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Needlepoint Question


CGF, Certified Grumble Framer
May 27, 2001
Omaha, NE
A good customer who recently moved from the area was in town a few days ago for a retirement. While here, she finished a needlepoint she had been working on for quite some time. When she finished, she dropped it of for me to frame. We'll work out the delivery later.

She has asked me to wash it in hopes of removing the oils that may have gotten on the piece. Normally, I will not wash an item brought to me but she is a good friend and the needlepoint is sentimental for her. I did tell her I couldn't guarantee the colors wouldn't run but she gave me the go ahead anyway.

My question is, what do you use to wash something like this. I've heard Cascade, Non Chlorine Bleach in luke warm water. Thoughts or suggestions please.

Can't tell you how nervous I am to do this. Thanks

Omaha, NE

They're professionals at cleaning, I would send a customer to them, and be sure to ask specifically about being able to do needleworks.
First - is this a "needlepoint" or a "cross stitch" or "?" and what is it made of?
If it's needlepoint - it's wool - don't wash it.

It'll also be stitched on canvas mesh, that canvas is probably coated/starched. Don't wash it!

Not even sure about dry cleaning - and I have an agency!

Cross stitch I would happily wash myself, as long as DMC or Anchor threads have been used.
Originally posted by iceref:
I've heard Cascade, Non Chlorine Bleach in luke warm water. Thoughts or suggestions please.
Yes, we are not conservators. It is not part of your job description.

With that said, Cascade is way too alkali and strong.... Ivory Liquid or equiv dish soap (very little) in cold water - no agitation.
I’ve had some customers suggest hand washing in “Woolite” for cross stitch.

Any comments on that stuff?
Avoid dry cleaners like the plague. Those chemicals are as likely to interact with the dyes in the threads. I had one that a customer took to a dry cleaner and half of the colors ran.... and they ran a different color!!! Weird but true!

I would use either Ivory for clothes not for dishes or Woolite. That's what some of my other stitchers use.
DISCLAIMER: I am not a conservator and it's not the place of a framer to wash needlework.

Having said that, the cleaner of choice is Orvus, available at quilting stores and some needlework places. Very gentle, no extra dyes, frangrances or anything nasty.

Wash by hand in cold water in the sink, and it takes just a tiny bit of Orvus. Follow the directions on the bottle. Rinse in cold water numerous times and use distilled water if your water supply is nasty.

Air dry overnight on a nice clean white towel.

Press very gently face down on a clean white towel or pressing cloth.

Of course that's what stitchers and quilters do.
Do this. First call the customer and say "I think I ruined it." Wait for their reaction. If its a positive one then wash and frame it. If its what I suspect it will be then send me 1/2 of what you think they would sue, for some great advice.

I never ever ever take in something like that becuase I'm not a fabricologist.
We suggest to our customers that they stitch each color into a piece of extra fabric. This gives them a sample to do a wash test to see if there are any color problems. Cross Stitch is so much brighter after the skin oils and dirt are washed out. Cold water detergent such as Woolite and lots of cold water, roll in a clean towel to get most water out then dry flat and iron.
Orvus is in fact widely recommended to needleworkers. It is detergent rather than soap (it's a P&G product developed for horses and cows)

If you can't find it locally it's available here: http://www.nordicneedle.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?

That said, as a needleworker I would not ask someone else to wash a piece for me. I know how I feel when colors run and it's my own work...I'd never want to put someone else in that position.
We used to hand out the following information to our customers. We wrote it, and you are free to use it if you wish. We actually had one lady who washed her stitchery, and ironed it, then brought it in with pretty pink halo's around twelve red hearts. The red hearts bled. but she folloed our instructions, and the bleeding came out. No pink halo's anymore.

Oh, and one word about Woolight, it has BLEACH in it. I have see it leave a BRIGHT white stain on white fabric. NEVER use Woolight on stitchery!

Washing Instructions for Cotton Material and thread Needleart.

*Stitcheries done with wool threads or yarn on open-weave canvas should not be washed. They should be taken to a professional dry cleaner who specializes in this service. Washing them in water may damage them.

Materials needed:
Ivory soap (Bar, Liquid, or Flake)
Lukewarm water
Clean colorfast towels
Good light source
Clean white work surface
Dry Iron
Irioning board
Pressing cloth

Lay the stitchery on a clean white surface under a good light. Look for hoop marks, dirt, and folds that require extra attention. Using lukewarm water and Ivory soap, hand wash the finished stitchery. Soap may be applied to stubborn spots and rubbed with your finger. Do not scrub fabric with any abrasive surfaces (toothbrush, washcloth, etc.) doing so can raise the fibers in the fabric, crating a fuzzy look.

