Lois EubankOut Spot, Out!


Okay, you’ve tried your hardest to keep your quilt stain-free, or perhaps you picked up a quilt or top at a flea market and it is stained or soiled. What to do? Take a deep breath, and critically look at the piece. How distracting is the stain? Considering the age of the piece, can it be chalked up to old age? Stains tell stories, just like wrinkles and crow’s feet. By removing the stain, are you in essence erasing part of the textile’s history? As mentioned in my first column-WWGD? Would grandma live with it, or would she be calling in the plastic surgeon to give it a more youthful look?

Now let me tell you about a whopper of a stain. A gentleman here in Fort Wayne brought me two quilt tops from the family farm down south, one of the Carolina’s I believe. These tops were stored wrapped in tobacco leaves in a shed. Can you imagine the stains! Underneath a layer of brown, one could see the beauty of the tops trying to shine through. For these two tops, there was no “pre-testing” of the fabric for color fastness, it would be impossible. So armed with Orvus®* soap, what many conservators use in cleaning quilts, I placed a large piece of plastic in the bathtub, added Orvus to the warm running water, and lowered the top. Immediately the water turned the color of dark coffee. I drained the water and repeated the process. This sequence was repeated three-four times, before the water was fairly clear.  At that point, the top was allowed to just simply soak in its “bubble bath”. After numerous rinses, the plastic sheet and top were pulled up, and gravity was used to remove excessive water. Outside, the top was sandwiched, face-down between clean cotton sheets and allowed to dry in the sun. What was the final result? One top you would never know had been so stained. The other has a small area still lightly stained. Did I go hysterical? Did I try to remove it? No. I consider the residual stain a reminder of its history. Sometimes you can push the envelope too far and things can go dreadfully wrong, but that’s another article!

* Orvus Soap can be found at quilt stores and feed supply stores. I’ve been informed people use it to wash horses!


Do you have questions about your quilts or quilting? Did you miss the Journal Gazette article on Born Again Quilts restoration studio? Visit to follow the link to the article or leave a message.

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Lois Levihn

She is the author of the "Around the Frame" quilting column. She is a graduate of Wayne HS. Quilts have always been important to her, she loves the stories surrounding them, the techniques used in making them, & restoring them. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer