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tribaltextiles.info • View topic - cleaning blankets from Sapa, Vietnam

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 04, 2009 3:38 am 
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I had to clean 50 textiles after 9/11 because my apartment was filled with fine white dust from the collapse of the towers. A conservator would have cost more than $10,000 dollars and, the textiles weren't worth it. So I dry cleaned them and hoped for the best.

I asked the dry cleaner to use clean fluid, which he did, and generally, things came out fine. There was a bit of bleed on an Iban woven jacket and some embroidered stitches were roughed up a bit. (I ultimately learned that there was asbestos in the dust so anything used horizontally or heavily dusted was tossed).

I also dry cleaned everything in a closet that was hit by moths, which seem to LOVE goat hair. There wasn't much in that closet, fortunately, but cleaning worked fine. The things that I was reluctant to clean went into the freezer.

These days, I clean most things I buy in the field and, when I buy on eBay, I ask the dealers to clean especially large pieces before shipping, because it is SO much cheaper to clean things in, say, Uzbekistan, than in Lower Manhattan. These aren't great pieces, but it works.

For better pieces, I use a conservator on the moderate end of the price scale. Or, if the piece is small, I leave it in the freezer for 3 weeks, in case there are critters. This is NOT a full proof strategy, especially if your freezer is opened frequently and isn't that cold - but it is a technique people use.

None of this is what the experts tell you to do but, for the kinds of things one finds in SaPa, or if you have to do a lot of sturdy pieces in an emergency, it seems to work out OK.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2009 12:25 am 
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Regarding indigo-dyed textiles, we have had many blankets from Lao Cai Province (Sapa, Bac Ha, etc.). If the entire blanket is entirely blue-toned, it has been overdyed with indigo. To wash we hand-wash in cool water with a little mild detergent (Dawn works best with dyes). Often much of the overdye will bleed but that is the dye that has not bonded with the material and is no problem. Let it bleed, but don't leave the blanket to soak for a long time. Wear gloves unless you like blue hands! Do not dry in the sun as we have had blankets severely fade even after a single hour of sun-drying.

If the entire blanket is not overdyed, but has indigo-dyed components, you have to be more careful. A single bath may bleed the indigo into the other embroidered panels. If the blanket is made from older clothing that has been unstitched and then pieced, the indigo probably won't bleed as the material was washed several times when it was worn. If the blanket is of newly created panels, I would dry clean to avoid doing an accidental overdye process in your own tub. Again, avoid drying in the sun.

[If your textile is vintage and especially rare or valuable, always dry-clean with a professional who has experience with quality, valuable textiles. The washing advice above is for the modern village market-purchased Hmong blanket, as one would find in Sapa or Bac Ha in the $30-$70 range.]

Other Hmong blankets may have acrylic/polyester embroidery (bright yellow and reds and greens) - these wash easily in mild detergent but we always handwash because the stitching may or may not be of high quality.

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Last edited by Anonymous on Sun Jul 31, 2011 2:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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