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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(348) 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?