Rinse in cold water. Keep looking for spots and rings. If all looks good, rinse in clean water 3 to 4 more times, to be sure all traces of soap are gone. Now is the time to look for color bleeding. If this happens, it will appear slowly as the color spreads. Do not panic. Just continue to rinse in cold water until all signs of bleeding are gone. Keep chainging the water and checking for more bleeding hourly, over-night, if necessary.

Lay the stitchery on a clean towel and roll it in the towel jellyroll style. Gently squeeze, but do not twist. Remove the stitchery from the towel and lay it face down on a clean dry terry cloth towel and iron dry. While ironing, straighten the fabric to "square" it. Iron any loose threads so they hide behind stitched areas.

Your stitchery is now ready to be mounted and framed.
Oh, I forgot to mention. I use Ivory to wash all of MY stitchery. I have been doing stitcheries for over 25 years. Never had a problem with Ivory.
I use Ivory dishwashing detergent and COLD water. I always ask if the thread is DMC. Years ago, I washed a red thread cross-stitch on white fabric. I don't know why the customer didn't care for the new pink fabric. :eek:

The thread was not DMC.
A customer brought me an embroidery....wadded up! It HAD to be ironed, so I placed it between two pieces of cotton cloth and tested a corner with the steam iron. THANK goodness I did a test - the colors bled!

I don't go near dealing with cleaning needle art. That is the customer's responsibility. There are dry cleaners that specialize in such, but the way that business is bought & sold, I do not make recommendations.

Having said that, I read previous comments & my first reaction was that I've heard that Woolite does affect colors. I did a quick 'Google' - here's what I found, but I'm not rcommending it:

Suemay's instructions for cleaning Cross stitch are fairly good. Especially if you combine the Orvus with it instead of any soap( but definitely colorless liquid soap). Also Rob's warnings about what Not to do should be heeded also .

On the topic of Woolite it is a No-No. It contains a solvent that may increase your chances of bleeding/running( actually rejuvenating the dye which will migrate when wet. The rinsing under running water til clear is a definite also. never apply an iron or heat if any "Bleeding is seen . It sets the dye and may make it permanent.

Also never allow the work to air dry. this will cause minute wrinkles .Do as Sue suggest and iron the back, after jelly rolling it in a seperate towel, until it is completely dry.

But most of all have them take it to a professional for cleaning . all it takes is one mistake to ruin your business. Even professionals often require a disclaimer to be signed and they do this for a living so why should you feel more qualified. Also many professionals use Orvus to wash Laundry, it is the mildest soap made ( even beats Ivory)But it was originally made to clean Horses and cattle who have a very sensitive skin. it can be obtained at feed stores in gallon jugs in a liquid form. The Cleaners have a powdered form.

If you do a search ( maybe before 2004 ) this has been discussed several times in depth.
Originally posted by Bill Henry-:
I’ve had some customers suggest hand washing in “Woolite” for cross stitch.

Any comments on that stuff?
I had one about a month ago that was stapled to corrugated cardboard for 10 years*. It was very discolored. Woolite made the piece white again. The discoloration was so bad that if we could not get it clean, the owner was going to toss it even though it had sentimental value to her.

So far, I have gotten 4 referrals from this customer.

* The piece originally was done by a reputable framer that is still in business. It was brought to me because the white outer mat had turned, and one corner of the frame had broken loose.
I've been washing my own and my mom's needlework for years, with Woolite. Never had a problem, but I'm not comfortable washing anyone else's work, and always have the customer do it, then bring it back for framing.
I've seen results of and heard awful stories about dry cleaners. Brrrr!
My mom and aunt recently found some pillow cases that my grandfather embroidered (yes, my grandfather, on his back in bed, recovering from a heart attack, some of the finest embroidery I've ever seen, and over 60 years old.) Anyway, they'd been in a drawer for many years, and had turned very yellow. OXYCLEAN restored them to white and didn't affect the embroidery floss in the least. They were amazed, and went at it Oxycleaning everything in sight, crocheted pieces, more embroidery, X-stitch, etc. It even took out some mildew spots without bothering the colored floss.
I'm not recommending you do this with customer's pieces, but maybe recommend they try it themselves.
I hope I am not beating a dead horse. However the warnnings i was given about the use of Woolite was froma needleworg Guild.

