1. Over the last 12 months, Pinning the Past has explored a range of historical and contemporary textile stories from tapestry to trapunto, and this month marks the last of these long columns. From next month, Pinning the Past will be shorter snippets, looking at individual textiles in my collection and in museums. This month’s column looks at collecting old textiles; acquiring, buying, storing and protecting our ancient fibre treasures. Like many of you, I suspect, I am unable to say no to an interesting old bit of textile. I have been acquiring bits and pieces for most of my life, and these days I accept and celebrate that it is a collection, not just an out-of-control stash. These are textile items that I love and want to keep, not ones destined to be re-used, re-made or cut up – although I have no shortage of fabrics that fall into that category too!

    Inspiration wall and textile collections  (collection of Ruth Singer)

    Studio inspiration wall with textile collections (Ruth Singer)

    Many of us have inherited collections of historic lace, linens or other textiles from family members. Some of us are lucky enough to be given textile treasures because we are known to love and cherish them. And some of us go shopping, specifically for antique textiles. There’s nothing like the thrill of the chase through a pile of boring table linens at a car boot sale, only to find a Victorian apron in the bottom.

    Personally I like pre-War textiles, ideally pre-First World War. Victorian textiles are surprisingly affordable as they aren’t as fashionable as Mid-Century curtains. Long may this continue. My preferred hunting grounds are antique fairs, auctions and vintage clothes shops, though there is always the risk you will spend hours hunting and not find much. For guaranteed success you could try one of the Textile Society’s Antique Textile Fairs where truly amazing textiles dating back to the 18th century can be found, already sorted and labelled up.

    Vintage threads  (collection of Ruth Singer)

    Vintage threads (collection of Ruth Singer)

    For more information about what you have found, you can try your local museum. Many museum services have a textiles curator so you could take the fabric along to one of their identification days and have them take a look, or you could try sending a good photo and description to the nearest specialist. Always try your local museum service before you go to a major institution. Auction houses can provide identification and valuation, while museums don’t give valuations. Before you buy a vintage textile piece, unfold it, hold it up to good light and use the following checklist to check for potential problems. If in doubt, don’t buy it.

    • Stains
    • Tears and holes
    • Splits, particularly on fold lines
    • Insect damage (mainly in silk and wool)
    • Mothball smell (you can’t miss it!)
    • Light damage, usually fading, although sometimes the colour is fast but the fabric has been irreversibly damaged by light exposure. Light damage usually degrades the fibres so the fabric appears to be disintegrating
    • Water marks – where water has got onto the fabric and left a stain. This can sometimes wash out but don’t count on it.
    • Rust marks (these are usually irreversible)
    • Silk shatter. This is where a treatment has been applied to the silk to make it crisper, which eventually eats away at the fibres, causing the fabric to disintegrate.

    Caring for your textiles

    Washing

    As far as possible, you shouldn’t wash antique textiles at all, unless they have obvious dirt which will attack the fibres or attract pests. Antique fabrics should never go near a washing machine – careful hand washing is vital, if it has to be washed at all. Textiles which have been exposed to the light, such as curtains, may look reasonably sturdy, but washing will destroy them entirely. If you choose to hand wash antique textiles, make sure you use a large vessel so you don’t crumple and crease the piece. Use pure soap flakes dissolved in hot water and then added to cold to make a tepid bath. Soak and gently swish the fabric, but do not rub or wring. Rinse well in cool water. Take care lifting wet fabric as it will be heavy and the weight can rip the fibres. Use a clean sieve or colander underneath and allow water to drain out. Lay the fabric out on clean towels, flat, not hanging up, and changing the towels regularly. Place the towels on a flat airer to allow air to circulate. Musty or mothball smells can be dealt with by airing the piece outside, in the shade, on a dry day. It might need a few days to get rid of the smell of mothballs. If the piece is washable, then do that and leave to dry outside.

    Moths

    Watch out for moths and isolate and treat IMMEDIATELY. Don’t risk getting a moth infestation in your collection, it’s soul destroying! I always check wool and silk for moths before bringing it into the house. You should look out for holes, insect casings and droppings. I would recommend never buying anything which has signs of active moth. If the item is washable, then do so. But if it is not, then try the following method; put the item in a large, zip-lock plastic bag and put in a freezer for a few days. Let it come back to room temperature before opening, then wash the item carefully or brush off the waste material and air the fabric. Moth pheromone traps attract male clothes moths so you can keep a check on any in your collections.

