Textiles and the Triplett Sisters

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Caring for Your Collection

This fall the decision was made to move part of the Poos Collection to a new storage facility. When you are dealing with one of the largest quilt and textile collections in the world the idea of a move can be a bit daunting…overwhelming. People began to ask me questions about care and storage, and so I’m happy to address this in a series of articles in the blog. The articles won’t be sequential, so if it isn’t a topic that interests you, we won’t bore you by writing about the same thing each week. If this is a topic of interest, just know that we will address a variety of information around the subject in upcoming articles.

The first thing to consider is the environment that you are going to store your quilts. Remember this is applicable if whether they are new or antique quilts. The antique quilts that survived are the ones that were taken care of along the way. You’ll need to address four major areas of the environment: storage type, temperature, humidity, light, and pest-free.

The first decision is whether you will be storing them on shelves, in large flat drawers, or rolled and placed on racks. Please do not “store” the quilts by hanging as gravity will stress the quilt. Please do not use plastic bags/tubs, cardboard boxes (unless archival) or wooden crates. All of these have chemicals or components that will harm or stain a quilt. Whatever choice of storage method, it must avoid artificial or natural light which cause textiles to deteriorate quicker.

Next is controlling the climate. Textiles should be stored at approximately 65 - 70 degrees considered ideal for preservation of textiles. Humidity should be maintained at approximately 50% or lower to avoid mold or moisture damage. Moisture can cause the fabric to flake if the antique fabric has metals in it, perhaps used as mordents in the dyeing process. Just like a metal implement rusts or oxidizes when exposed to water, so will the metal in the fabric. The fabric can also have “popping” if it oxides.

Finally avoid pests: insects, rodents, and uninvited visitors that just want to paw through the quilts. A word of warning that neither moth balls nor cedar are options for good quilt storage. Instead a “quarantine” is suggested. Any new acquisition should be isolated and fully inspected for evidence of insects. If any is found, it is recommended that the quilt be frozen or washed, a process not to be taken lightly. I’ll provide specifics on those processes in a later article. Stay tuned for more on preservation and care.