Thursday, September 30, 2010
So what CAN you do to help protect and preserve your textiles?
A person need not make a million dollars or have a Masters degree in textile conservation to do these few really simple things, to help keep our cherished textile collections lasting way past our own lifetimes.
Keeping our areas clean is a start. Vacuum and inspect both display and storage areas ON A REGULAR BASIS. UV light can be filtered quite easily actually~ and you don't have to out and buy those horrible light blocking sunshades and live in a dark cave. I have all of my windows covered with a clear UV blocking film~ it can be bought by the roll, and easily applied. I got mine from University Archival Products, and it is relatively inexpensive, and blocks 80% of the UV. You can't even tell its on the windows. You can also buy UV free light bulbs that fit in both regular sockets, and those for spot & flood lamps. University carries a line of UV filters that actually fit over long fluorescent light bulbs that block all the UV emitted from them...you can get a pack of 6 for less than a single UV filtered fluorescent bulb, and they last indefinitely, and can be taken off and switched to a new bulb when that one burns out.
So where should you store your textiles if not in Grandmas old cedar chest???
I always recommend flat storage for any textile, over being hung. Quilts should always be ROLLED, and never folded. Acid free storage boxes are readily available, but they are quite expensive, and will still need to be changed out when they are no longer inert. Same thing with tissue~ you want to pad your garments and flat folds to avoid creasing, and acid free tissue is easy to find~ but good grief! EXPENSIVE! The reason we want to store things in an acid free environment is that acids leach out of products, and can alter the fibers, they can stain and burn fabrics, leaving holes and marks that are irremovable. Have you ever seen an old illustrated book, that the page opposite the illustration has a shadow of the image? That is from the acids in the paper and ink~ the same things will happen to clothing and quilts and blankets~ any textile. Acid free products are not acid free forever~ they all will eventually absorb the acids from the environment and need to be changed~normally at least once a year~ sometimes more often. Of coarse the acid free cardboard boxes are ideal, but if you cannot afford them, the next best thing is to use a cardboard box, and line this with an old cotton sheet, or unbleached muslin that has been washed several times. You can spend around 30 dollars for a tiny roll of acid free tissue, or trek down to your grocery store and spend around 4.00 for the same equivalent, but in paper towel form~ its true!!!! Trust me, I have acid testers, and BOUNTY MICROWAVE PAPER TOWELS are ACID FREE. You have to get the microwave kind, as their other types and printed ones are acidic. I don't use the one at the very first, or end of the roll, that have the glue on them from being attached to the roll. Pad the your hearts content with them, your pocket book and textiles will love you for it :) You should inspect your storage containers at least once a year for any sign of insects, moisture, and at that time, repack with new acid free papers.
When handling your garments and such, do wash your hands with plain soap and water beforehand. Do not use lotions or powders on your hands, or perfumed soaps to wash with, as these will all leave residues behind that can show up as a stain on the fabric over time. Some use white gloves, myself included, when handling their textiles, but one must be very careful to change them out at the first sight of grubbiness~ they pick up a lot of dirt over a day of use, and also will deposit that dirt between the textiles they are meant to be protecting. If you have textiles with metal lace or trims, be particularly careful to not touch these with naked hands, as you could leave finger acid stains on them. Every ones skin chemistry is different, so it is easiest to avoid touching these areas all together.
I feel that if we have chosen to be the keepers of these special artifacts, it is our responsibility to keep them in a safe environment~ its not hard, and once you know what to look for, and how to handle them properly, as fragile as they are, your treasures should enjoy a safe lifetime with you, and be just as nice and in as good of condition when you pass them on.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Not all people are gatherers....but for those of us who are, and who feel a strong connection to, and are driven to collect bits and pieces of our Historical past, I would like to share my thoughts on the "Responsibilities" that should go hand in hand with doing so. I have been rather surprised lately on just how many collectors have never given any real thought to the proper care and storage of their collected artifacts....not really out of any malice or disrespect, but just that it had never really crossed their mind, or they don't know who to ask about it.
