it would be useful as a lining, or sandwiched between other fabrics that need stability. Few persons are interested in maintaining a large tablecloth.
    Best wishes,
    Mary M

  219. I would definitely wash it first. After seeing the results of that then I would decide if it is worth the time and effort it will take to have a finished project that I would really like. If you decide not to tackle the tablecloth, I would probably cut it up in smaller sizes that you can use for other projects and practice pieces, especially since it is not a family piece that has memories connected with it.

    The other thing worth asking yourself is whether you or someone you care about will have a use for the completed tablecloth. I can only imagine that it will be beautiful but don’t feel that you have to take this on unless it is something you would love doing and will enjoy once it is done. (Just my thoughts!) ; )

  220. Howdy!
    I really enjoy the precious time you put into it. Thanl.you so,so much.
    I have had sheep until recently, and have done some spinning of various fibers. I mention that, because dying the linen cloth might be your answer.
    You could go with a dark color, such as navy of brown, of perhaps a sunshine
    If you know any of the Ed’s of SPIN.OFF magazine, that might be a great resource. There are a number of folks who have embraced natural eyes and could give you ideas.

    Have FUN!!!
    NANCY Whelan

  221. I have been in this place. I removed all old stitching being concerned that the threads were not color fast. I opted to wash first and keep my fingers crossed. I had good luck. The remaining stains were too subtle to be noticed in use; you really needed magnification to notice it. It was a joy to complete. The design was not disturbed. The edge was generous so the hemstitching worked out great. A great lot of work but so nice to use.

    I have also had this approach fail. The Second piece I tried did not work out so well. So I cut away all the damaged parts. This way some of the border was attached to another piece with faggoting ( check spelling). There was s really nice piece of the ground fabric that cot re-purposed into a handbag.
    Good luck on your adventure.

  222. I love finding old linens at estate sales and flea markets. If they are spotted or stained, you can bargain the price down and get some real deals. I would first do the embroidery with cotton threads that are colorfast. Then fill the laundry sink half full with cold/cool water and a couple of cups of BIZ non chlorine bleach. Mix well, soak the table cloth. You have to stir the water with the cloth in it at least once a day because it needs new oxygen periodically. You can check the progress every day until you are satisfied that the stains/discolorations are gone. Then wash in cold water and rinse well. I learned this technique from and antique textile dealer. It took out wine, gravy and a lot of mystery stains. Since there is no chlorine involved and you are using cold water, it does not affect colorfast threads. Or you could trace the existing pattern over with a permanent marker pen and then soak it, wash it, embroider it and use it.
    Hope it works out for you. Let us know what happens.

  223. Hi Mary , I had a piece like this , I traced the pattern first then washed it, lucky as most of the design disappeared, Then I gave it to a friend who was keen to stitch it ,
    I don’t know if you have seen the work of a lady called Lisa mattock here in Australia who teaches slow stitching workshops all over the world , she cuts up lots of old doilies to add to her work , it’s just beautiful. Well worth following.
    She is on instagram – foragebylisamattock

  224. I would try washing it in the manners you describe; but first, I’d copy the antique desin onto paper or new fabric, using a light box, so the design doesn’t become lost if the washing machine happens to remove the design lines along with the stains. Also, I would test a water rinse in a small area to see how it impacts the design. Next, before putting the fabric into such a risky and serious wash cycle with strong detergents, I would try to spot clean one of the probable rust areas with a hand washing cleaner for delicate and vintage products. It is called Grandma’s Secret Spot Remover. It does amazing things to restore damaged specialty fabrics, yet delicately protect the overall quality of the fabric. I’ve used it on lace, satin, silk, cotton, linen and ultra suede. I’ve removed rust, dyes, bleeding from non-colorfast threads and flosses, sweat, water stains, wine, catsup, chocolate, grass, paint, even the oils from areas darkened by tiny cotton seeds. Some of the stains were 20-50 years old. It works for me at least 90% of the time. Best of luck on saving your vintage project.

  225. I would spread it out and take a photo just in case the pattern comes off, then wash after soaking in (I use Vanish, similar to Oxywhatever). If all the stains don’t come off, cut it up for use in embroidery projects! The main thing is, don’t worry about it, it’s not worth any stress, take care, June

  226. Mary — I’d do exactly what you’ve chosen to do. The fabric itself could be put to other good uses if it doesn’t launder to your satisfaction, especially due to its size and weight/durability. Also agree with you about removing all former stitching. Good luck & let us know what you decide!

  227. Mary, definitely wash it and then, if it looks great, decide if you love it. I haven’t had much luck with “given” items because I didn’t have the thrill of finding, planning, etc. I would probably donate it to a guild and they can decide if they want to do it.

