Bagged a good bag... but now it's a mess
April 16, 2010 10:14 AM   Subscribe

Please help me wash my beautiful embroidered purse without ruining it!

My purse with embroidered detail is getting dirty. (Picture - see the coffee stains?) How can I wash it without ruining it? There's also a green thread wound around the handle on top. The fabric is a rough cotton, somewhat thin.

I don't have the brand name, as the label was barely sewn into the inside pocket and came off quickly - all I know is it was made in Mexico and the label was in Spanish. The fabric is doubled, if that matters - the stitch goes through the top layer, so inside the bag you can't see it. (I hope that makes sense)

Is it safe in a machine? If I hand wash, how to get the coffee stains out without fading the thread? It isn't just the coffee - the whole thing has gotten a bit grungy with use.

Bonus question: You can see in the picture, the thread is starting to fray. Any way to protect it so it will last as long as possible?

posted by caveat to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (4 answers total)
I would handwash in the coldest possible water with the mildest possible detergent (maybe diluted Dr. Bronner's, or something). Blot as much of the water as you can out with a towel, then dry flat inside the house (sun will fade dyes as well).

As for the fraying threads: I would probably take the smallest needle I could and use it to tuck the frayed threads back into the embroidery. Alternately, take the frayed thread, thread a needle on it, and sew it back into the lining, knotting it off inside the purse to make it stay put. Since your purse has a double lining, you might not want to do this because it will sew one piece of the lining to the other piece (if you're a better sew-er than I am, you could partially disassemble the purse, fix the frayed threads, and then put it back together, but I would be unable to do this without wrecking the purse).
posted by kataclysm at 10:20 AM on April 16, 2010

I would be most concerned about those super bright thread dyes not being quite fixed, and running all over the white base fabric. I would consider washing it by hand in the sink with a soap like Synthrapol, which is specifically meant to keep running dye in the water and not settling back on the fibers. Roll it in a towel and stand on it to get it as dry as possible; if the fabric + lining is thick you might stuff it loosely with tissue or (unprinted!) newsprint and change it out frequently while it dries. .
posted by peachfuzz at 10:23 AM on April 16, 2010 [4 favorites]

My experience with anything embroidered is that if it's not a high-quality piece, the fabric and thread may not be made of the same material (e.g. different cotton-poly blends, one pre-shrunk or not, etc.). This is a problem because if the fabric shrinks and the thread doesn't, or the thread shrinks and the fabric doesn't, it will end up all wrinked and mis-shaped and no amount of ironing will fix it. Ditto if they both shrink but at differnet rates or in different directions.

So yeah, be sure the water is super cold and dry it without the aid of heat. You may want to iron it a little while still a little damp if it seems like fabric that would take to ironing.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:59 AM on April 16, 2010

Vinegar is supposed to set dyes. So maybe you could soak it in a big bowl of pure vinegar before doing anything else?

If it was me, though, I would dig around in Dharma Trading Co.'s site. I got their catalog once, and I remember it being stuffed full of wonderful information about dying things. You could email them, too.

Here, this page on the site will probably have something.
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:25 AM on April 17, 2010

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