This is a link from one of their own sights;

Original-Scented Woolite

44370-Original-Scented Woolite

Product Description: Woolite Fabric Wash is the safe and effective way to care for all the clothes you care about. Woolite also helps to prolong the life of your clothes by not causing shrinking or fading.

Origin of Material: USA
Origin of Manufacture: USA

Safety Warnings
Should only be used on colorfast fabrics. Keep out of reach of children. Avoid contact with eyes.

Does not contain bleach, phosphates or enzymes. Cleaning
agents are biodegradable.

The sight does ay that it contains no phospahets nor bleaches ,but it is as you have pointed out a whiteing agent ,and therfore probaly contains something. But the key Phrase in their own sight is;

"Should only be used on colorfast fabrics"

Many Flosses ( especially the older ones ,even DMCand the like) aren't colorfast. In fact that is what causes the runnig. DMC says they will not fade but "IF THEY SHOULD" they gave extensive instructions on what to do and which colors probably would.Does that make you wonder why?

Lots of cleanning agents will WHITEN fabrics but what do they do to the COLORED things . You may wash Hundreds and even thousands of pieces nad have no problems ,but could that be LUCK?

If you feel safe continue. But the professional claeners don't have that much cofidance and they use safer products.
Why do they ask for a disclaimer to be signed?

We have seen One skein run ina box when the others didn't so how do you know which will and why?

Just My OPINION ;Send THEM to a professional Cleaner and don't worry about MHO or anything else.
PS just another misunderstanding about Cross stitch. Have you ever seen those Blue marking pens that fade with either water or time. They do just that. However they have a chemical base and the solvent remains when the color goes. It's a very small mark and problem but why use it?And have you ever heard anyone ( the manufacturer) post that warnning?
One of the things I love most about The Grumble is the wildly opposing views on any topic imaginable.

One Grumbler can state how they have done something for X number of years and three other Grumblers will explain in great detail why it would never work that way.

Ya gotta love this place.

Do not look at opposing views as a bad thing. We get to see every side of a situation, sometimes in more detail than you ever wanted.

As you stated,

"One Grumbler can state how they have done something for X number of years and three other Grumblers will explain in great detail why it would never work that way."

In THIS case (dealing with needleart), I attribute the variables in part because each and every piece of needleart are different. And when we, as framers, take in needleart from folks, we are usually dealing with unknowns - therefore, can't assume that traditional cleaning/ironing techniques will be suitable. Even when the customer says they KNOW about the materials, sometimes the manufacturer's mistake things.

The point is, when dealing with unknowns it's best to proceed with ultimate caution.
Here is a copy and paste from the site of a cross stitch sampler designer on the general topic of washing needlework:

"Should I wash my linen and floss before starting to stitch? Should I wash the finished sampler before framing it?

No to both questions. Some hand-dyed linens are not colorfast; likewise some shades of cotton floss are not colorfast. Silk should never be immersed in water. Exercise simple precautions while stitching: store your piece-in-progress in a sealed bag, and always wash your hands before stitching. Some people mistakenly assume that their hands bear vile germs and oil that will stain their work if they touch it. In centuries past, vegetable-dyed silks were absolutely not washable. Stitchers never wore gloves, and hygiene was not up to today's standards. In the thousands of early samplers we have seen, not one has shown evidence of spectral fingerprints coming through to mark and stain the piece!

Should I wear gloves while I stitch?

Absolutely not. Stitching should be a pleasurable experience, so why impede your progress, your tactile pleasure, and your ability to execute finer stitches, with gloves? (See previous question regarding "spectral fingerprints.") Today's society seems to be obsessed with hygiene. Linen is a very durable fabric. It was used to wrap mummies in ancient Egypt and can survive centuries of abuse. Some museums require people to wear cotton gloves to handle their textiles; others are adamantly opposed to this practice, because the cotton glove causes more abrasion to the textile than the bare human hand. We at THE SCARLET LETTER are of the latter persuasion."


I will wash only MY OWN needlwork pieces because I like the way the stitches fluff up a bit. I have had some run, though and I have had to restitch some areas. I WOULD not EVER trust a piece to a drycleaner. Better my own grease than some noxious chemicals in my piece.

Mike, I would go ahead and wash it, but be prepared to have to restitch some areas "just in case" the unlikely(?) bleeding occurs.

edie the stitchinandbitchin goddess