  228. Hi Mary, In terms of stitching the piece, if it can be salvaged— could it be a joint project for your more advanced stitching class? I’m imagining an old-time stitching circle with each advanced child given a section (a daisy?) to complete as they prefer. Perhaps it could be a repeated class project, with each class contributing to it and each child signing their contribution. It would make a nice memento, and it might not matter quite so much whether every mark washes out. All the best, Karen

  229. I agree with you about washing it first. I’ve bought a few things in Goodwill which had small stains and I usually soak them for a few hours/overnight in the Resolve brand equivalent of OxiClean (I find that it works better).

    You could also try spot cleaning to see if the stains are going to wash out…

    P.S. I’m really glad that your Mum is doing better!

  230. Good evening:

    I’m with you in trying to restore the linen first and embroidering afterwards. It would be absolutely frustrating to work on it to find out later that you won’t be able to make it nice. Linen is a strong fabric so I think it will take well to the treatment you described. In my opinion yours is a wise decision.

    Thank you

  231. All your options are well thought out. Personally if I didn’t love the item I wouldn’t put time into stitching or salvaging the linen. I won’t ever complete all the projects i currently have on my to do list. Plus I just ordered these great towels with holly that needs stitching.

  232. Retro Clean was the only product that removed rust and age stains from a 50-year-old, crocheted apron my father’s aunt gave to us many years ago (and we tried many products and solutions). I don’t know what Retro Clean would do to the pattern, so you might want to test a small area first. Good luck!

  233. Glad to hear your mom is doing better. Will continue to pray for her future recovery. Now to the linen problem, I would wash it like you said in the e-mail. Like you I would want my completed project to be the best I could make it. Let me know what you decide and how things turned out.

  234. I would wash it. Would not waste time on embroidery if background is in bad shape. If you like parts of it but not all you could cut into smaller pieces. If not then just trash it.

  235. How about “orrvus”. I think a good soak in orrvus might work. If you can spare your bathtub I would soak it for three or four days. Then wash it in a machine. As for the rust, I use to use salt and lemon juice. Worked well many years back.

  236. I have some old tea tray doilies that I inherited from my mother. I had the same problem with unfinished works. Some of them I have unpicked and restitched. One in particular had stain marks on. I tea died it. It came out very well and have stitched it since.

    I took 4 ordinary teabags and put them in boiling water in a long flat pyrex dish. I then put the cloth in to soak for 7 days. I turned the cloth over everyday. Removed from the tea and rinsed it under running cold water. It turned out very nicely.

    I hope you come right, it is a VERY nice piece.

  237. I’m a rank beginner, but I remember reading about staining with tea. I’d imagine I’d want to choose thread color after. I don’t know if this is a good workable solution or not, but this is my $2’s worth!

  238. I look for incomplete older pieces of needlework. They have to speak to me. I very seldom finish as intended. I just want to meld old and new and free stitch around and over the warts and beauty spots. Gives me freedom to make a mess.

  239. I agree, there’s no point in doing anything without a personal attraction for you, so use your own colors, plus I’d never work on dirty old fabric, I’d wash it first and, if the printed design does wash out, c’est la vie, I’d do precisely what you said about towels. I’d pick out the stitching before washing because the fabric will shrink and those threads will be more trapped than ever. I’d use a product like Biz in superhot water for a presoak in a plastic bucket, then pour the whole thing into the washer, spin and then rinse and spin again, then normal wash with more Biz. I’ve rescued many linen items from rust-looking stains, as you say you have.

    To be honest, the design printed on the fabric is so very me, but the me of many years ago. Now I want something more suitable for my changed taste, so I’d be glad the design came off. I’d do something experimental or something for the time of year when I’d likely use the cloth. Or practice hardanger or another pulled thread technique. Life’s too short to waste it on beginner projects.

  240. I think it all depends on how it washes. If the stains came out and the transfer pattern remained I would consider embroidery it.

  241. Hello. How about unpicking the embroidery, going over the pattern lines with what you know is permanent and then washing the socks off it? Good luck

  242. I would put more value in the linen than the design and would definitely give it a jolly good wash (or two) to see what I could achieve. Like you say, our time is way too valuable to waste working on things that we aren’t going to be happy with and shoving something in the wash takes minimal time compared to any stitching time. Looking forward to seeing what happens

  243. Hello Mary,
    I always enjoy reading your newsletters. Thank you.
    As for the linen table cloth:
    Amongst all the other cleaning efforts try rust remover on the rust stains.
    If you have to cut it to pieces, how about backing for embroidered pillows? Or using it for smaller embroidery projects, provided the pattern washes out.
    Sorry, but I find the present pattern totally uninspiring and would not waste my time on it.
    Best wishes,

  244. Wash this piece first. If the pattern goes, “stamp” another on it IF you want a tablecloth. Or make it into hand towels as you suggested.
    Yes, I have had similar “problems”. My Mother taught me and my 2 sisters to embroider on kitchen towels. As she aged she did a large amount of stamped cross stitch/embroidery pillow cases and tablecloths. A tablecloth for each grandchild and more than one for each of her daughters. When she passed she had several unstitched or partially stitched cloths. Over the years we have found homes for them, but I believe I still have one or two tablecloths that need stitching. Perhaps when my eyesight goes further. Still planning on trying 50 count linen, tho.


