Monday, October 16, 2017

Missouri Star, Part 1

Okay -- finally -- I am ready to blog about MY VISIT TO HAMILTON, MISSOURI. This combined so many things I LOVE...first of all, let's hear it for girlfriend travel!!
These are the players. The four of us are ALWAYS, ALWAYS at TMBC. Sandy, me, Linda K. and Linda P.
Getting to the departure point at 4:45 AM was the hardest part of the trip!
You already know I SLEPT for most of the ride down...(it took over 5 hours)
The Doan family has turned this town upside down....and it is jam-packed with quilters.  Lucky for us, the buildings are beautifully renovated, and there are many interesting murals...SO MUCH FUN, EH?
This mural is on the side of the main store (there is a bakery and a burger joint next door)
This mural is on the side of the renovated Retreat Center. I stayed there last summer when my sister Ronda and I went to the Featherweight Workshop.
We arrived at lunch time -- and the bus company had arranged for a lovely boxed lunch. However, LK and I decided to have a gourmet experience at the Blue Sage Restaurant...

The pot pie was delivered in it's own iron skillet.  SO MUCH FUN!

This trip was about WAY MORE than just fabric shopping! BUT -- hey -- tomorrow, I'm gonna tell you about the fabric shopping!!
There are a lot of signs in every store...and you've gotta love this one...

Saturday, October 14, 2017

My Saturdays!!

Since the kids went back to school, our routine is that I pick them up on Friday and they spend the night, and all day Saturday. So, for two days, their lives are ALL ABOUT THE GRANDMA.

Friday night, I take them swimming at the YMCA. It's fun to be in the pool AFTER DARK...
This activity NEVER gets old!!

All summer, we've been eating Saturday morning breakfast on the porch...
But the temps are dropping -- so we may have seen our last porch breakfast for awhile...

Lilly's "Acting Class" is Saturday morning...and she is enjoying that. A lot. Last week, Warren and I went to the Salvation Army for that hour -- and I bought YET ANOTHER LAZY BOY for $35. Holy Cow. SUCH TREASURE, EH?? (Wait until you see it...this new one is burgundy velvet. Whadaya think? 1985??) is our habit to eat lunch in town. Sometimes, we have a picnic in the park....but, I've also developed quite a list of restaurants where KIDS EAT FREE.
Lilly and Warren at her first week of Acting Class
So that's what I'll be doing today. And I wouldn't have it any other way...(oops...I'm halfway to a BAD poem!).

Hey -- I know this is a window in my life, and THEIRS...and I am very grateful to be able to spend so much time with Lilly and Warren. 

And, right now -- I AM LOVING MY SATURDAYS..!!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Mary's Last Resort Whitening Formula

Over the years, Mary and I have shared many things. We've traveled all over the world together...we've been to New York City, Seattle, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Sacramento, Florida, Sweden, Norway, Beaver Dam.. .well, you get the idea.
We are always collecting things for our NEXT SHOW....I have a big collection of fur collars...hummm....
We've written books, designed patterns, planned seminars. We've laughed, we've cried -- and we have NEVER ONCE run out of things to talk about.
We did our Midwest Ya Ya Show in Chautauqua, New York...what a GREAT TIME we had!!
We created these goofy outfits for the Pink and Red charity event in Puyallup, Washington. You will be happy to know we never wore them out in public...
We both enjoy collecting vintage linens and aprons. One of the joys of my life was when Mary and I designed all new updated 7 Days A Week kitchen towel designs for a machine embroidery CD. WHAT FUN THAT WAS!! Of course, our favorite day was MONDAY!! WASH DAY...

When I was writing my book, Dress Your Dream Bed -- the subtitle was "Vintage linen inspiration for today's elegant bed." I had a set of white on white monogrammed pillowcases (with tatted edges) that I wanted to use in the book. But they had been improperly stored, for many years, and they were more brown than white....
The book cover was photographed in my cousin Kim's back yard...(I still use a damask tablecloth for my bedskirt).
Those pillowcases were a conundrum. I wanted to photograph the "before" and "after" to illustrate how they could be refreshed and still used on today's beds. I took the "before" pictures but, after many washings, with various products...they were still too discolored to be usable.