    Storage

    Antique textiles are best kept wrapped in acid-free tissue and stored in acid-free containers. Really Useful Box Company make acid-free plastic crates in a huge range of sizes, though beware that they are transparent so you should still protect your textiles from light. Other storage containers and tissue can be bought from archive specialists.

    Display

    Other than moth, your textiles’ worst enemy is light. UV light will damage the very fibres, beyond what you can see in fading. Always store valuable, old or precious textiles out of the light. A good picture framers will be able to create bespoke conservation-quality frames, with acid-free glues and board to help protect your pieces. Frames can also be sealed to stop insects getting in. Normal picture frame glass will not protect your textiles from light damage, so framed pieces should still be displayed out of direct light.

    Above all though, antique textiles should be loved and enjoyed, so please share images of your treasures online and let us all have a look!

     

    Pinning the Past: Collecting Textiles Over the last 12 months, Pinning the Past has explored a range of historical and contemporary textile stories from…
     

  2. Stitchgasm - Julie Sarloutte

    Stitchgasm – Julie Sarloutte

    It's another Stitchgasm from Mr X Stitch - the home of contemporary embroidery

    We featured a great Sherlock stitchery by Julie Sarloutte quite recently, but I can’t take my eyes off this piece, “She Wasn’t Supposed To Be Like That”

    Julie Sarloutte - She Wasn't Supposed To Be Like That

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  3. Stitchgasm - SilentBlair’s Calvin & Hobbes

    Stitchgasm – SilentBlair’s Calvin & Hobbes

    It's the Craftster Pick of the Week - brought to you by Mr X Stitch!

    Time for another look at some of the great work featured in the forums at Craftster. Note: Although they’re the pick of this week, they may have appeared before this week.
    You cannot beat a bit of Calvin & Hobbes. SilentBlair produced a triptych of terrific stitcheries as part of a recent swap – this one’s my favourite!

    Blair McLaughlin - Calvin & Hobbes Embroidery

    See the original Craftster post here, and be sure to come back next time…

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  4. Spare Sunday - Punk Domestics

    Spare Sunday – Punk Domestics

    Hey there! It’s a Spare Sunday, so we’re having the day off! But we don’t want to leave you high and dry so here’s a suggestion for somewhere else to hang out today!

    As we start heading towards Autumn here in the UK, I start getting in the mood for foraging. There’s nothing I like more than meandering through the countryside picking assorted fruits and berries from the trees, and then dropping…

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  5. Six of the Best - Lessons Learned

    Six of the Best – Lessons Learned

    Mr X Stitch - the world's best embroidery and needlecraft site. Est 2008

    In the past six years, we’ve had over 3700 posts about embroidery here at Mr X Stitch. We’ve done our bit to enlighten you all to what is possible with a needle and thread, but as well as inspiration, we’re keen to teach you a thing or two as well.

    Our Learning category has a fair few posts that will help you grasp the basics. Here’s six articles to get you going! :) Click on the images to visit…

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  6. Book Review - The Liberty Book of Simple Sewing

    Book Review – The Liberty Book of Simple Sewing


    Let’s face it, when a book comes out called The Liberty Book of Simple Sewing you know it’s going to be pretty good, and indeed this book does not disappoint.

    The Liberty Book of Simple Sewing

    Between them, Christine  Leech and Lucinda Ganderton have compiled a really nice set of projects for around the home that you’re bound to like. It doesn’t hurt that each design features really nice Liberty patterns.

    The Liberty Book of Simple Sewing  - Cafe

    There’s some simple…

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  7. Competition - Win Tickets to the Handmade Fair!

    Competition – Win Tickets to the Handmade Fair!

    Handmade Fair Banner

    The Handmade Fair is coming! This September at Hampton Court there will be three days of all manner of crafty goodness, with workshops, talks, loads of great craft sellers and so much more. The show is packed with big names like Kaffe Fassett, Cath Kidston and Kirstie Allsopp… and some wiseacre called Mr X Stitch!