  245. For me, I think the first question would be “What would I do with the finished piece?” The other two questions don’t come into play if you don’t have a purpose for it. Both cleaning options could leave you with an unusable item, either because the stains won’t come out, or the design does.

    Is there enough unstained fabric to consider cutting it up, to make placemats, napkins, pillow edging, or just teaching pieces? Or, if you wash it and the design washes out, do you have a use for the fabric, possibly in smaller pieces?

    Much as we’d like to think, not everything is salvageable, or not for its original purpose.

  246. I totally agree with you. Putting long hours into a piece to find stains can’t be removed is futile. Like you said if you need to cut it up for toweling or whatever, you will probably have scraps leftover for testing or using in a teaching class.
    Love seeing all your splendid work.
    Blessings to your mom.

  247. Two thoughts. One, you could embroider it and donate for a cause.
    Two, you could clean it and donate it to be embroidered. There are plenty of people who would love a project like this.
    I have an embroidered tablecloth done by my mother, which I bring out for Easter.
    I actually was gifted a partially started large needlepoint. I enjoyed completing it, framed it and entered it in the county and state fairs.

  248. I bought a lovely linen tablecloth for a few dollars that was unevenly stained with brown and looked like it had been folded and sat in a drawer for 50 years. Using Engleside Restoration Powder on it, it came out completely stain free. You could see if dabbing the the blue erases it completely. With your skills and a before photo, I bet it would work even if most of the blue washes out. Look forward to following your decision!

  249. Hi. I would unpick and wash. To continue and spend a lot of time for it not to have a good visual outcome would be pointless in my opinion. If stains do not come out then I would cut the fabric up for other projects.
    I look forward to seeing what you do with this. Warm regards, Julia

  250. Definitely wash before sewing! If you take a picture first & trace the relevant bit of design (presumably it is repeated), you could always fill in any faded areas that may appear after washing. OxyClean is brilliant, but may also remove some or all of the pattern. Any chance you could soak just the ‘rust’ stains including a piece of the pattern & this could give you an idea of what would happen before putting it into the washing machine? Love reading your emails (& although I live in the UK, have bought some beautiful books that you have reviewed). My prayers are with you & your family.

  251. I would do exactly what you are doing! I agree that it would be a waste of time & materials if the linen can’t be cleaned to look like new. There is a product in the laundry section of the grocery store specifically for removing rust & it works really well. It is a liquid that can be applied directly to the rusted areas. I can’t recall the name & I’m not at home to check, but it comes in a small copper-colored plastic squeeze bottle. Good luck restoring the linen! I hope you’re successful because the linen looks like a nice weight.

  252. faced the same dilemma with my mom’s stashed tablecloths (finished and unfinished) and other linens
    I pulled out all the prior embroidery, 2 soaks in Restore, then a “torpedos be damn” washing in biz then the Oxi clean- then ended up cutting around the impossible sections to now have a company coming stack of dishes towels, and window drying/dust rags
    remember our mom’s philosophy of reuse, make do or do without!

  253. I would definitely wash it first before I put in a lot of time. However I would soak in a 1/2 to 1/2 mixture of original Dawn and peroxide. This doesn’t seem as harsh and it works well. Good Luck

  254. I agree with you 100 % . I feel my time is valuable and I also would not want to put that much effort into it if it is not going to come clean. There are other things you can do with the linen to salvage it and make it look beautiful again.

  255. Thanks for this column. I have a few linens that have the exact same problem and I have been waffling over what to do with them. Wash first or embroider first.
    Waiting to see how your’s turns out.

  256. First I would wash it in Orvis. I purchased Orvis from anyone with supplies for horses. A little goes a long way and does a good job when soaking an item plus it is gentle on the fabric.

    I found an old sheet with beautiful hand work and it was stained. I washed most of the stain out. Cut the fabric to use as a curtain for a single window. Love the piece. Your piece may be too heavy. Maybe use a portion for a cover on a piece of furniture.

    As you mentioned be sure you enjoy working on this project.

  257. I agree, I would wash it first using the mildest soap then work up to using Biz or Oxy if the stains/spots don’t come out. I’d go up in water temp too. It may not be pre-shrunk linen so I would want to make sure I like the size of the tablecloth after it is washed. After all of that, I would check for holes. Lots of work! If it’s good linen, it would be worth the work even if you cut it up to make smaller pieces to use.

  258. Definitely a good soak(s) and wash(es) first! Neither of these will likely shift those rust stains, however. I’ve enjoyed tremendous success in removing rust from vintage linens by: a) waiting until a bright summer day and then b) applying a paste of salt and lemon juice to the stain. I keep a very close eye on things and keep adding more lemon juice by squeezing drops from a cotton swab. Then I was the piece one final time and enjoy!

  259. I would be tempted to unpick and wash the linen. I would be very pleased if I could rescue the whole cloth, especially if the design washed out. If necessary I would then cut down the fabric, keeping the good bits for embroidery and the others I would use for cleaning etc.

  260. Hi Mary,
    Love your emails!
    I agree remove stitching and wash – before putting your lovely hand embroidery into the piece.


  261. If I had no use for a table cloth that size I’d give it a heavy duty wash and use the fabric for something fun. After my mom died I found a partially finished table cloth in her sewing. I didn’t like the colors she was using so I pulled it all out and redid it. I had mixed emotions because it was her stitching but I got over it.

  262. If I liked the design enough to want to embroider it, I think I’d first go over all the design lines with a marker that I knew to be washfast, then I’d wash it. It would be some added time, but it would ensure that the lines would be there after washing.

  263. I’ve worked with several old stained linen pieces and found that after a good washing if there are still stains the best thing that works for me is tea dying it. Then if there are still stains incorporate a new design to cover them. You have all the artistic talent to make it something old and new and fabulous.

  264. Hi Mary,
    Your idea of really washing it is good. You could also use Bio-Kleen. I have had good luck with this cleaner: purchased at the coop at the price of $3.99. Good luck with your endeavor.

  265. I would wash a small section of the tablecloth and see if the motifs wash out. That way you know right off the bat what you will do with this linen – repurpose it after a through washing.

  266. A perfect stain remover for any fabric no matter the age is 1-2cup cascade powdered dishwash detergent in the hottest water possible with your normal detergent and 1cup bleach ..agitate well and then let it soak 1 hour. My aunt ran an upscale consignment boutique and used this on everything from infant clothing to bridal lace.

  267. Thank you for the news about your mom. I’m thankful she is doing better and can be home! She and your family have been in my prayers.

    I certainly would not spend any time stitching on something that wouldn’t be presentable when it was done, and those stains certainly make the tablecloth unpresentable right now. I would try to salvage as much of it as I could, though.

  268. Hi, I would wash first and if it doesn’t clean I would make placemats or napkins and maybe a table topper. Good luck with your project. Glad your mom is doing


  269. I’ve read where people have come across this problem, not got the stains out so they washed the fabric with tea. It makes it look antiqued. I haven’t tried it and I don’t know how I would feel if the tea didn’t stain evenly.

  270. Def agree with your plan. See if it will come acceptably clean— face it, this is a period piece, so if there are minor, not too noticeable stains or discoloration, I’d accept those as part of being vintage. Then I’d do the needlework. Think I’d compose my palette with slightly aged, dusty colors. True, vibrant, modern colors might look out of place. I treasure real linen!

  271. I have a few smaller pieces with a similar problem — they need to be washed before I stitch on them. I agree that I shouldn’t waste time doing the embroidery if I can’t clean it afterwards.

    I have made photo copies of the stamped designs so I can restore them to the fabric if they wash out. I plan to start with Oxy Clean since I have had good results with it.

    I hope your washing works.


  272. I would definitely wash it first. if the whole thing isn’t salvageable I would probably make napkins, practice cloths out of it. maybe dyeing the more stained pieces for some experimental stitching on.
    good luck.

  273. I would definitely wash the linen. If it was a piece of sentimental value, started by a dear relative, then I might spotwash it before trying to finish it.

  274. I have come across this problem with old quilts and haven’t wanted to quilt them by hand if the stains and yellowing would not come out. I found a product at the quilt shop made for this problem. I don’t remember the name of it but I remember it had grandma in the title. It worked well on the quilt. You might contact a quilt shop they are usually going to be pretty up to date on these sort of things. Of course you can google the problem or you might try to get ahold of the American Quilt Guild in Paduca Kentucky they know a lot about textiles. Hope this helps a bit.


  275. I’m totally with you on the washing process. I think the design has lots of potential and can’t wait to see how you proceed!

  276. Hi Mary, Thank you for the article as it has just helped me decide what to do with some old pieces of linen I have acquired recently. Mine are stamped but are very musty & also have some rust marks on them. I thought I would maybe copy the designs first just in case they do wash out,then soak & wash before attempting to embroider Thanks & cheers, Lesley x

  277. Most of us today live a casual life style, even when entertaning. Do you really need a linen table cloth? Maybe it would be best to think of the piece as pre-stamped linen yardage.
    Some people like to cut up vintage linens and make lingerie bags (envelope style) or cosmetic bags , or hanger covers or other closet accessories.
    Another thing that could be done is to divide the linen and offer the pieces online to any of us who whould like to do some of the above mentioned projects. The edges can be finished with a serger and the buyer can deal with any discolorations or stains.
    Is this just a crazy idea. What do you think?

