Catch Up And Cushions

how to wash vintage embroidery

Hello, hello! I missed you guys! It’s been crazy busy at Did You Make That Towers with a trip to New York and THEN a trip to North Devon. It’s a tough call to say which was best. Not much to choose between them…

new york 2018

writing retreat

I’ve had no time to sew. Now, I’m easing myself back in with a super-cute project.

In the meantime, I’ve bought a piece of embroidered vintage linen. I’d love to turn it into a cushion cover, but first it may need laundering. With a dog in the house, I get a bit nervous of critters!

I’m guessing a hand wash, but does anyone have any insights or advice? I’m counting on you guys! And any thoughts re backing and trims? I’m thinking blue wool and pom pom trim. Too much? Maybe there’s something more, ahem, sophisticated I could use…

vintage linen cushion cover

embroidery detail

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42 Responses to Catch Up And Cushions

  1. How about just tassels on each corner not to take away from the embroidery. I love the blues. Can’t wait to see it finished. Have a great weekend!!

  2. Noddfacrafts says:

    Love this but I’m not a Pom Pom fan! A blue velvet back and plain braid trim would be fab

  3. Helena says:

    We had a lot of hand embroidered sofa back covers and arm chair covers, table cloths cushions etc which my mum made. She used to wash by hand with gentle soap (Lux flakes I think) squeeze gently. Place in a plain cotton pillowcase and spin on lowest setting dry flat. Iron on wrong side with clean tea towel over the top. I don’t remember the dye running from threads they always looked bright. Tassels would be lovely

  4. Miss V says:

    I buy a LOT of vintage linens and for ones I’m going to actively use, a long gentle soak in Persil (in the hottest temp I think it can take) gets out any lingering odors or imagined creatures.

  5. Irene says:

    I’d put it in a pillowcase or a lingerie washing bag then put it through a wool wash……

  6. Jenny Lester says:

    Hand wash in delicate soap flakes or some Soak or Eucalan (both used to handwash knitted garments) don’t wring out but lay on a large towel and roll up to remove excess water. Dry naturally and iron in the back. I would choose blue velvet or silk (?? TMOS??) for the back and tassels for each corner maybe red!!

  7. JenL says:

    I would try Euclan also, as Jenny Lester mentioned. First I would discretely test a part of the embroidery to make sure it won’t bleed into the linen.

    • didyoumakethat says:

      Thank you! I’ve never heard of Euclan.

      • JenL says:

        I’ve purchased Euclan in the US, but I’m not sure where else it is available. It is made (I think) with lanolin, and the fabric is soaked in it but not rinsed. It is very gentle and I often use it for delicate non-wool items too. If you can’t find the Euclan brand, maybe there is something else similar in the UK.

      • Jenny Larking says:

        It is actually called Eucalan and you can get it in the UK. I use it for my delicate woollens.

  8. The Seamstress says:

    I’m also voting for a blue velveteen backing, with either a braid like piping and/or with tassels.

  9. Heidi says:

    I’ve ironed embroidered pieces face down on a towel and it works great.

  10. Robin says:

    Nothing to add except that your vintage linen is lovely. Especially like the subtle two toned blues. You have been missed!

  11. Kristel says:

    A few days in the freezer will sort those critters out…

  12. liz n. says:

    Good advice on hand washing. I’d also add a cotton or linen muslin backing to the embroidered piece itself.

  13. Honestly, I’d just launder it in the machine on cold delicate cycle. I bought some vintage crewel work cushion covers a couple of years ago (one in particular was very smelly) and laundered them that way. Worked fine.

  14. Katie M says:

    I like the idea of velvet backing. What about a wooly trim from McCulloch and Wallis. They have a lovely Italian Woolly Fridge in blue (

  15. zuleikaa says:

    Be VERY careful – vintage embroidery thread wasn’t always colourfast, particularly strong colours. There are tests to see if they’re OK; try googling it. As it appears that it was never made up, it probably hasn’t been washed either.

    As far as making it up goes – I love the idea of blue wool, but I’d go tassels instead of pompoms. The embroidery comes from a period when strong colours and embellishment was popular; just because the photos are mostly black and white, doesn’t mean that they weren’t using bold colours.

    It’s gorgeous!

    • didyoumakethat says:

      What period do you think it is? It looks a bit 20s or 30s to me. Actually, it looks a bit William Morris!

      • zuleikaa says:

        I agree – 20s/30s, although I do have an earlier book on Art Embroidery somewhere around that has similar designs. Embroidery can be hard to date, as fashions didn’t change as fast as clothing.

  16. Melody Srygley says:

    Great minds think alike! Blue velvet and tassels – my first and final answer! Can’t wait to see what you do with your new find!
    While we’re at it, I’ve been looking for a tutorial for delicate embroidery thread tassels, but only find directions for thick woolen ones. Any suggestions?

  17. Cherry says:

    I agree about using Eucalan (or Soak is another one). Lots of yarn stockist have Eucalan. I would not risk machine washing for the reasons already given. If there’s no running from the threads then you can always do it again.
    I also think giving a lightweight backing to the embroidery will give it some strength. I like the idea of a blue backing but would probably go for a similar weight linen and no other decoration to let the embroidery shine.

  18. I have to say I like your idea of pom-poms. Some red would really make the embroidery pop. Agree with navy backing. Can’t wait to see how it turns out!

  19. Gillian Chappell says:

    I would go for green as there is a lot of blue as backing – would velvet make the cushion impractical to wash in the future ? I love the pompoms not tassels – you need to funk it up a bit but depends on your home style really. I like to blend old with new …

  20. Linda says:

    Whenever there is the slightest doubt about colourfastness I use one or two colour catchers in the wash; they do a brilliant job. Red is notoriously fugitive!

  21. Wool and pom poms what is not to love? It is really lovely. Jo x

  22. Beads and Barnacles says:

    Late to the party as always but a good blue velvet back would be wonderful. Personally I would just go with a nice piping around the cushion but that might be a bit too demure…

  23. Janet says:

    Gorgeous embroidery – I wonder who did it, and when? A silk backing would work well too, if you fancy something less cosy to pair with linen. Kind of like a summer cushion, if that makes any sense at all?

  24. Terranova says:

    Hi Karen – for some inspiration, check out the simple short tassles sewn onto cushions at Caravane with embroidery thread. You can see them on their website, or you could visit one of their stores in London.

  25. Sarah says:

    I have used Retro Clean detergent for cleaning stains out of antique textiles. It does an excellent job brightening up the fabric, but I haven’t used it on anything with such vivid colors, so it would be worth checking for color-fastness. That piece doesn’t look like it’s in rough shape, but you might be surprised at what a good soak reveals! I’m partial to a blue backing, maybe with red contrast piping?

  26. Kai Jones says:

    It’s so Art Deco, I’d frame it in silver lame or sequined strips then add a blue velvet back.

  27. Kathy Lynch says:

    What a fabulous world of contrasts we have: New York/Sheepwash with a planter box! (Is ‘Sheepwash’ the name of a village or……are they washing sheep??)

    That embroidery is just GORGEOUS! I’d be tempted to simply frame it & hang it on the wall! So lovely!

    • zuleikaa says:

      There are several Sheepwash creeks across eastern Australia; farmers used to wash sheep in a local creek before shearing, so they would have a cleaner fleece to sell.

    • didyoumakethat says:

      Sheepwash is the name of the village, but because it’s in a valley where they … washed sheep!

  28. Lois says:

    Lovely to think that the work of the original embroiderer is being upcycled.

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