Caring for your textiles - Part 1

With the world practising self-isolation and social distancing, we have new-found time to embrace a lot of indoor activities. Fast-paced careers and busy lifestyles have cluttered our wardrobes, and now it’s time to improve our living spaces. It's time to pick up a task of decluttering and arranging our wardrobes, and more importantly, take some time to care for our precious textiles.

 

“The KonMari Method™ encourages tidying by category – not by location – beginning with clothes, then moving on to books, papers, komono (miscellaneous items), and, finally, sentimental items. Keep only those things that speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy. Thank them for their service – then let them go”- Marie Kondo, Author of the book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”

Once you shrink your closet and focus on the ones you need to have, the task becomes easier for the preservation of textiles, and its storage.
 
Some of the garments, especially the silks and brocades hold significant sentimental value. Wedding outfits and inherited textiles do carry a lot of sentimental value along with treasured memories. With preventive measures, we can increase the lifespan of these special garments.
 
Caring for your textiles, a series of blogs will focus on practical advice for extending the life of textiles by good housekeeping and preservation methods.
 
Let us now try to understand the common problems related to the preservation of our textiles. The first point is to be aware of the material and texture of the cloth and the second is to observe its current storage mechanisms.
 
What material is the fabric made of? Silk or cotton or wool, and whether it is handmade or mill-made? How is it stored? Metal or wooden cupboard and packed in a plastic or muslin bag?
 
Once we analyse this basic information, we can understand that the common problems for textile damage are through four factors:
1. Biological agents - Insects, fungi, moisture due to humidity.
2. Physical agents - The way we handle our clothes, the way we pin it up, the methods of washing and drying.
3. Chemical agents - External damages caused to a textile by spillage, stains.
4. Human errors - Lack of knowledge on how to preserve, wrong storage methods.
 
We will address the above four factors in the next blog of this series. But for now, here's a quick summary of things to keep in mind while we cleanse our closets:
1. Preventing folds - Refold your silk sarees, especially before it develops a permanent crease. The simplest way to avoid folds is to air it out and change the line of the folds.
2. Acid-free paper - Use sheets of acid-free paper as a lining to your wardrobe, or between layers of textiles. An acid-free paper has a neutral or basic pH, is sulfur-free and is available in all stationery shops.
3. Check the humidity - A humid storage environment leads to mould growth and dampness, due to climatic conditions which will damage the textiles quickly.
4. Look out for damage by insects and animals - Moths, silverfish, cockroaches, mice create havoc on stored textiles. Pest free surroundings and protected spaces are necessary for conservation. Open out the textiles and observe if there are any damages or signs of insects. Change of colour, shape, odour and powder formation in the garments are the signs to look out for in a damaged textile.
 
Over the next few weeks, we will focus on the problems caused by the four agents in the preservation of textiles and the strategies to be taken for preventive conservation.

 

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