    Yes indeed, in case I’d not mentioned it before, I’m going to be doing cross…

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  8. Book Review - Mollie Makes Embroidery

    Book Review – Mollie Makes Embroidery

    I’m not going to let the fact that I’m a columnist for Mollie Makes’ sister publication, CrossStitcher Magazine, affect my review of their latest book: Mollie Makes: Embroidery: 15 New Projects for You to Make Plus Handy Techniques, Tricks and Tips

    Mollie Makes Embroidery

    Compiled by Lara McSparaWatson, their Editor, the book contains a selection of projects that make good use of embroidery and designs that have been…

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  9. Fifth Friday Festival of Fabulousness - Pinterest Giveaway!

    Fifth Friday Festival of Fabulousness – Pinterest Giveaway!

    OMG do we have an awesome Pinterest prize for you today!

    Pinterest Swag from Mr X Stitch

    To celebrate our love for Pinterest, we’re giving you the chance to win the following goodies:

    • A Pinterest Apron!
    • A Pinterest Notebook!
    • A Pinterest Drinks Mug!
    • A copy of Pinterest Perfect!
    • And a nifty Pinterest Tote Bag to put it all in!

    Before we get to the competition, a quick review of Pinterest Perfect!.

    I’ll be honest, it wasn’t the…

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  10. Fifth Friday Festival of Fabulousness - August 2014!

    Fifth Friday Festival of Fabulousness – August 2014!


    Holy moley it’s a Fifth Friday, and that means it’s a Fifth Friday Festival of Fabulousness!
    And have we got treats in store for you!

    We’ve got some terrific giveaways, including a Pinterest Swag Bag, tickets to the Handmade Fair, and a couple of great books from Mollie Makes and Liberty!

    Pinterest Swag from Mr X Stitch

    We’re keeping it simple today so there’s no swap this time, but with another FFFoF in October, we’ll be…

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  11. Book Review - The Liberty Book of Simple Sewing

    Book Review – The Liberty Book of Simple Sewing


    Let’s face it, when a book comes out called The Liberty Book of Simple Sewing you know it’s going to be pretty good, and indeed this book does not disappoint.

    The Liberty Book of Simple Sewing

    Between them, Christine  Leech and Lucinda Ganderton have compiled a really nice set of projects for around the home that you’re bound to like. It doesn’t hurt that each design features really nice Liberty patterns.

    The Liberty Book of Simple Sewing  - Cafe

    There’s some simple…

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  12. Six of the Best - Olisa Corcoran

    Six of the Best – Olisa Corcoran

    Mr X Stitch - the world's best embroidery and needlecraft site. Est 2008

    Find out about Mr X Stitch's Inspired To Stitch columnist, Olisa CorcoranAt Mr X Stitch we’re blessed with a fantastic array of authors, who take time to share their corner of the world of stitch with us. In honour of our sixth birthday, we’re sharing six posts from as many of our team as possible.

    This time, it’s Olisa Corcoran.

    Bursting onto the scene a couple of years ago, Olisa aka CocoaEyes, who has been exploring the cutest parts of the stitchiverse, a task…

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  13. Showtime Snippets - 28th August 2014

    Showtime Snippets – 28th August 2014

    Mr X Stitch brings Showtime Snippets

    Showtime Snippets sweeps together all kinds of titbits from the interwebs into this handy digest for you. If you’re a stitch/textile artist, hopefully these snippets will help you find shows and exhibit!

    (more…)

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  14. Six of the Best - Young Guns

    Six of the Best – Young Guns

    Mr X Stitch - the world's best embroidery and needlecraft site. Est 2008 At Mr X Stitch we’re blessed with a fantastic array of authors, who take time to share their corner of the world of stitch with us. In honour of our sixth birthday, we’re sharing six posts from as many of our team as possible! Check these guys out!

    We’ve got a couple of recent recruits to the Mr X Stitch family who are bringing a nice bit of attitude in their approach to the world of stitch. I’m…

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  15. Stitchgasm - Nevermind by Mr X Stitch

    Stitchgasm – Nevermind by Mr X Stitch

    It's another Stitchgasm from Mr X Stitch - the home of contemporary embroidery

    Despite being the Kingpin of Contemporary Embroidery and running the world’s best contemporary embroidery and needlecraft site for the past six years, I’m pretty useless at sharing the work that I do.

    You can see most of my stitcheries, among other things, at my Flick photostream, but here’s something new for you.

    Mr X Stitch - Nevermind - Cross Stitch

    This is Nevermind.

    Mr X Stitch - Nevermind - Cross Stitch

    It’s 15876 stitches, 9 inches square and I think it’s…

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