There are different rules and guidelines for different objects, but I am focusing on textiles. Most everyone has some family heirloom in a textile form that they would like to know how to properly take care of, so that whatever it is, will last for future generations.
I am not going to get into 'Professional' grade storage and conservation, as it is ridiculously expensive, and I'm sure most everyday folks will not want to turn their house into a sterile Industrial environment. The key to responsible collecting is to be able to enjoy our treasures, but at the same time keep them safe from certain environmental factors that we do have easy control over.
Antique textiles are the most difficult of all objects to store and conserve, as they are organic, living, breathing things. Most people have heard the common "myth" that their family heirloom clothing and linens should be carefully packed in a cedar chest.....when in fact, this is about the worst thing you could do. Any wood storage container will create a micro environment(as will plastic), and since wood gives off tannic acid, not to mention attracting bugs, storing your textiles in a wooden chest of any type will age and discolor and weaken them faster than if you left them out on a shelf. Cedar does repel insects, but it still gives off acids, and should not be used to store early textiles. Textiles are very fragile in the way that too much humidity and they can mold, if they get wet they can water stain...metal fasteners and buttons can rust, celluloid based trims will dissolve. Too dry, too hot, and they can become brittle and can turn to dust. The thing to remember, is to keep whatever space they are in clean, dry, and at a constant temperature. Do NOT store things in the attic, or basement, or where the temp fluctuates from hot to cold extremes.
Things to avoid around your textiles, both in storage, and on display are....
****FOOD! Crumbs, little dropped bits, oils and smells are just a hint of what is left behind from foodstuffs. Besides the horror of actually spilling food or a beverage on an antique textile that cannot be cleaned, it attracts bugs, and little verminous creatures like mice. It is best to not allow ANY food or drinks in your storage area or displays.
Along the food line, you don't want to display your textiles near a kitchen, or place where food is prepared. Even if you use a hood over your cook top, there will still be particles of grease in the air, that can penetrate your textiles and absolutely ruin them.
*****BUGS!! Ohhh these critters are the worst! Flies don't munch on textiles, but they do leave their droppings, known as 'fly spec', that look like little brown dots. Carpet beetles and silverfish will eat textiles, and their shed skins as they are growing also attract other bugs, and before you know it, you will have an all out infestation....not to mention microscopic eggs from the little buggers multiplying faster than rabbits.....
You don't need to go rushing out to buy a bunch of chemicals, and unless you do have an infestation problem, I don't recommend buying insect traps either~ the pheromones the traps are baited with can actually attract insects. The easiest things to do, is to be clean. Clean Clean Clean, and clutter free. Inspect your storage area and displays often. Vacuum often. A clean area, is a safe area for your textiles.
******SMOKE! I clump nearly all airborne particles into the smoke category. Grease and food particles can be in the air from cooking dinner, carcinogens from a fireplace or an actual person smoking....if you can smell it, it can penetrate the natural fibers of a textile, and cause irreversible damage. Keep your air clean...and that goes for aerosol cans of bug killers, hairsprays, room scents~ all these are chemicals that can alter/stain/destroy fabrics! Keep your air clean.
****LIGHT! Most people know by now, direct sunlight can reduce a textile to dust....and if you didn't know~ it can! ultra Violet (UV) radiation breaks down natural fibers~ we see it first as fading of colors...but it also causes the fibers to become brittle and break. So keep your storage area DARK, and make sure your displays are not in front of a window. Do not use the daytime or UV bulbs in your lamps, and keep spotlights to a minimum~ you can get JUST AS MUCH UV light from sources inside the house, as you can from the sun
*****WATER! Water has NO place around antique textiles. none none none! Do not store, or display things, next to say, a sink, or a water pipe, or next to the water heater...be aware of the sources of water in your home, and keep your textiles away from it, then you wont have to worry about a pipe breaking and soaking everything. Dyes and colors of early textiles are not always colorfast, and you could really be in for heartbreak if things get wet. Water can cause irreversible damage
****PETS. Now I love animals~ we live on a farm~ but they have no place around my textiles, and are not allowed anywhere near the gallery. Disaster is easily avoided but keeping pets away from your displays and storage areas.