Mary recommended the following treatment**:
  1. Soak them overnight in a bucket of plain warm water. When fabric gets very dry (dehydrated) -- it is at it's most fragile state. (The plain water plumps up the fibers, and makes the fabric stronger, more able to absorb subsequent treatments.)
  2. After the first 24 hour soak -- put them in another bucket for a second overnight soak with Mary's mega-whitening-solution:
  • 1/2 cup of dishwasher soap.
  • 1/2 cup of Clorox bleach
  • 2 gallons of very, very hot water
THEN -- wash them in a regular cycle (hot wash/cold rinse) with normal detergent. (I prefer Oxyclean for whitening)

THIS WAS MAGIC... I hung those pillowcases on the line -- on a beautiful bright, sunny day and they were BEAUTIFUL. Completely restored...they were a stunning, snowy white.

After the book tour, those tatted pillowcases went into my regular bed linen rotation, and I'm still using them today.


** CAUTION: Think long and hard before using bleach on any fabric -- especially vintage linen. Bleach should always be considered a last resort. By the time I use this solution, I've already exhausted every other logical treatment. Here's my criteria: If the item is too yellowed or discolored to be used on my bed -- I have nothing to lose...

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Get the Yellow Out of Vintage Lace and Linens

Years ago, my Sew Expo friend Bonne asked for my best advice about whiteninga stash of yellowed vintage linens...I sent her this:

You LUCKY DUCK!! What a wonderful gift to have -- pieces of antique lace and embroidery from your grandmother and her mother...

Here's my best advice about whitening. The first rule is to NOT BE SO PICKY...sometimes -- you just need to settle for "good enough". Because with delicate vintage fabrics -- you cannot go all the way to bleach. It's not worth the risk...

I asked her to send pictures -- and you can see that many of the pieces are very discolored...'s how I'd start:

1A. SOAK the lace overnight in tepid water. It's important to rehydrate fabric that may be verging on dry-rot. Because there's no coming back from that...

1B. after this first soaking, check to see if they need repairs. Lay the fabric out and air dry. Make the repairs NOW -- before the real whitening work begins...

2. the next step is to SOAK the pieces in warm water with a double dose of Oxy-clean. Overnight is best...

3. Rinse and assess. If you're still not happy, repeat step #2 again. And again. I once Oxied a pair of pillowcases six times over a period of a week...believe it or not, they improved with every treatment..and I never let the fabric get "dry" between soakings.

4. Once you're happy -- rinse the fabric several times in cool water.

5. Lay the pieces out FLAT to dry.
  • If you're working with shaped lace, form the wet pieces on a piece of glass or mirror. That's what they do in museums -- to avoid ironing -- which you NEVER want to do. When the lace is soaking wet, lay it on the glass and squeegee out the moisture. When it's dry, it will be wrinkle-free.
  • If it's not lace -- think in terms of "layers". Top an absorbent bathtowel with a white cotton dishtowel (or piece of a cotton sheet), then the wet vintage pieces, then more white cotton. "Roll" it up and apply pressure to squeeze out the moisture...remove as much moisture as possible...then lay the pieces flat to dry.

  • Or -- my favorite tricks -- HANG THEM OUT IN THE SUNSHINE. One of my grandmother's whitening secrets was to lay her white linen napkins on top of green shrubs...(she believed in the magic of photosynthesis) -- and I'm not sure it doesn't work.
You can see from the pictures that my student did an EXCELLENT JOB with her vintage lace and embroideries...

P.S. If you actually ARE a textile curator, please do not send me an email...I know you disagree with just about everything I said...and I can live with that....

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Washing Wool Blankets

Washing wool blankets is a risky thing to do -- but, if you follow a few simple rules -- you will be VERY PLEASED with the results.  In 2014, I spent a lot of time taking pictures and writing this blog post. 

Hey -- these sunny Fall days are PERFECT for washing your wool blankets.


Keep in mind this information is strictly from my own personal experience. AND -- I HAVE RUINED THINGS. Over the years -- MANY things....But -- it is my hope that you can learn from my mistakes.

