"Can I wash old lace?" This came from a friend who called me this past weekend, thanks Sandy!
We are talking about lace yardage, not a pillowcase with lace attached. Just the lace. So, it all depends on the lace. Some lace was meant to get a lot of use and was made well. Lace like crocheted lace, Valenciennes lace, Filet, and most others can be hand washed. I use a product called Perk, available through www.twinpines.com. Soak the lace in the recommended water/product solution for 3-4 days. Every so often, give it a gentle stir. You can change the solution if it looks really dingy. One thing to note is that lace can get very heavy when it is wet, and improperly handling it could lead to it tearing. You shouldn't have this problem with lace scraps and small yardage pieces, but for bolts of lace, or lace tablecloths, handle the wet lace with lots of support, like a dry towel underneath it.
Rinse the lace well with water. Now comes the fun part. How in the world are you going to get that knotty mess of string back to looking like it did before. I use a technique called 'blocking'. Using a lot of small appliqué pins, I pin a length of the lace to my ironing board, while the lace is still damp. I pin it to hold its original shape and size. Pin it at each edge every ½" inch, at all points, at all scallops. It might take a stretch and give, but be gentle, we don't want any broken bridges. I then place a length of cotton fabric, or towel over the lace. Then, with my warm iron (steam is okay), I press the lace until it is dry. The fabric or towel (I use an old linen towel), helps to prevent the iron snagging and lace loops and also prevents the pinheads from scratching my iron.
Remove the pins, and repeat on the next length of lace. It is time consuming. But if you have a nice piece of handmade lace, or even old machine lace, that you just can't give up, give it a try.
Although this piece is sold, this is an after picture of lace being washed in the method I just described.
Feature Article: "Storing Your Lace"
Now you have all this beautiful clean antique lace. What are you going to do with it? If you are not using it right away, you will want to store it properly. In my travels I have seen lace stored in many ways: wound over a wood spool, over cardboard, index cards, thrown in a drawer, in baggies, and more.
Lace is like any other textile. It needs a dry place, it needs to be folded or wound properly so not to lose its shape, and it needs to be protected from the environment, dirt, and critters.
I store my lace in two methods. The lace I have for sale, once it is measured, I wrap it on a piece of acid free construction paper. I choose black, because most of the lace is white or off white, and it gives a nice contrast. I get the paper at Michael's Crafts Store in the art section, I think. I fold each paper in half, it makes it a little sturdier. And then each has a white paper label with the type of lace it is, and measurement. The lace is then placed in an archival plastic sleeve. These I get at Office Depot. Splurge for the heaviest weight you can find in clear. Then, all the sleeves are arranged nicely and placed in my plastic storage bins. If you have ordered lace from me before, I usually ship it still on the paper, but out of the sleeve. So, the point here is: keep everything the lace is going to touch acid free and of archival quality. And safe from elements.
My personal lace collection I keep in archival boxes lightly wound unto itself. No pins! No tape! When and if I ever get around to labeling it all, that will be acid free as well.
So, if you find a bit of old lace wrapped on its cardboard, I do not recommend keeping it on there. You do not know the content of the paper. Take the lace out of the plastic bag, it can't 'breathe' in there. Take all pins out, all tape off. And your lace will last another century!
Antique and Vintage Lace