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A practical guide to storing your silk sarees

Saris will always be a personal treasure for women, and it’s a heirloom heritage passed on to the next generation. It is always a joy to revere our grandmother’s and mother’s sarees!

Like all the things we love and care, we need to spend some time to understand the basic structure of a silk saree – what is the nature of fabric, what the basic steps for storing a saree well and what conservation methods we can use for maintaining a saree well.

Maintenance and preservation of textiles is actually simple. Let’s delve in to the topic and see how well we can manage to keeping them looking good!

  1. Understanding a silk saree
    1. The silk sarees are made up of two or three ply silk yarns. The basic silk fibre consists of protein, which is a natural fibre. Just as a human skin breathes, handmade fabrics also need airing out from our cupboards
    2. The “Mundhanai” or the “Pallu” of the saree has more Zari content, and so extreme care has to be taken while folding the pallu part
    3. If you have external embellishments like a thread embroidery, zari, sequins and other add-ons, you have to be even more careful

 

  1. What are the factors which causes damage to silk saree?
    1. Silk saree being a “natural” fibre consists of protein, and so they are susceptible to deterioration.
    2. Being organic in nature, the climate, humidity, light, insects, dust are the factors that could cause damage to them.

 

  1. Man-made damages
    1. An important factor in textile deterioration is the manmade damages – especially the way we fold and store the sarees in our cupboards. Rolling up the sarees and storing is a good option too. If it is necessary to fold a textile, take care not to have a sharp crease. Once in a while these creases can be changed in the fold, just to avoid tearing on the crease
    2. Do not store silk sarees with other material like cotton or chiffons. It is better to store them in a cool space, away from direct sunlight.
    3. Regularly change the folds of the saree. If you have kalamkari or hand painted silks, its always advised to fold the designs inside-out of a saree.
    4. Never store the saree in plastic covers. This leads to both fabric and Zari discoloration. Instead of storing the sarees in plastic covers, we can use old dupattas or yardage, or muslin bags

 

  1. Climatic damages
    1. Light poses the greatest danger to all types of textiles; it not only weakens the fabric, but also fades the dyes in textiles. Take precautions not to dry in direct sunlight or use heavy illumination in storage. 2.2
    2. Moisture is yet another reason why silk and other expensive textiles get damaged. The damage is even more higher where pollution levels are high.To safeguard saris from moisture, it is always best wrap them in pure cotton cloth or store them in acid-free board box. 2.3
    3. Humidity - In cities like Chennai, high humidity is a major cause of damage to silk sarees. The humidity is more, especially during monsoon times, which accelerates the growth of Fungi.

Maintenance tips for controlling moisture

  1. Use Silica gels - Placing silicone gels in the storage unit can go a long way in protecting the garments. Silica gel crystals are available in any chemist's shop, or online. These blue colored crystals will absorb moisture, and turn pink. We can keep the crystals in sunlight to dry, and when they turn blue again, we can reuse them.
  2. Silica gel sachets in soft cotton or muslin can be placed in your cupboard. Change the Silica gel every 3-4 months.
  3. Moisture is the main reason why silk and other expensive textiles get damaged or turn. The damage is high where pollution levels are high, and to safeguard saris it is always best to wrap them in pure cotton cloth or store them in acid-free board box.
  4. Instead of using newspapers as an underneath storage base in your cupboards, use acid free sheets as the base. Acid free tissue papers can also be used to segregate sarees in between, while stocking vintage silks.

 

Insect Damages

  1. Insects like moths, silver fish, cockroaches, and beetles like demestid damage the silks. The excreta of insects is high on acidity, and therefore over a period of time the fabric cracks.
  2. One of the best organic insect repellent is dried neem leaves. But make sure that they are stored in a cotton pouch, and not in direct contact with the sarees.

Maintenance tips for insect damages

  1. Insect repellents - Refrain from using naphthalene balls, as they tend to dilute the color of sarees as they slowly evaporate. In fact they could ‘eat’ up the color if they come in contact with the fabric. Naphthalene should not come in direct contact with the textiles since it will tarnish the metal work on textiles.
  2. Make a homemade insect repellent consisting of powdered sweet flag called as ‘vasambu” in tamil, cinnamon, black cumin, pepper, cloves and camphor. Pulverize is small quantities and pack in porous pouches in soft cotton or muslin. Not to be used in direct contact with silk sarees.