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Heirloom Care and Proper Storage

You've created (or received) a priceless heirloom! Now how do you preserve it with heirloom care for generations to come?

Embroidery care seems simple. Fold it up and lock it in an old cedar chest, right?


Two reasons:

  1. Do not fold embroidery. If you must make it smaller for needlework storage, roll it up. Folding causes wrinkles!
  2. How can you enjoy your beautiful work if it's locked in a chest? Let it live. Make it part of your home. If you display it properly for heirloom care it should still outlive you.

Just incase something does happen, here are some pointers on cleaning.


Felting happens when wool is handled roughly or suddenly heated. Think of a wool sweater that was accidentally washed. The agitators of the washing machine cause the wool to felt, or become dense and shrunken. Therefore, do NOT iron wool or rub it, unless you want the felt effect.

How to Iron

You can iron flat, 100% cotton work from the wrong side. Use a medium setting. Only press on the flat areas, not on the back of your stitching.

For machine embroidery work, especially on quilts, you should block it square and steam heavily without pressing immediately after removing the cloth from the hoop.

How to Spot Clean for Stain Removal

First, try brushing the dirt off as much as possible. Next, try water. Be especially careful of colorfastness. Try wetting the fabric and thread on a corner where no one will see.

If you want to try some other stain cleaner, I suggest you also test on a scrap or along an edge. You don’t want to end up making the spot bigger!

How to Remove Dust

Depending on the piece, you can simply go over it with a vaccum. If the needlework is small and/or delicate, carefully brush the dust off with your clean fingers. Sometimes a damp cloth is necessary, but as stated above, you need to check for colorfastness.

If you have a genuine antique sampler, silk painting, or something else very old and very valuable, I suggest you contact the American Institute for Conservation for a list of conservators in your area and have it cleaned by an heirloom care expert.

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