  278. Agree with all your plans … and would not unpick existing embroidery work until sure all the stains wash out. Hope they do.

  279. Firstly I would remove the existing partially embroidered elements, BUT my method of washing is where I differ from your suggestion, and then afterwards determine the next step based on the stability of the stamped impression.

    So, about washing. I would never, ever, put in the washing machine on a regular cycle. If the fabric was very, very, delicate I would soak it in cold water, to remove the loose soil and stains; then I would either use OxyClean or Watkins Lavender Soap. BUT if I was choosing OxyClean this is my method. Boil water – If you have a large amount of material you will need more water than if you had some small hankies or napkins. Now put some OxyClean in the container which will adequately hold your fabric and enough water to cover. If it is a large tablecloth or a large amount of variety linens then the washing machine or bathtub will be perfect. A scoop will be sufficient for a larger batch. You will find with my method you actually use LESS OxyClean. Now pour the boiling water over the OxyClean. CAREFUL it will foam up significantly – about 3x the volume of water you poured. Let it sit a half-minute and then add cold water, enough to cover your material. NOW if the water is significantly cooler, add your material. Let it sit a minimum of 2 hours – or overnight if a large item or one with stubborn stains. Rinse. You will see the results of this most efficient method to use OxyClean.

  280. I would wash it first, like you said to see what comes out.
    If it all doesn’t, maybe re-purpose some of it.
    Dishtowels are a great idea.
    Maybe cut a smaller “clean” section out & stitch it & finish the edges off.
    Maybe the person was overwhelmed after starting it, tablecloths take time to stitch.
    It’s sad when people don’t take care of treasures like that.
    Good luck in whatever you choose!

  281. Wow, I don’t think I’ve seen so many comments on a non-giveaway post in a long time! I think I’ve found a few new methods and products to try next time I’m faced with a stain that won’t budge.

    Mary, you said you’d remove most or all of what’s done if you did finish it.
    And somewhere in the comments, you said you weren’t in love with the design. In that case, I’d suggest saving the design somehow (photos, trace, etc), remove what’s done, and wash the bejebbers out of it. Then depending on how much of the pattern and stains come out, and how well the fabric holds up, you have options. If the pattern doesn’t come out, you could finish as is, or cut towels out to use bits of the design. If it does come out, you’ve just gotten some nice linen for other projects or teaching classes.

  282. Just had a late breaking thought – if the design doesn’t come out, can you use it as “back side” of the fabric? Or does the stamping show through to the back?

  283. Dear Mary

    What a lovely gift a box full of linen. I would choose the second option wash the linen and hope the stains come out, I like to embroider on clean linen so the second choice would be my preference if in this process you ruin the linen you can always make something of the linen like teatowels or demonstration pieces. Thanks for sharing with us this dilemma which I’m sure happens to a lot of stitchers. Let us know the outcome of the piece would love to see it after your decisions.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  284. Hi MARY!
    You tablecloth dilemma rang a distant bell for me. Years ago I purchased a couple of pairs of printed pillowcases. I didn’t like the design but I bought them because they were edge-stitched and I wanted to make some pillowcases with crocheted edges for my hope chest. I washed them a few times with little luck. My mom suggested salts of lemon or alternatively boracic acid- both could be found at pharmacies. I think (it WAS 40 years ago,) one just followed the instructions on the label; or wearing rubber gloves one made a paste and applied it to the areas concerned which were stretched over a bowl. Then you poured boiling water through. It faded the pattern quite a bit. As it happens this is the remedy for rust stains as well. Frankly I would guess that oxyclean would be as good a remedy as any for rust. Given my impatient nature I would try a dry cleaners for the rust and the unwanted pattern first. They have access to solvents and such that we do not; but that is just me.
    If any of our community have better instructions please chime in!
    All of the above is only worth it if you really want the table cloth.
    Given your facility with embroidery stitching could you fill the swags with buttonhole stitching and make a scalloped edge which would also reduce the size of the tablecloth as well? It would be tedious as all get-out but it would be perfect for a portable in-hand project.
    …..just a thought…..

  285. Thank you for this very thoughtful article. Many of us have old, not finished, pieces of linen and there is not much sense in our passing along the the stuff that really ought not to be saved. The saying “Don’t try to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”, fits this.

  286. hi Mary
    I am with you! wash well first in the method you suggested…after all it will be a domestic linen no doubt and can stand a bit if treatment.
    If the stains don’t come out, nothing lost. Unstained areas of the work could be used for little projects eg Card inserts, areas framed in small hoops for gifts
    If the pattern is washed away, well, it would be the first time! as usually you cannot get the retched stamped design off the linen when you want to.

    Pretty design though!

  287. I agree with you that the stamping will probably not come out. As you have suggested, pick out the embroidery and then wash it in the washer. You will be surprised at what comes out. If needed go for something more heavy duty. I prefer Biz, if you are in the United States because unlike Oxiclean, it the item can be soaked for weeks. Oxiclean quits working after about a day.