Because of Ritaluck, I have purchased many beautiful wool blankets at auctions or estate sales. Finding a vintage Hudson Bay blanket, or a beautiful Fabrico blanket (in it's original box, wrapped in tissue) is a HUGE THRILL for me.

This is just one stack of wool blankets -- I have another trunk FULL of ém....
I am a big lover of wool blankets because they provide warmth, yet they also breathe -- even on the coldest nights. I am not a fan of down-filled comforters. After an hour, my own body heat gets trapped and I wake up sweaty and clammy.

Wool blankets will last for generations. But , if they are stored improperly or mishandled during laundering, they can be ruined -- with no chance for a comeback.

In the good old days,blankets were hung out on the clothesline once a month or so to air out. I love to do this, because it is a complete refresh! Just hang your blanket out, over the line, and shake-shake-shake. The dust will fly, and if you get a breezy day, your blanket will smell amazing when you put it back on the bed.

When I was a kid, we'd hang the blankets out our bedroom windows, closing the window to pinch the blanket so it would hold. Many homes did this on Monday -- as the bed sheets were being laundered and hung out on the line -- the windows were wide open, as the blankets and bedspreads were given a good shake, then left flapping in the breeze until it was time to remake the beds in the late afternoon...

But, today's blog is about how to actually WASH YOUR BLANKETS. In order to get pictures, I am washing this gorgeous Hudson Bay striped wool blanket I bought at an estate sale for $5. Chances are it's at least 40 years old. It is in excellent condition, and I'm pretty sure it has NEVER been laundered.

Because I think it's valuable, washing it does scare me. More than a little.  After this initial welcome-to-my-home-laundering -- it might not be washed again for five years.
CAUTION: The two things that will felt the wool and shrink your blanket are HOT WATER and AGITATION. So always keep that in gentle....

PREPARATION: Watch the weather channel. Even if you start early in the morning -- the days are getting shorter -- and you need the cooperation of the Sun Godess and the Wind Prince for a blanket to get completely, totally dry in one day.

If you put a very dusty/dirty blanket into your washing machine, you could be making mud.

So -- the first step is to SHAKE IT OUT. It's best if you have two people for this job. Go outside -- and SHAKE, SHAKE, SHAKE. If you don't have a helper, hang the blanket over the clothesline and SHAKE, SHAKE, SHAKE or, beat with a rug beater... Let the dust settle -- and DO IT AGAIN.

If this is not an option -- lay the blanket flat on your floor and VACUUM IT. Flip it over and vacuum both sides.

Size of the load: My washing machine can accommodate one blanket with two bath towels. The towels help balance the machine, and they add some extra bumping during the wash cycle.

Settings:Warm wash, cold rinse, extra large load.
DON'T BE IN A HURRY. I start my washing machine, dissolve the detergent in the warm water, let the tub fill totally, then put the blanket (and two towels) into the water. THEN, I let it sit for at least 30 minutes. The nature of wool is that it's nearly water repellant -- so it's best to let the wool fibers relax into the warm soapy water...give it some time. After I run the whole cycle, I finish off with a second complete cycle of cold water wash/cold water rinse. I don't add soap or detergent for this last cycle -- but I add 1 cup of white vinegar -- to make sure I kill all the suds action and remove any lingering stale odors.

Stay in the vicinity of your laundry room when washing blankets. The machine could go out of balance -- and the spin cycles are when your blanket is in danger of getting tangled around the agitator -- so I check often to make sure that's not happening. TOO MUCH AGITATION WILL FELT YOUR WOOL. So,watch very carefully, but let the machine do it's job...
I frequently checked on the blanket, making sure the water isn't too warm, and the blanket doesn't get tangled during the agitation process...

The final step in this process is to take your blanket OUTSIDE to dry. The combination of the sun and the breeze is your blanket's best friend.


If you have a sunny, fenced yard (with no pets) -- you could simply lay a sheet on the grass, then your blanket, with a second sheet on top. Weigh down the edges to keep things from blowing or folding...

