Proper and adequate quilt storage is essential to the longevity and care of your quilts and fine textiles. The following information is presented with the help of Ann Russell, a conservation consultant, with The Hollinger Corporation, manufacturer of archival storage materials that are excellent for the individual quilter or collector. Hollinger boxes are the very same boxes and acid-free tissues that have been supplied to the textile curators and collection managers of museums world-wide, like the Smithsonian Institution and The National Archives.
You've invested countless hours creating a treasure . . . How do you protect your heirloom?
1. Choose a quality storage box for your textiles and quilts.
Safely store textiles and artifacts for future generations to enjoy.
Large & small sizes allow proper storage of quilts, linens, costumes and artifacts. Polypropylene is lightweight, pH neutral, water-resistant and offers ideal storage when moisture is a concern. Boxes are 3 mil, washable and reusable.
Passes Standard "Photo Activity Test"
Provide a stable, protective environment for your fabrics, quilts, old linens, costumes & other textile artifacts.
Storage boxes are designed with enough room to properly store your textile artifact. Materials should be stored flat and interleaved or padded with acid-free tissue. Proper packing and storage environments will help prevent yellowing and deterioration of the fabrics. The larger 60 size boxes are excellent for costumes and larger artifacts while the 30 & 40 are best for quilts and smaller fabrics.
Two-piece boxes of 60 point acid/lignin-free (8.5 pH) blue-grey board with fully telescoping lids and metal reinforced edges provide strong support and protection during storage, even when stacked. Board has a white acid-free inner liner of heavyweight paper stock.
2. Choose a rolling tube that is SAFE if you don't wish to fold your quilt.
Many conservators do not like to fold their textiles because of the pressure and distortion that occurs on the folded sections. Long-term compression on the inside of the fold creates a setting or creasing of the fabric. The outside fibers stretch around the curve of the fold. Quilting stitches will be more stressed in the folded areas. If you do choose to fold your quilt, take care to refold it periodically along different lines.
For the long term transportation or storage of textiles, carpets, tapestries and quilts. Also store rolled maps, drawings, posters and blueprints. Choose either 3"or 6" diameters with heavyweight 3/16" side walls. Our tubes are manufactured from the industriy's highest quality, pH 8.5, acid/lignin-free, buffered board! Tubes are strong enough to support most heavy textiles and purity throughout allows you to roll artifacts around the exterior or store rolled items inside.
3. Support your quilt with acid-free tissue.
Use for wrapping, interleaving, padding
This ultra-thin (.001") acid-free tissue is ideal for many protective purposes: interleave maps, documents and prints in folders and boxes; wrap textiles and other artifacts to protect against abrasion; and, cushion textiles and artifacts in storage boxes and during transport. Use Buffered tissue with cottons, linens and other cellulosic materials such as wood-pulp or cotton rag paper. Un-buffered tissue should be used with items made out of animal based materials, such as silk, wool, leather, or whenever fiber content is unknown.
Passes Standard "Photo Activity Test"
Buffered Acid-free Tissue Sheets
Our soft, thin tissue with a 3% calcium carbonate buffer (pH 8.5). Used to interleave papers, manuscripts, magazines, padding & interleaving certain types of textiles (cotton, linen or jute) and wrapping or cushioning many other artifacts. Soft pure fibers help prevent acid migration, scuffing or breakage, and color transfer during storage and handling.
Which acid-free tissue do you choose? Buffered or Unbuffered?
Buffered tissue has a minimum pH of 8.5 with a 3% calcium carbonate buffer. Choose it for quilts comprised of cotton, linen or jute fibers. It is not necessary to use the tissue to line the box (or Tyvek bag) as the Hollinger board materials are already buffered and the Tyvek bag material is inert.
Unbuffered tissue has a pH between 6.8 and 7.2. This neutral range is best for wools or silks. Conservators also use it for leather, fur or feathered artifacts. When in doubt as to the fiber content of your quilt use unbuffered tissue. The three standard sizes of Hollinger textile boxes arrive with 20 sheets of 20" X 30" unbuffered tissue. You may choose to place a layer of unbuffered tissue inside the buffered box as a neutral pH layer between the wool/silk quilt and the buffered box.
Acid-free tissue may be used in multiple layers as a lifting sling to remove the folded quilt from the box. This will reduce the contaminants and abrasion that human hands may contribute to very fragile antique quilts.
5. What is Tyvek?
Tyvek is a chemically inert (neutral pH=7), water-resistant fabric-like material that is strong, versatile and inexpensive. This archivally safe material resists mold and mildew. It's smooth, white surface will shield collectibles from ambient ultraviolet light damage and dust when used as a final wrapping material for unboxed or rolled quilts. Tyvek Quilt Bags (which you can easily sew) will serve the same function for a folded quilt to be stored in a bag instead of a box. Unlike tissue or other papers, Tyvek will not easily tear and remains strong even if crimped. According to DuPont, who manufacturers Tyvek, the material can also be washed. If you are rolling your quilt, cut a length of Tyvek that is at least 8" longer than your rolled quilt or tube. Secure it around the quilt with flat woven tapes or ribbons, or long wide strips of cotton muslin (not cord). Tying too tightly will set unwanted crimps in the fabric.
Cedar chests have been in use as a protective storage container for textiles for many years. However, contact with any acidic wood will be harmful to quilt fibers. If you wish to use your cedar chest for sentimental reasons, consider lining it with Tyvek on the bottom and sides to protect your treasures.
Tyvek® is a soft, non-abrasive, inert spunbonded olefin used to make potective covers for textiles, costumes, paintings & furniture, shelf liners, envelopes, etc.
Tyvek® is tear resistant, mold, mildew & water resistant and protects against dust & dirt particles. Easily cut, sewn, taped or heat sealed. The glossy side has an anti-static coating which repels dust & dirt during storage.
6. Tips for handling your quilt when arranging it for storage.
A. WASH YOUR HANDS! Human sweat contains oils and sulphur that may remain with the fabric of your quilt or fine textile. Perfumes, hand creams, shaving lotion and other cosmetics may damage fibers over time. Be sure your hands are washed before handling and packing. Another option after washing your hands is to put on a pair of CLEAN white cotton gloves.
B. DISCARD THE PLASTIC BAGS OR PREVIOUS WRAPPING TISSUES. Not all plastic bags are safe for archival storage. Inexpensive dry cleaner and garbage bags may contain harmful PVCs (polyvinyl chloride) which will out-gas and contribute to rapid deterioration of fibers. Tissue paper from retail establishments or original packaging materials may not be of a very good pH. However, storage bags made of Tyvek will be appropriate for your quilt storage. A Tyvek bag will resist moisture, dust and ward off insects if the quilt is completely encased in a Tyvek Quilt Bag or wrapper..
Read more about Textile Preservation from Hollinger Corp: Quilters & Quilt Collectors Tip Sheet
At the very least, or until you can follow the quilt storage advice of the experts, try something that quiltmakers often use; store your 'clean' quilts individually in 100% cotton pillow cases, and occasionally take them out to let the cotton fabrics breathe. You can also refresh your quilts in a dryer on a 'no-heat' or very 'low-temp cool' dryer setting for a few minutes, but don't use a dryer sheet for fragrance. Refold the quilt a different way each time you put it away, to avoid breakage of the threads by using the same folds.
Clean quilts are less subject to damage from moths, silverfish, and other unwelcome pests who love dirt and grime. Read more about how to wash your quilts.