    If it does come completely clean, besides being surprised, you have a nice piece of fabric to play with later.

  288. Unless I really loved the embroidery pattern I would tend to wash it and use it for tea towels. I once inherited a lot of old linen. A few things I kept but I made towels out of many table clothes and they were great. They are pretty and interesting. I am still using some of them.

  289. Too much work would go into it not to clean it first. Big mistake just to trust God and fate. You are far more talented than I am, you can create your own pattern once the old pattern is gone.. I would suggest trying Oxiclean on it, a good washing, yes soaking, maybe even several washes… maybe pick the stitches first? Do you a good victim who has the time.. oh, sorry, a good friend who wouldn’t mind spending a few hours doing a favor? It looks like it is good quality linen. When it is done, see how it turns out. At very worse, cut it up and next time you teach embroidery to someone use that fabric first, though, it is a shame. I love linen! I used to work in a catholic church, for a time, and ironed miles of it before I was ever out of high school.(that was a half century ago!) 🙂
    Another thought… if it is too big why not make it two tablecloths or a table cloth and a few dolies?

  290. I, like I’m sure many others, face a similar dilemma with pieces my mum started and never finished, which are still sitting in the cupboard. She was an exquisite embroiderer, so I don’t want to just chop the pieces up, but some of them are age-stained and I’m sure I could never match the threads anyway. They are important to me because of the association with mum, but there’s no easy answer! She used to call them “fancy-work”, which isn’t a term heard much these days.

  291. Hello. I am in a similar situation with a vintage piece. This was given to me by an alder lady (80 +). This piece was worked on by her mother & grandmother before the 2 nd war. She is originally from Germany and at one point, fled to Canada (she does not want to talk about the war). Therefore, it seems to be stitched on rough silk with, what appears to be coton à broder. She gave me this piece (about 30 x 30 inches) because her vision is not good enough to pursue it. There is a lot of stitching done on it, so far. Since it has a history (I have the names of the ladies who worked on it), I did not unpick what was there (except for a few stitches). There are small stains on the fringe as well as on the material. I also hope the red will not run when I am finished and I give it a soak (with a few sheets of color catcher, just in case). I believe this piece is worth putting some time on, even if the stains remains. From the story I go, I think it is around 100 years old. So, I do it in my free time when I do not need to mush concentration. I hope it comes out nice but only future will tell

  292. I love stitching vintage linens like these (I will soon start a third large rectangular tablecloth probably much like this one) and have run into the same problem. Frequently the rust stains won’t wash out. If they are very minor (and I love the design)I might just tell myself the kids will stain it anyway. The best luck for getting rid of them has been oxyclean or bleach. The bigger worry for me would be the color variation (in books it would be called foxing) of the linen. It is hard to determine the extent of each based on your photos, but depending on the extent and placement you might be able to do a test soak. If there is an edge or a couple of separate edges with your issues and a motif, photographing the motif placement then photocopying the motif itself could make the area salvagable if the motif washes out. A test soak to see what happens to stains and motif of those edges could provide you insight before you put much work into it. Good Luck and Happy Stitching.

  293. I think you are tackling it in the right order. One thing to consider is if the edges are finished somehow. If not, be sure to at least secure them temporarily before laundering.

    I inherited a tablecloth laid out for cutwork from my mom (along with a tea cloth and 8 napkins). It’s that heavy pre WWII linen that is so nice and dense. Even if I never finish the tablecloth, I will use it for a ground fabric somewhere.

  294. Before you wash your tablecloth and (do not iron it as this will set the stains) Treat the rust with salts of lemon. This may not be available or very difficult to get. So, alternatively, mix a paste of lemon juice and sea salt at a ratio of 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to 2 tablespoons of sea salt. Make enough to cover the whole stain spread in on and leave for at least half an hour. If you need to rub the stain after this, use the squeezed lemon. If it has not come off after rinsing with cool water and then patted dry, mix some new paste. It may take several applications. This is one of the safest ways of doing this without damaging your linen.

    As for your other stains, start by spot treating them with your favourite product and then wash starting with cold water and then heating it up so as not to set the stain, if your washing machine allows this. Now this may sound odd and I have not gone off my good old English rocker but, the best way to get you linen nice and bright is whilst still wet lay it on your greenest part of your lawn in full sunlight. The reaction of the sunlight on the grass activates the chlorophyll and nature does the bleaching for you with using chemicals which could be dangerous to your cloth.

    I have some linen sheets that belonged to my grandmother and I have used these treatments and they are not detrimental to the fabric. The sheets are still going strong. She had them for a long time, then my mother (although she did not like to iron linen so not that much use) Now I have had them for the last 40 years and they are still going strong. I hope this helps

  295. The thing I personally would be most concerned with is the rust stains. I have somehow gotten a small rust stain (from what I do not know) on the first quilt I started but have not completed. I have used a product called Wink that removes rust stains, but I also believe it makes the fabric more vulnerable to wear, so I have not attempted using it. I have friends who have had great luck with BIZ on old baby clothes that had been packed away for a long, long time and appeared to have stains on them when put away. But the rust ………. I do not know. I sure want to know how this tablecloth turns out for you after washing.