If you have clotheslines (my preferred method), pin a sheet between two lines to create a blanket hammock. Lay the blanket on top. Pin a second sheet on top of the blanket (for bird poop protection). If the weather cooperates, the blanket will easily dry in one day. You do not want the wet blanket to carry it's own weight via the clothespins....that would create pokey stretch marks....
Sheet #1 is a hammock...
The wet blanket lays on top...
The second (top) sheet is a bird poop protector

If you get caught by the weather -- and your blanket doesn't dry -- leave it hang overnight. A full second day will surely do the trick.  AND IT WILL SMELL AMAZING. Or -- you could help things along. Lay the damp blanket flat on your floor -- and strategically place a fan to move the air over it. Flip the blanket frequently...

***!!@@@CAUTION: NEVER, EVER fold or store a damp blanket. Mildew will form in just a matter of hours -- and you will NEVER win that battle.

When your blanket is COMPLETELY, TOTALLY, 100% DRY -- lay it on your bed, and brush the fibers in the direction they want to go. (usually, from the top down to the bottom). This final step is important, as the wool fibers may stiffen during the washing process.The brushing relaxes those fibers, removes LOTS AND LOTS OF fuzz balls, and your wool blanket will be fresh and soft...
About the brush...I never actually had a clothing brush (like Downton Abby). But I'm happy with the brush that came with our pool table. Its 12" x 2" -- and the bristles are sturdy, but not harsh. I also think this bristle hair brush is way better for blankets than it ever was for hair...
The newly laundered blanket got so soft after brushing...
You will be amazed at how much of the wool pills off onto the brush...especially if the blanket has never been washed before.
I think you will be very pleased with your freshly laundered wool blanket. My machine-washing-method isn't fool proof. But, for me, it was easy to be brave, because the blanket only cost me $5. I didn't want to pay $20 to have it dry-cleaned, and I hate that chemical smell. I suspect there was some shrinkage with my beautiful Hudson Bay blanket -- but that was my own fault. I could have measured it before I started, then blocked it when it was still wet -- to make sure it dried to it's original size.
Although I'm pretty sure it's completely dry -- I decided it should spend the night on the porch...just to be sure...
Even though I thought sandwiching the blanket between two sheets would prevent pin marks -- you can see exactly where it was draped over the clothesline.  That was my fault -- because I didn't make sure the hammock sheet was fully carrying the full weight of the blanket...

I was very pleased with my freshly laundered, brushed blanket. It got so soft...and it smells AMAZING!!  The one thing I know about Iowa -- FOR SURE -- is that one day (soon) -- I'll be very happy to have this wonderful, warm blanket to put on my winter bed...

GOOD LUCK!! And be sure to let me know how your blankets turn out!!


P.S. You can go to L.L. Bean and buy a new wool blanket just like mine. The full/queen size is only $499.00. And you can probably use it for a couple of years before you feel the need to wash it...

Tuesday, October 10, 2017


Last year my TMBC friend, LP, bought a new washing machine. She knew she didn't want a front loader -- and after doing a lot of research, she purchased a Speed Queen, which she is very pleased with.

THAT triggered a little a trip down memory lane for me. Growing up, my parents owned several laundromats -- and they ALWAYS had Speed Queens.
My mother would never have considered any other brand at her house. And -- guess what -- THEY ARE STILL MADE IN AMERICA. Right here in Ripon, Wisconsin.

But it ain't easy to buy a Speed Queen, cuz the big box stores don't carry 'em.  Then I remembered I have the internet. HOLY COW. YOU CAN BUY THEM FROM AMAZON..!!

Instead of me telling you my semi-worthless opinion -- I'm sharing this lively Amazon review from a real life consumer!!
The Speed Queen AWN412S is a dinosaur, in the sense that; it will not whistle Dixie when a cycle completes, agitation is louder than a front loader, and a whole truck load of ugly hit it on the way out of the factory. No electronics means no delayed start, no Wi-Fi, or latte dispenser. Add to that, your irritating neighbor who seems to have all the toys will look down her/ his nose at you for owning something that does not light up and sing 'Also Sprach Zarathustra', even though they only know the piece as "the theme to 2001 A Space Odyssey."

