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How to Clean Antique Needlepoint

Antique needlepoint pieces remain a testimony to the skill and dedication of needleworkers. Antique needlepoint pieces may be unfinished, framed or used as pillows or rugs when you find them. Unfortunately, over time, many of these pieces have become dusty and soiled, especially if they have been used and loved. You can clean antique needlepoint at home, with some time, patience and care.

Check your antique needlepoint for loose stitches and damage before cleaning. Be sure that your antique needlepoint is wool yarn on linen or cotton canvas before proceeding with cleaning.

Measure the dimensions of your needlepoint piece and note these down. Remove antique needlepoint from the frame or backing. Work carefully, doing your best to avoid damaging the needlework.

Stitch a flexible seam binding, like Seams Great, around the edges of the antique needlepoint using a zigzag stitch. Sew this to the raw canvas if an edge is available; however, in many cases you will need to stitch to the needlepoint itself. Stitch as close to the edge of the canvas or needlepoint as possible.

Dissolve 1/2 cup of soap flakes or quilt wash in a small amount of hot water in the sink, a wash tub or bathtub, depending upon the size of the antique needlepoint. Add cold water to create a 2- to 3-inch deep soaking area. Test with wrist or elbow to see the water is tepid before adding the antique needlepoint.

Clean antique needlepoint by submerging it into the soapy water. Gently work the soap solution into the front and back of the needlepoint using the pads of your fingers. Roll and gently press out excess water. Repeat if necessary. Rinse well with cool water until no soap remains. Roll the antique needlepoint gently into a towel and press to blot as much moisture as possible.

Lay out soft wood boards or a hollow core door to block your antique needlepoint. Return the piece to its original shape by blocking--stretch and shape the needlepoint to the original measurements, pinning it into place using aluminum or stainless steel push pins. Allow to dry thoroughly before finishing with a new frame, a pillow backing or rug binding.

Things You'll Need:

  • Tape measure
  • Small, sharp scissors
  • Fine mesh seam tape
  • Sewing machine with a zigzag stitch
  • Coordinating thread color
  • Quilt wash or soap flakes
  • Towel
  • Wooden boards
  • Stainless steel or aluminum push pins


Needlepoint worked in silk or rayon should be handled by an experienced textile conservationist.


  • If colors run, allow the piece to soak in clean water until all bleeding has stopped. Commercial dry cleaners do not know how to clean antique needlepoint. If you need professional assistance, ask at your local museum, quilt shop or needlepoint shop.
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