Antique textiles require a minimum but important level of care to maintain their condition. Display, handling and storage are the three areas you need to consider.
If displaying a textile for any length of time, you should carefully consider its position. Exposure to natural light will cause colour changes. The best means of protecting your textile is to have it cased or framed with acrylic containing a UV light filter. Most specialist art framers will have access to this material. A further precaution, in a well-lit room, is to have an invisible UV filter film over the interior of the glass of your windows. This will reduce up to 90% of the harmful ultra violet light. When positioning the textile, even with UV covering, it should not be placed in direct sunlight.
Inner rooms and hallways that receive indirect light are good environments for textiles. Mounting External walls may also retain moisture, so the textile should be mounted on a silk or cotton covered stretcher to create an air gap that prevents damp and mould from forming. When displaying a robe, the entire width of the sleeve span should be supported.
We recommend that robes on long-term display should be removed from their cases on a regular six-monthly basis and reversed. This ensures an even exposure to light. Fading from front to back can seriously devalue the textile. Also check for dust or the friendly spider! Whilst casing a large robe may initially be expensive, it is worthwhile investment. You will be able to enjoy the textile, reassured that it is protected from light and dust.
Handling and storage:
Antique textiles should be handled with great respect. Whilst silk is a remarkably durable material, it does require gentle handling. Remember, the silkworm originally spun its cocoon to last for only a few weeks! With careful handling, it will remain stable for centuries. Always wash and dry your hands thoroughly before handling a textile. The acids present in perspiration may, in time, cause discolouration to the surface. Always support the textile with both hands when handling or carrying.
How to fold a textile:
All antique textiles should be stored flat. Robes, in particular, should never be kept on a coat hanger. The weight of the robe could cause weakening and damage along the shoulder line. Flat textiles such as panels and scrolls are best kept rolled around a tube. All textiles should be rolled with the face outwards, so that it is not crushed when rolled. This is particularly important when rolling an embroidered textile. Acid-free tissue should be placed on the face of the textile as you roll it, so that each layer of textile is protected. Cotton sheeting can also be wrapped around the textile. When folding a textile, each fold must be interleaved with a sheet of white acid-free tissue. Do not use coloured tissue as the pigment could leach into the textile. Silk is a fibre with memory. It will, therefore, tend to retain folds and other creases if stored in one position for any length of time. To prevent fold lines, it is best to pad each fold in the textile with small rolls of acid-free tissue, preventing the fold from becoming a crease. The textile should also be regularly re-folded in the reverse. When stored, textiles should be kept away from light and extreme changes of temperature.
Silk is one of the least digestible of textiles. The larvae of moths, carpet beetles and other insects would only eat silk fibre if nothing else were available. Traditionally, Chinese textiles were stored in camphor wood chests. Today, a sachet of dried lavender with the stored textile will repel most insects.