Friday, June 24, 2016

Washing Wool Blankets

I'm still in Missouri. YIPPEE KAYEE...

But I'm posting this rerun blog post....because my friend Bonnie recently emailed me asking how to do this -- and I just sent her this blog post.

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


I'm going to tell you how I WASH MY 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...

P.S.S. Next week, I will have a guest-blogger for the Monday Laundry post...exciting, eh??

Thursday, June 23, 2016


My sister Ronda and I are in Hamilton, Missouri. YES -- WE ARE AT MISSOURI STAR QUILT COMPANY -- for a Featherweight Retreat.
Ronda (in red) is with me this week -- and Deena will be at our upcoming Summer-Sister-Sewing-Retreat.
Ronda has many skills -- she and Dean do the Farmer's Market every week...
But, mostly, she is famous for her RAGGED EDGE FLANNEL BLANKETS...which she produces like she was a factory!!
Holy Cow!! COULD I BE IN A HAPPIER PLACE??   Carmon and April Henry are on their world tour -- doing Featherweight Retreats all over the USA!!

I met Carmon and April when I interviewed them for Inspired To Sew magazine last year.  But this will be the first time I get to MEET THEM IN PERSON!!  Ronda and I are SO EXCITED!!
We are going to learn EVERYTHING WE NEED TO KNOW about our Featherweights.
If we have spare time, Ronda will no doubt make YET ANOTHER RAGGED EDGE QUILT...
Ronda's Featherweight is a 1952 in perfect condition.
Memphis had her first sewing lesson on Ronda's Featherweight
Lilly is getting more comfortable with it every time we make something.
Life just doesn't get any better than this, people!!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Splendid Sampler™

The Splendid Sampler™ Wednesday
(...skip this part if you're not new here...)

The Splendid Sampler™ is an internet sew-a-long created by Pat Sloan and Jane Davidson. It is an EPIC sew along...
  • 83 fabric designers have created specific blocks that feature different quilting techniques. (paper piecing, fused applique, etc.).
  • The blocks will be released each week, and are FREE to participants until March 2017. (at that time, they'll use the designs to publish a book).
  • You can use whatever fabric you like.
  • There will be pictures on their Facebook page, etc.
The new block designs come out twice a week....on Sunday morning and Thursday morning. I'm doing this with my TMBC...and, therefore, it is my pleasure to BLOG ABOUT IT every Wednesday.


It was shocking that after I got home from Salt Lake City, I was SO INSPIRED to work on some quilt blocks -- I did this...
Yes -- that's right -- ELEVEN BLOCKS IN ONE WEEK. Nobody was more surprised than me!!
Although it's not a competition -- I BEAT LP!!! Count ém...she did TEN. Wow. That's an amazing number. BUT IT IS NOT THE WEEKLY RECORD, IS IT, BABE??
But the winner for "best selvedge edges" was definitely SANDY...!!
Sandy did four blocks this week. WE WERE ALL IN THE MOOD TO QUILT, eh?
Here's the thing about the Splendid Sampler. You are free to do WHATEVER YOU WANT TO DO.

My friend Mark Lipinski always says THERE ARE NO QUILT POLICE!!

The reason I did so many blocks this week is because I decided to go back and redo some of my favorites.  And why not?  The new blocks are SO MUCH better than my first efforts.  And, as we've been learning our new skills, I wanted to practice some of those half-square triangles and flying geese. 

Yep.  It's like everything else in life.  Practice makes perfect...and I was very pleased with my progress.  But, unlike my over-achieving sewing sisters, I haven't done any of the embroidery blocks.

Because -- remember?  There are no quilt police...!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Sewing, Me and Lilly

Sewing brings so many benefits to my life, it would be impossible to list them all. Of course, there are the obvious things -- like being able to make my own clothes. That has ALWAYS brought me great pleasure (not to mention saved me a fortune).
Sewing inspired me to open a business. I opened my store, wrote the newsletter, which led to writing several books. Sewing made me realize I was a writer.

AND I have sewing to thank for some of my best friends -- and for A TON OF WORLD TRAVEL.

But, mostly, sewing brings a spirit of giving to my daily life. In the last month (which is typical) -- I have hemmed pants for my son Elliott, helped Lilly make a horse pillow for a friend, measured and started to make curtains for my friend Sue's potting shed, and Lilly and I made a gift for her cousin Myla...who was turning FIVE.

Lilly picked out a towel - and then a t-shirt she thought Myla would like.  We were making a simple swim cover up.

I think the pictures tell the story....
Lilly was SO EXCITED to give Myla this gift. I don't know which one of them was happier...
Sewing has been a real gift in my life. And it is with the greatest pleasure that I am passing that gift on to Lilly...

Monday, June 20, 2016

THIS was on the Quilt Market show floor

Of course, because of Mary Mulari -- I have a soft spot in my heart for the Riley Blake area on the Quilt Market show floor. And then I happened upon this...
Designer Carina Gardner brought her Glamper...

If you want to read more about Carina's Glamper -- go to her blog to see pictures of the BEFORE and AFTER. You won't believe it!!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Friday -- The VENDOR FLOOR!!

Friday is the day the SHOW FLOOR OPENS...OMG....the fabric, the quilts, the incredible booth designs!!   There may be a more beautiful trade show somewhere in the world -- but I can't imagine.

Spring Quilt Market is ALL ABOUT THE FABRIC...and the very best quilt shops from all over the world come here to see what's new, so they can buy it and be the first to offer it to their customers. There is so much to see..words cannot do it justice. So I'm hoping these pictures will give you an idea...
Walking the show floor, it's fun to run into friends!  Hello Anita Covert and daughter Anne...owners of one of the largest quilt shops in America.  Country Stitches in Lansing, Michigan.
Hello, Luveta Nickels and her sisters!!  What a nice surprise...
Hey -- a girl's gotta eat.  Me, Mary Mulari and Deanna Springer!!  SO MUCH FUN, EH??
I need this seam gauge for my Featherweight!!
The samples in every booth are stunning.
LOVE the chair!!
Tired of quilting?  Just rip it into strips and tie it together to make curtains!!