Textile Conservation

If you own one of the fine linen pieces from the Elizabeth Fisk Looms, you might be wondering about the best way to conserve, preserve and care for your heirloom.

While all of the EFL linens are very durable due to their natural linen threads, they are subject to rapid deterioration by several elements. Sunlight, moisture and insects can quickly break down the fibers and compromise the integrity of the overall piece. In general, if you are using or displaying your heirloom, you should keep your linens in an environment which is most comfortable for you. A temperature range of 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit and a relative humidity range of 45 to 55 percent in a location out of direct sunlight are the most desirable. If you suspect there may be insects present, clean it immediately as they often feed on fabric fibers. The presence of spiders or spider eggs may indicate that insects too small to see are also present.

Careful storage of your textiles can preserve them for future generations to enjoy. This is not a complicated process and the necessary materials are readily available in your local craft store. First clean all textiles to be stored, inspecting them for insects and other damage. Then store them flat, wrapped in archival tissue and placed in an archival box with a top. If the piece is too large to store in one layer, fold it with archival tissue so that the fabric doesn't double back on itself. For large numbers of pieces, or large pieces, rolling them around a cylinder with archival wrap may be the most efficient solution. If the cylinder is not made of archival acid-free material, simply cover it with acid-free wrap first. A clean sheet can be used in place of archival tissue. Try not to place the preserved textile in an overheated attic or damp basement, near a window or chimney flue. Periodic inspection of the storage area can assure safe conditions.

At this point I would like to address the issue of cleaning EFL pieces. As mentioned, these garments are fairly durable, however as time goes by, they will become subject to natural aging. Therefore, washing them with water and mild soap should be done with caution. If there are stains, a conservator should be consulted. In the Smithsonian Institute's book titled, " Saving Stuff," their chapter on taking care of textiles recommends that you treat your heirloom as you would your Grandma.

This includes:

1. Never hang Grandma from a nail.
2. Never leave Grandma out in the sun.
3. Never expose Grandma to too much light, inside or outside.
4. Never cram Grndma into a little box or into the trunk of your car.
5. Never stick pins or staples in Grandma.
6. Never fold Grandma or roll her in a ball.
7. Never let bugs eat Grandma.
8. Never sit on Grandma if she is too old or creaky.
9. Never scrub Grandma with harsh cleaners.
10. Never drag Grandma around.
11. Never hug Grandma when you are dirty; a dirty grandma ia an unhappy Grandma.
12. Never put Grandma in the attic or basement. She doesn't like being baked or getting moldy.
13. Keep Gramdma out of drafty spaces.
14. Never eat on Grandma.
15. Keep the pets off Grandma.
16. Never smoke or chew tobacco around Grandma.
17. Never splash water or drinks on Grandma.
18. Never let Grandma sit dierctly on wood, acidic paper, most plastic films or adhisive tape.
19. Never snag Grandma with rings, watches, cuff links, belt buckles and so forth.
20. If Grandma gets sick or hurt, take her to the doctor (in this case a textile conservator); don't try to fix her yourself.