  296. Hi,

    I inherited some items similar to your tablecloth. Some were stitched by unknown folks—knowing my Grandmother she picked them up at garage sales. Those I washed first. Some had the patterns wash off, some didn’t. Either way I had clean fabric to either finish the stitching or create something new.

    Some of the items had been stitched partly by my Grandmother and then by my Mother. Those I was not willing to risk losing the pattern—and, if they remained slightly spotted or dingy it was okay. I finished the stitching, wrote up the story of each as I knew it, and gave them to my daughters. Each is now a treasured family memento.

    So I say, wash away. Our time is the biggest investment. Thanks for all you do

  297. Re: “Restoration” by Engleside Products.com.
    I have used the above product on many very old laces to restore them to new-like condition. I have collected lace over the years and have amassed quite a lovely variety. I have taken out rust, blood and assorted other stains. Sometimes you might have to soak it twice but it really works.
    I hope this helps you.

  298. Hi Mary. Over the years I have bought a lot of “old” linens and if the stains are still there after a good wash, then I will dye the linen. I have turned several older stained tablecloths into beautiful pieces again just from dyeing them. If the stain (s) are persistent, then I embroider over them. 🙂

  299. Thank you for this entry Mary. It brings to mind an experience I had last year. I was given a large, stamped, linen, tablecloth that my Mom had bought at a second-hand store. She did three of the twenty-eight border motifs (simple, cross-stitched flower buds). She set it aside, meaning to do a bit at a time, but as time passed her arthritis became too bad to stitch. When she gave it to me, it had been in limbo for at least ten years. The old metal hoop she had used, and the needle left waiting had rusted. I decided to leave it and began stitching. I wanted my Mom to see it finished, and I wanted the history to show with the rust and mismatched stitching. A similar, yet entirely different situation. I stitched for months, and it was on the table complete and cheerful for my Mom’s birthday. Had I obtained the tablecloth with no knowledge of it’s past life, I would have done exactly what you did; work to get the stain out, pick out the previous work and begin anew.

  300. Before using anything else, if you think rust is really that stain, try a carbona stain devils for rust. They are chemically formulated for the particular stain, if you try something else it changes the chemistry. Of course restore the fabric first,it would be depressing otherwise! Good luck!

  301. Hi Mary,
    For many years, I’ve had good luck with Colgate Octagon soap (it’s a brown bar). Put the fabric in a tub of warm water, suds up some of the soap in the soaking water and also use a brush with the soap on it on the stained areas. Personally, I would add a small amount of bleach to the water too. I find it does wonders without harming the fabric. My mother used to soak stubborn stains this way for 24 hrs or more as needed and she had the cleanest clothes/fabrics in the neighborhood! FYI-linen fabric (especially older linen) shrinks when washed. Good luck. I will be interested to know how it works out.

  302. Hi Mary I would wash it and if the stamped area disappeared, oh well you would have a piece of linen to do what you want with. If the rust spots don’t come out then you could cut it up. Good luck in whatever way you go.

  303. Can you try test washing a piece of it to see if the stamping will wash out? You could soak a stained edge to see what happens. If you find it’s washable, but the stains don’t fade completely, what about over dying it a light tan?

  304. I just finished the embroidery on a Christmas tree skirt I started when my first born was new… 38 years ago! Colors change, styles change and we all want to have a piece of project feel like ours at this point in time (while re doing it). I would cut it into smaller portions and spread the wealth! Had I not started the Christmas tree skirt ages ago – finishing half at that time- it would have been done completely different. As it is I am updating using ribbons instead of what the directions stated. At that time the metallic stitching was barely noticeable. Hence my thoughts on your vintage piece. Lovely but would it be used if redone? (Being so large) getting wordy here! First time contributor that has enjoyed your efforts for several years now. Hoping this makes some sense! Katrina

  305. Definitely save it! I’ve done many items like this. First embroidery before you wash it. Washing will remove the stitching lines! When the embroidery is finished soak it in oxyclean. It will be bright and beautiful!

  306. Re: linen post of January 21 2019

    I’ve had a similar experience of being gifted unfinished work. Do pick out the stitching before washing, Older threads are not always color-fast (especially orange and green). If you wash first you could end with more stains than you started with.
    A neighbor lady, who had gone to finishing school in Italy, taught me how to care for linen: On a bright sunny day put it in a large tub and wet it. Lather with Sunlight bar soap and spread the cloth on the lawn in the sun for the afternoon. Afterward run the cloth through a wash cycle without adding detergent. Air Dry or delicate cycle till just damp. Iron Hot, no starch.

