ver its lifetime, every textile will be exposed to dust, light, moisture, and the risk of stains or damage. Whether you enjoy your textile hung on the wall, thrown over furniture, stored as an heirloom for your children, or worn until it falls into tatters, you need only some common sense to look after it properly. This section will be useful to all owners, and particularly to casual collectors who want to take care of their textile in the least expensive, most convenient way possible.
The safest way to remove dirt from a textile is to use a vacuum and a piece of mesh or window screen. Lay the cloth on a flat surface, and place the mesh or screen over the part you want to vacuum. Set the suction very low, attach the pipe extension to the hose, and gently vacuum dirt off the textile through the mesh. The mesh prevents the cloth from being sucked into the vacuum cleaner.
When we wash a textile, we use Synthrapol, a pre- or post-wash solution that prevents non-fast dyes from staining the cloth. We wash textiles by hand and lay them flat on an old clean white bed sheet to dry without misshaping. For valuable textiles, or fragile pieces with unstable colors, please seek the advice of a professional textile conservator. If you have further questions, please contact us.
Natural red and blue dyes are exceptionally resilient, but can be damaged by prolonged exposure to sunlight or harsh artificial lighting. Keep your textile out of the light when you can. If direct sunlight is unavoidable, consider putting an ultraviolet blocking film over the window.
Threads of Life’s art pieces are sold ready for display. We use museum-quality mounting techniques and non-reactive, acid-free materials.
Hanging a length of cloth: Pipes and Velcro
Materials for the “pipes and Velcro”? hanging method are available at the Threads of Life gallery. For the sake of explanation, we will call the part of the cloth that will hang in front the “visible end,” and the part that will hang down the back from the rod and closest to the wall the “hidden end.” (See illustration 1.) Get two metal or PVC pipes, about 2 cm in diameter and 6 cm longer than the width of your textile, and wrap them in black or white cloth. Choose pipes that will remain straight when suspended from their ends. Get two 10 cm strips of matching Velcro, and a length of wire or strong fishing line to hang the pipes from the wall or ceiling.
Lay the textile face down on the floor or on a large table. Use a tiled floor if you have one; the grid of the tiles will help you to square up the textile and the pipes.
- Lay one pipe across the textile, with the visible end of the cloth on one side and the hidden end on the other. Make sure that the pipe extends 3 cm beyond either side of the textile. Arrange the wire or fishing line along the length of the pipe.
- Hold the pipe and wire in place, and flip the hidden end of the textile over them. Then lay the second pipe alongside the first one.
- Use strips of Velcro to bind together the two pipes and the wire where they extend beyond the cloth on either side.
- Lift the ends of the wire to raise and hang textile.
Hanging a tubular cloth
Threads of Life prepares each tubular garment for display, and provides all necessary materials at our gallery. We sew strips of Velcro backed with stiff canvas inside the upper edge of the textile. The Velcro attaches the textile to a flat pillow covered with unbleached cotton and filled with two or three thin sheets of Dacron batting. The pillow hangs inside the textile, giving it depth and dimension on the wall. At the top of the pillow is a sleeve for a piece of PVC pipe. We run a wire through the pipe to hang the textile.
The storage space in your house will never match museum curatorial standards. With that in mind, here are a few basic principles for long-term textile storage.
Any cloth kept folded for a long time will develop a permanent crease, which is unsightly, weakens the cloth, and can cause the dyes to migrate. The simplest ways to avoid this are to store the textile flat, or to refold it frequently, making sure to change the line of the folds. If a garment has to be folded to fit the storage space, or if folds are part of the design of the textile, cushion the insides of the folds with a non-reactive, acid-free fiber, such as Dacron batting. For example, you can line the folded edges of a tubular sarong with thin sheets of Dacron to turn sharp creases into harmless curves.
Another way to avoid folds is to roll the cloth onto a pipe or dowel. Please note that the oils from a wooden dowel can stain cloth over time, and some conservators believe that PVC pipes exude a mild acid that can discolor cloth. The ideal rollers are made from inert materials such as acid free cardboard, but these can be expensive or difficult to find. At Threads of Life we use wood or PVC wrapped in several layers of unbleached white cotton cloth, or else in a layer of Dacron and a covering of unbleached white cotton. The wrappings prevent damaging oils or acids from reaching the textile, and can be changed as needed. To prevent the end of a fringed piece from bunching up inside the roll, arrange the fringe neatly between layers of white cotton cloth or acid-free paper, and roll the sandwich onto the roller. To store a tubular garment, use two rollers. Wrap one roller in cotton or Dacron batting and insert it inside one edge of the garment; put the second roller on top of the garment, up against the first roller; then use both rollers to wind up the garment.
Acid-free paper stops dyes from migrating from one cloth to another, or from one part of a cloth to another. Use acid-free tissue between and around textiles in storage, and between layers of a textile in a roll. Line storage drawers and boxes with acid-free paper. We find that sheets of acid-free paper are easier to use than a continuous roll.
A humid storage environment can lead to mold growth. Avoid storing textiles in damp locations, such as basements. If you live in a humid climate, keep the textiles in an air-conditioned room, or use a dehumidifier.
Preventing insect and animal damage
Moths, silverfish, cockroaches and mice can wreak havoc on stored textiles. Store your textiles in a safe, protected space, and keep the surrounding area clean and pest free. Check the textiles at least once a year for damage or signs of insects and animals, such as eggs or feces.