Sew and Sew: Bugs, blood and vinegar

Summer is here. Please clean your winter silks and woolens and store them safely away from bugs. Bugs like dark, warm places and they love to chew on natural fibers, especially the ones with perspiration and food residue. Yes, I know dry cleaning is expensive these days. But when you consider how much it costs to replace a bug-infested favorite jacket or dress, the price is worth it.

I received several emails about last month’s column on altering a wedding dress. One concern was how to remove the stitching lines when you let out satin.

Most polyester satins let out nicely without any stitching lines showing. Acetates and silks are not as forgiving, but I’m going to share my favorite trick: white vinegar. As with any product you use on garments, please do a test area on a seam allowance or some other part that doesn’t show. Generally speaking, white vinegar makes the needle holes shrink up and doesn’t leave a residue on the fabric like water can.

Here’s how to do it:

Steam-press the seam on the wrong side of the fabric so it is nice and flat. Steam and rubbing a fingernail along the old seam will make most holes disappear. Remove all the old thread from the previous seam because these can add to the untidy look.

If you still have holes, take white vinegar on a cotton ball and dab the old stitches, still working on the wrong side of the fabric. Don’t drown the area, but use enough to dampen the fabric. I usually steam again and press dry. If your steam iron is less than reliable, you can let it air dry. You don’t want to overpress satin. It will lose its sheen or retain iron marks.

This process also works if you accidentally press a fold into your fabric. Use the white vinegar to steam out the line left by the iron.

Another question was what to do if you get blood on the gown while working on it. Believe me, with all the razor blades, pins, and needles I use, this is common/ Sometimes, even the bride will prick herself with a pin during the fitting and touch the dress before she realizes she is bleeding.

As with any stain, it’s important to treat it as soon as possible. However, the trick I’m going to tell you about has worked on old bloodstains, too.

The secret is hydrogen peroxide. Place a soft cotton rag under the spot. This helps keep the stain from going through layers of lining and netting. Douse a cotton ball with hydrogen peroxide, the kind you buy from the grocery store that you can gargle with. Wring the cotton ball just above the blood spot so a few drops land on it. It will foam up, loosening the blood from the fabric. As soon as it stops foaming, dab the spot with a clean cotton ball. The object is to try and lift the blood, using the cotton as a wick.

Repeat this procedure until the blood is faded. Let it dry. The spot will fade even more as it dries. Again, the hydrogen peroxide shouldn’t leave residue on the gown.

You can use this method to get blood out of just about any fabric. Test an unseen area if you are not sure about the fiber content.

I am often asked, “Won’t hydrogen peroxide bleach the fabric, like it does my hair?” The answer is “no.” The hydrogen peroxide hairdressers use is much stronger. The solution you buy in the grocery store is safe for most fabrics.

I hope these methods will work for you, and as always, keep on sewing!

Barbara Stone is the owner of Barbara Stone Designs, a full-service tailoring and dressmaking business at 5200 Churn Creek Rd. Suite P, Redding, CA, 96002. She can be reached at (530) 222-1340 or
Barbara Stone

Barbara Stone

Barbara Stone is the owner of Barbara Stone Designs, a full-service tailoring and dressmaking business at 5200 Churn Creek Road, Suite P, Redding, CA, 96002. She can be reached at (530) 222-1340 or