With that stated, this machine does what it is supposed to do. It cleans clothes, gently, effectively, and quickly. Use your egg timer if you need an end of cycle alert, 28 minutes for the Regular/Normal cycle by the way. The baby will fall asleep instantly listening to the rhythmic agitation phase. The spin cycle is butter smooth and very quiet. If you have a separate laundry room, the ugly problem is solved. If not, then put a plant on top of it and stop whining. As to the pesky neighbor, laugh out loud and point when they have to replace their 'fashion statement' machine for the fourth time, while your trusted old friend sits there and CLEANS YOUR CLOTHES.

Oh, and take the money you saved from replacing the machine over the years and go to Maui.
Get it while you can as apparently after 2017 machines like this will no longer be made, due to Federal regulation. It does use more water and electricity than a front loading machine. However, what is better for the environment? Having a machine that will be in use for decades? Or having a huge polluting manufacturing plant pouring out junk that has to be shipped off to the recycling/ landfill every 6 years? The water will be recycled and the AWN412S uses $43 per year in energy (with a electric water heater) as opposed to $23 per year for my old front loader.

Being "green" is an end to end process. You can not be "green" by purchasing manufactured products that have to be replaced at short intervals. There is a massive cost to the environment in building these things.
So, if you're in the market for a new washing machine -- YOU ARE IN LUCK. At least, for one more year...

Update: Given the world we live in -- I don't mind recommending Amazon. But, recently, we had another appliance saga, and I want you to consider dealing with a locally owned store.

We bought our refrigerator in 1986 from Zirkelbach Appliances in Clinton, Iowa. When the frig started to have issues last week,  I called Zirkelbach, and they sent a repairman the next day. The guy took it apart (clearly, he'd done that job a thousand times).

Eventually, we decided it was time to buy a new refrigerator -- and when we went to the store to see what our options were  -- I noticed a nice selection of Speed Queen washing machines.  When I asked our salesman about them (he's worked there for 35 years) -- he told me he bought his Speed Queen the same year he started working at the store...and it is the ONLY WASHING MACHINE he ever recommends.

This recent experience reminds me of how much we've lost because of Amazon and the Big Box stores.   I'm just saying -- don't be so quick to shop online.  Look around...check out your local options!  (and, for the record, ZIRKELBACH ROCKS...!)

Monday, October 9, 2017

Laundry Week!!

I'm in a Fall-Cleaning-Laundry mood -- and last week I got an email from Marsha in Gettysburg asking about the advice I gave last year about buying a new washing machine.  This is a conversation I have ALL THE today is a re-run.  Tomorrow will be an update....


Recently, a friend posted this on Facebook, "I :am in the market for a new washing machine. Front loader or top loader?"  She was shocked by the number of comments she got...and the conversation went on for a week.

It was VERY CLEAR that women hate, hate, hate their front loading washing machines!!  WOW...

It is no secret that I LOVE MY WASHING's a 20 year old Maytag...
If you're in the market for a new washing machine any time soon -- here are a few things you should know.  First of all -- just ten years ago -- for less than $300, you could buy a great top loading washing machine that did a terrific job of cleaning your clothes. Even Consumer Reports, at that time, said, "with the proper soap and amount of water, any of the washing machines we reviewed would get your clothes clean."

THEN, the government started to issue regulations about "energy efficient" appliances.  Which, in the case of washing machines, meant use less water.  So, by 2011 -- a simple, efficient, top loading, agitator washing machine became an endangered species...

In the blink of an eye, all washing machines in the big box stores were FRONT LOADERS. Which USE LESS WATER.  Because of their complicated gasket, they also cost about twice as much to purchase...and never mind that the "energy savings" is actually $23 a year versus $43.   

DO YOU WONDER WHY all your clothes smell musty?? THEY DO NOT USE ENOUGH WATER...

My friend Sue paid over $1000 for a new washing machine...and several weeks later, her husband said, "honey, I don't want to hurt your feelings, but all our towels smell like ass..."

So -- if you DO NOT WANT TO BUY A FRONT LOADING WASHING MACHINE -- what can you do??

Good question -- tomorrow -- the answer!!
MMWI:  228.4