Crochet – How to Preserve and Use Grandma’s Doilies

Nostalgia – I am just one generation removed from a time when my people covered the tops of almost every piece of furniture with doilies! I don’t want to recreate that era in my home, but I would still like to display a few of these intricate pieces of art.
Here are a few ways I have either done this (or might try someday):

1. Mount a doily in a metal ring. To do this, lightly spray the doily with spray starch and press flat, using a pressing cloth. Center the doily on the inside of a metal hoop that is big enough! Using crochet thread, stitch the doily to the hoop at all the points.


2. Tack a doily to a stretched piece of fabric, then frame the fabric in some manner, such as inside quilt hoops.

3. I used to make small crochet snowflakes for my Christmas Tree. I used a white glue and water mixture to stiffen them. Some of them yellowed, and some of them didn’t – don’t really know why. I probably should have used a cornstarch stiffener.


4. I used cornstarch stiffener on doilies, then pinned them on a wall. The stiffened doilies look quite dramatic on a dark wall!


5. Stitch the doilies onto contrasting plain fabric and use them as a block for quilts or as cushions.



6. Doilies can be tacked together into “fabric” that can used as runners on tables or draped onto furniture.

7. Doilies could be pressed between two layers of glass. You can buy picture frames that work that way. I haven’t tried to do this, but I would suggest using the cornstarch recipe below to stiffen the doily. When it was dry, I’d carefully brush on a small amount of some more cornstarch stiffener  on one side of the doily to use as a glue. I’d mount the “glue” side of the doily onto one of the pieces of glass. When that was dry, I would finish assembling the frame. Be sure to leave an air gap between the top glass and the doily.

8.  I have several tables with glass tops. I could lay the doily, and maybe a few old photos of grandma on the table top, then cover it with another piece of glass, being careful to leave an air space between the two pieces of glass.

9. Doilies can be used with other archival materials to make a collage for a scrapbook.

10. Doilies can be starched into a bowl shape.

11. Doilies can be hung at different heights from a rod to form a wall hanging or lacy curtains.

Washing the Doilies
I hand washed them in cold water and Woolite. Some of them had stains on them, so I soaked them in a mixture of Woolite and OxyClean in hot tap water. The stains gradually lightened. It might take more than one soaking.

Corn Starch Stiffener
Apparently Corn Starch Stiffener is the best archival method to starch doilies because it can be washed out. Handle the doilies carefully when they are stiffened, because they may be more brittle.
– To make the stiffener, add 1 part cornstarch to 6 parts cold water. A small batch of 1 tablespoon cornstarch to 6 tablespoons water would stiffen three or four doilies.
– Stir until the cornstarch is completely dissolved. Then heat the mixture over a medium low heat until it thickens. Stir frequently, but not too vigorously, while heating.
– It can also be heated in a microwave, as long as it is in a bowl that is much larger than the mixture, and you check and stir the stiffener every 15 to 30 seconds or so.
– Let the mixture cool for a few minutes. Then dip the doily in the mixture until it is thoroughly coated. Carefully wring out the excess, and blot between paper towels. Or, with your fingers, “paint” the mixture onto the doily until it is coated.

Blocking the Doily
There are many methods of blocking the doily until it dries. Some involve plastic wrap or tin foil and pins. But the easiest method I have found is to simply lay the doily out onto a melamine work surface. Carefully stretch it until it is evenly arranged, then leave it to dry. I tried laying it on a piece of glass to dry, but that didn’t work because it stuck to the glass too well. I had to get it wet again to remove it. The melamine is slightly textured, so the doily doesn’t stick nearly as firmly but still sticks well enough to keep it stretched. I suppose the degree of “stickiness” would also depend on how much stiffener had been used on the doily.