  307. I personally would wash it before putting any of my precious time into the embroidery. If it doesn’t come clean, I might cut it into napkin size pieces and stitch something on them! Kate

  308. I would wash it first as if the linen washes clean but the design washes out, you will have a nice piece of linen to use for other things. However, if the stains remain then you will have saved all that time and energy by not stitching on it first and you will have a nice piece of linen to cut up and dye. I notice that some of the leaves have been done in rough satin stitch and other in detached chain (Lazy Daisy stitch) so you’d have to unpick all that green stitching anyway before you could embroiderer it properly. Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

  309. Photocopy the motifs before you wash. Then you can restore if necessary. Rust stain remover is available at the grocery store. It is oxalic acid. Make sure the cloth is real linen – do a burn test on a thread removed from the hem.

    If the entire design does wash out, you can see it as an invitation to yor own creativity, rather than more teatowels.

  310. If it were me, I’d pick out the existing embroidery and then soak it several hours in warm water with a Lot of oxiclean. It has always worked for me with the sort of stains shown. If it also takes out the stamping, you are so talented you could redraw the pattern with little difficulty. Or, draw an entirely new pattern, that fabric looks luxurious if it will come clean.

  311. Hi Mary,, I agree that washing before stitching is the best option, however I would be inclined to test the printed design using a cotton tip and your washing liquid of choice. This would give you a clearer idea of the likelihood of the design surviving the washing process, and perhaps prevent the possible disappointment of the design being lost.
    Good luck

  312. I would absolutely wash this and use it as lining for projects that I make such as pouches, bags and scissor cases. I would not do the embroidery but I would use the fabric to highlight the stamped design. Personally I love foxing to add to the aged appeal of the piece I am making. wonderful fabric to upcycle in so many ways.

  313. I had some yarn embroidered pieces along with counted cross stitch pieces laying on the back of a chair downstairs. Apparently, the cat knocked them behind the chair and when the drain in the downstairs shower backed up it caused some flooding of the floors. The pieces got soaked—colors from the thread had run and there were spots all over each piece. Since I had nothing to lose by trying to clean them, I used my Onguard cleaner concentrate by Doterra. Poured a bit over each piece, used an old tooth brush to scrub each area, let it sit for a few hours and then rinsed. I was extremely delighted to find out it took all the spots out!!! My work is salvaged.

    1. I passed this on to another stitcher who likes to work with vintage pieces and had more time to devote to it. I’m not sure how she’s gotten along with it, but I’ll follow up and ask her and share an update if there’s anything to tell. Thanks for asking!

  314. I would first see if these spots really are rust.You must get some Whink Rust stain remover. I think I found it at Ace Hardware store. It works miracles and won’t stain your fabric. It makes rust completely disappear like magic. Then I would put fresh lemon juice on the stains that are left and lay it in the sun. Also makes stains disappear. If that doesn’t work, then I cook it in oxyclean to take out the rest. I deal in vintage linens and this seems to work for me.
    Happy cleaning!

  315. i have the same problem. Only the linen table clothe in questions was mine. i started it in 1962. got 3 of the 8 patterns done. it was the famous willow pattern. NOw at 70 i no longer have the ruged nor the finger agility to do it. i found it in a box of stuff from that my mother had kept.

    there is no stains just who would want a half done table cloth

  316. I have an elderly friend who has a beautiful linen tablecloth which still has the design marked on it, has never been embroidered, she was wanting to know if there is any way she can remove the design, why I don’t know.It is a beautiful large tablecloth I think she has had it for quite a while, she doesn’t want to embroider it Hoping you can help .

  317. Have you ever seen yellowing around the inked designs? I found a set of 12 pre-stamped quilt blocks at a tag sale, and upon further inspection have found slightly yellowed “halos” around the designs. I guess I’ll try soaking one block in Retro Clean or Orvus paste and just see what happens.

    1. Yes, I have seen that frequently around old stamped designs. I don’t know how well it will come out. Before washing the whole thing, I’d test part of it first – you don’t want to wash it and find that the design comes out, too!

  318. Hi Charlotte,

    It’s probably older than 20 years, this sort of thing was popular in the 1950’s, which would also account for the fading, and rust stains. The overall colour is unbleached linen – my grandmother used it exclusively from the 1930’s to the 1970’s when she died and it was getting harder to find. It eventually washes down to a creamy white. I’ve just acquired a similar printed linen cloth, but this one is pristine , evenly coloured, unstained, and unstitched. I’m toying with the idea of embroidering it myself (my grandmother taught me to always use 3 strands of embroidery silk), or if it’s worth something unstitched, to a collector.

    The company Clarks, who produced linens, various embroidery threads, and iron-on transfers, also produce a line of pre-printed tablecloths, with at least 14 different designs/styles, of which I suspect yours is one.

    Enjoy whatever you do with it!

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