In part 2, I will touch on some easy things you can do to protect and prolong the life of your collections
Sunday, September 19, 2010
(photo of painting by Joseph Whiting Stock, 1840)
The majority of the baskets I have come across in person, or in images, have most undoubtedly been child size. The very first one I ever bought, is sized tiny for a doll, just 3" in width. Of coarse adult women also had these, tho tending to be on the younger side of life, than the latter, as you can see by the forth coming pictures as we touch on some of the unique shapes of these gorgeous baskets.
and the ones woven with an openwork band around the middle.
Its hard for me to know where to start on this subject, as there are so many~ I want to talk about them all at once! I guess starting with the most common would be easiest, and that is what I call, the pear shape. Of this pear shape, there are two basic varieties~ the solid woven,
This post has a lot of pictures attached to it, so I hope you will indeed wait for them to load~ they are all worth it, and I have used period images to illustrate the shapes as well~ it is really a gift to see them in picture, when they were new and in use, and to have some actual baskets to see how they weathered the years...there are definite weak points, which I will touch on in a bit.
Here is an ambrotype of a pretty little girl holding a solid woven pear shape purseDouble swing handles are most common on all baskets, where singles are used, they are placed directly in the center~ as is the case with this chubby cheeks holding her pear shape purse, of the style with the openwork band around the center
The next most common, is what I call the oval shape. Most all of these were made to have either a snap in or hinged lid. Often times the lids are missing, but one can still see the loops where they were attached to. For this variety, there is a type with rounded ends, being truly oval in shape,
and then there are some slightly angular, having eight straight sides
I love this next daguerreotype, as not only is she holding an octagonal shape purse, the sitter is an older woman.
Fancy weaves are common in this shape as well~ this next one is one of my favorites
This next shape is unique for the outer rib that runs horizontally across the center of the basket.
Here is a comparison of the adult basket, to the more common child/youth size. The big basket on the left had been handed down in its original family before it came ot me~ the written provenance states : " Lunch was carried to Church in this basket by Frances Whitman Tillotson, b. 1794" .
Saturday, September 11, 2010
This week, I will touch on some examples of how these early baskets were decorated. I wish you all could come and see them in person, it is hard to convey how delicate they are in pictures! I have here at the Museum baskets that are both painted and unpainted, beaded and embroidered, but as decoration goes, I also include the weave in this area as well.
Starting plainly, with the unpainted versions, I have found them to be actually in the minority. Most unpainted types are the fancy open weaves, to which there really is no place on the basket 'to' paint, but some can be found of a solid tight weave, that have been left unpainted
Don't forget to click on the pictures to enlarge them! The really intricately woven types are by far the most delicate, as you can see in this close up I have one example, my beloved 'chopped' basket, that is nearly identical to the oblong basket in the 9 o'clock position in the group photo above, that was broken long ago. All that remains is the bottom, and top ring with the lid and 2 handles. So highly prized it was, that instead of throwing it into the fire, the lid was stitched onto the base, making for a rather peculiar looking flat basket! The fact that these baskets were highly prized in their day, is a definite contributing factor to their existence to modern times, having been put up carefully out of harms way
The daguerreotype below shows a wonderful embroidered sewing basket. It is easy to tell it is embroidered and not painted, as the wool back side of the embroidery can be seen inside the basket
This rare rectangular shape, in really rough condition, but still has its awesome bead work band around the center, and tho the rim has breakage in areas, still retains both its swing handles
The majority of these I have found to be painted
Of the color palette, there are two distinct groups~ those mainly designed with an orangey red and indigo blue flower scheme.....
And of coarse, the lids are just as prettily painted as the sides
I would think that a person would be able to go to the basket maker and order a particular design, as I think is the case with this fabulous basket with a Pineapple. Perhaps it was a welcoming gift?
Next week I will touch on the different sizes and shapes, as well as the periods in time to which these were produced