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preserving Needlework

MargaretAnn | Posted in General Discussion on

As I was telling Artaine, I am well trained in fabric conservation.  If anyone needs advice on how to treat things you want to last, like gift samplers, or wonderful accessories, I can advise on what to do before you start, as you are working, and after you finish.  This is of no use for clothing, objects that get much wear, or anything exposed to much handling.  But, if you have or are making a treasure,  there are easy ways to make sure it lasts.



  1. callie1 | | #1

         What would you suggest for art quilts.  Especially for storage?

    1. MargaretAnn | | #2

      Re Art Quilts.  The first thing to find out is what the quilt is made of.  Silk and wool are treated differently from cotton.  Is the quilt new or antique?  Is it of mixed or unknown fabrics?  Since it is art, does it have metallic or sharp threads?  Do any protrude into a third dimension?  Is it painted?  Do you have any idea whether the material is colorfast or not?  Is it damaged or weakened in any way?  All of these things affect how to display or store a beautiful thing.  First:  DO NOT WASH OR CLEAN.  AVOID SHARP FOLDS.  AVOID PLASTIC BAGS.  Now, if you will tell me what you want to work with, I'll try to give my best advice.  To cover all possible contingencies would take a book.  I'd love to try to help.


      1. callie1 | | #3

             I am talking about mainly cotton quilts, with some embroidery and beading embellishment.  If sharp folds are to be avoided what is the best way to prepare the item for storage?  Should it be rolled on a tube, stuffed with tissue in the folds, etc.  Why are plastic bags to be avoided?  Thanks

        1. MargaretAnn | | #4

          Dear Callie

          I'm glad the quilts are cotton, they are much easier to manage.  Rolling is best, but you don't need a tube.  If the quilt is dusty from hanging, vacuum it first on both sides.  If you have two people, let one stretch a piece of nylon net or tulle over the quilt and hold it taut.   I use a piece of fiberglass screen bound around the edges with cotton tape because with that one person can vacuum.  I made mine; it's easy.  The whole point is to make absolutely sure that nothing on the quilt gets sucked up.  Check to make sure all the embellishments are firmly attached, if not, fix.  Turn your vacuum to the very lowest suction possible. Lay the netting or the screen on the quilt. Using a new or an absolutely clean brush (important) gently go over all surfaces, front and back.  Get some acid free tissue paper and make a fat sausage inside each fold.  Of course, it would be best not to fold at all, but few of us have room for that.  You might fold it padded with paper the long way, and then roll.  Remember to pad with tissue any fold you make.  The roll or fold should not be tight.  Now, you can buy a big muslin laundry bag, order a "quilt bag" from Clotilde, or make your own sack of unbleached muslin.  What ever you use, machine wash first.  Place your quilt in the sack and close.  Make sure the whole thing is dustproof.  If there is a gap at the top, put an old pillow case or something like that over the opening. There, it's ready for storage.  Undo it every six months and fold it in a different place. Use fresh tissue every time.  The reason you do not use plastic is that certain plastics give off gas that destroys fiber.  I know they sell comforters in bags the look like storage bags, but that is because plastic is cheaper than fabric, and they are not concerned beyond the day you buy it.  I hope this helps.  I'll be gone until the 30th, so any other questions will have to wait a bit.  I hope this helps.  Merry Christmas.  Margaret-Ann

          I hope this helps. 

          1. callie1 | | #5

                 Thanks a lot for the advise.

          2. MargaretAnn | | #6

            You're welcome.  I hope it helped. 


          3. CTI | | #7

            "The reason you do not use plastic is that certain plastics give off gas that destroys fiber.  I know they sell comforters in bags the look like storage bags, but that is because plastic is cheaper than fabric, and they are not concerned beyond the day you buy it."

            Excellent information, and a timely reminder about what companies think of those of us who buy their products. Yet another reason to make items instead of buy them.

            This year everyone is getting placemats and napkins or table runners, all from material I've been saving and can fringe instead of hem. I made them oversize as agitating in a washer can cause unravelling. You can tack them in places - the operative word being you, not me. This is a great use for remnants, and failures easily work as gift wrapping. I like to use discarded jewelry as ribbon, or crochet a quick chain stitch with some beads. Not Martha Stewart, but functional and personal if you know their colors, and re-giftable if the jewelry isn't to their taste, and reusable cloth as a rag to wipe the car windows. Bungee cord ties are also a big hit.

            I don't know a sewer who doesn't appreciate a gift wrapped with cloth, even if it only stays in their to do box. Even an extra sheet can come in handy (cover up a pile of junk or use as a dropcloth when the plumber comes).

            Is there a textiles as gift wrap thread? I often give baby books wrapped in a baby or receiving blanket. Stuff a wide satin ribbon with a thin layer of batting and use as a tie for the package. You can recycle it into a picture frame, a giant rosette, an edge on a blanket that extends so the kid can tie the blanket on him like a cape, the possibilities are endless.

          4. MargaretAnn | | #8

            The suggestions about fabric and other items as gift wrap are inspiring.  Thanks for the ideas.


          5. CTI | | #9

            You are so welcome (not that the ideas are mine)! I get much enjoyment of finding stuff I no longer will ever use (like 2 yards of blue satin - the blue doesn't look "right" to me anymore, for whatever it was I thought I would use it for) and using it as a wrap. There is something that rubs me the wrong way about saving wrapping paper for reuse, but just as bad about throwing it away. Who would throw away a dish towel that held inside a soap? I've always been frugal, and even when I had a little money didn't want to spend it on expensive wrapping paper that would just go in the trash.

            I am so adament about not wrapping things in throwaway things that I deliver gifts in reusable shopping bags if I can't wrap in some fabric. Thank goodness all my family and friends appreciate this - they can re-gift the wrapping, and the gift.

          6. User avater
            ehBeth | | #10

            Thank you for that wonderful cleaning advice. I'd never really thought about how reasonably simple it would be to make a cleaning screen. Fabulous!

          7. MargaretAnn | | #11

            I'm glad I could help.  Thank you.


          8. User avater
            ehBeth | | #12

            MargaretAnn - it may take a while, but I'll try to report back after I've applied the screen/vacuum technique to a couple of pieces here. Thanks again. Beth

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