The Common Problem With Antique Textile Collections

Collecting textiles may sound like an odd or unusual hobby, but it is actually quite common. Hobbyists who focus on textiles often collect samples of various textiles, others invest in antique textiles and practice preservation, while others collect textiles which they transform into different clothing items and document them. Whatever the type of textile collecting you decide to do, they are all interesting and challenging. One type of textile collection that has become a favorite are antique textile collections because it requires plenty of knowledge about the materials, damage prevention and textile preservation.

What Are Antique Textiles?

These cloths are either woven by machine or by hand. Antique textiles  are made from natural fibers derived from animals, plants and minerals, such as silk, linen, wool and cotton. Soft and absorbent fabrics are produced from cotton, while popular, strong and beautiful fabrics are produced from linen of the flax plant. On the other hand, animal fiber such as wool offers warm and comfortable fabrics and silk from the cocoons of silkworms offer lush and soft fabrics.

What Makes These Textiles Unique?

Aside from the fact that only natural fibers were used to make antique textiles, the method of how these textiles were produced makes them unique. Antique textiles were made from fibers that were twisted into yarns and then knitted or weaved into fabric. However, all the twisting, knitting and weaving were done by hand, so production of these textiles had taken weeks or even months compared to how textiles are manufactured today in textile mills with the help of technology.

The Common Cause Of Damage

There are many factors that contribute to the degradation of textiles and these include pollution, careless handling, improper cleaning, inappropriate display, fluctuating temperature and even pest infestations. Among these factors, pest infestations are a major problem as a variety of pests can inflict structural damage to antique textiles. Pests that commonly infest textiles are –

Carpet Beetles – Have a preference for protein materials and the indication of an infestation are chewed holes, small worm like insects and furry carcasses.

Clothing Moths – Feeds on protein materials. White silky cocoon webbing stuck onto the surface of infested textiles are an indication of an infestation.

Silverfish and Firebrats – Only feeds on starchy materials. Identifying an infestation is often difficult.

How To Save Your Collection From An Infestation

Good housekeeping is always the best method of pest control. When you suspect that you have an infestation problem, you can lay out sticky traps near the floor of the display or storage area of your antique textile collection. Practice periodic inspections and regular cleaning of the storage and display to monitor the presence of any pests and to prevent pests from damaging your collection.

Once an infestation has been located, be sure to have the textile isolated by having it sealed in a plastic bag until a professional has been contacted to treat the infestation. Never apply any type of pesticide as these can destroy the textiles and harm you as well. The sealed plastic bags carrying the infested textiles must then be vacuumed to remove the air. Then they must be sealed once again and placed in the freezer to kill the pests. This method can effectively kill off the pests and preserve your antique textile collection.

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