Looking after textiles
Textiles can be divided roughly into two groups - 'shaped textiles' (e.g. dresses, chair covers and hats) and 'flat textiles' (e.g. samplers, carpets and tablecloths). Textiles are made from natural fibres such as linen, wool and silk, until the introduction of synthetic fibres about 100 years ago. All natural materials, whether wood or wool, are affected by changes in temperature and humidity. All textiles, both natural and man-made, require careful storage.
To help protect textiles, particular materials are recommended. Unbleached calico and polyester wadding are available from most material departments and shops. Acid-free tissue can be bought from some stationers, office suppliers or drawing material shops.
Do you have a treasured antique gown, or an embroidered sampler? Here are some handy tips to help you care for your treasured items:
Store textiles in a dark place, away from heat sources and damp. Try to keep their environment stable.
Try to store textiles flat. If you have to fold them, pad out the folds with acid-free tissue paper or polyester wadding. Flat textiles also can be rolled, upper side out, around a tube, padded with acid-free tissue paper or polyester wadding.
Protect textiles from dust and dirt - cover with unbleached calico bags or acid-free tissue. Keep in cupboards or boxes.
Check textiles for insect attack - look for holes, white papery moth cases and flat, 'grazed' pile on wool and velvet. If found, seek professional advice.
Keep textiles in artificial light or daylight, particularly bright sunlight - the fabric will weaken and colours will fade. Avoid hot, humid stores, like airing cupboards.
Fold textiles more than necessary. Folds may weaken the fabric and cause it to tear.
Hang very fragile dresses or those with heavy decoration, e.g. 1920s beaded dresses, as this will strain the fabric.
Cover textiles with polythene bags - they attract dust and may encourage mould growth.
Clean old, fragile textiles without seeking advice.