I am preparing to display a relatively small Navajo rug in excellent condition and noticed that there are some creases where it must have been folded for a long period of time. What is the best way to flatten the creases quickly? Is an iron a bad idea?
Please don’t apply heat or steam to old textiles. The creases will drop out in time with changes in relative humidity, but a great deal of damage can be done by trying to force the fibres to flatten.
I was concerned about that. Can you please tell me what some potential damages might be?
Do you know what fibres and dyes were used in making the rugs? What might the action of heat be on them? As the fibres and dyes age they will become more susceptible to odication, cross-linking and chemical deterioration – many of these reactions are accelerated by the energy provided by heat. What effect will the heat have on substances which have become ingrained in the rugs over time – spills, stains, dust particles ? Some of these will become insoluble as a result of heat action. In many cases the rugs will have been made from wool (there don’t seem to be many survivals from plant fibres) – a protein based fibre made mostly of amino acids with a complex structure which controls its elasticity and shape. Applying heat will pernanently affect these fibres. Then add to this complex arrangement, the effects of the dyeing and treatment the fibres have already experienced and the effects of age. You may not see any immediate damage, but the fibres in the areas treated are likely to become more fragile and deteriorate more quickly. They have already suffered from being folded without padding,. forming the creases you mention.
Thank you for the information. The rug is fairly new, made within the last 15 years. From my understanding, it is entirely made from wool and only uses red dye (the origin of which is a mystery to me). WHat is the best way to store the rug to avoid creasing – laying flat, rolled, or hanging?
Great question Edie–I’m sure others have confronted the same dilemma when working with historic textiles. And thank you Helena your advice. Ideally rugs should be stored flat or rolled. Here is some quick information from the Textile Museum in Washington DC about how to do so http://www.textilemuseum.org/care/brochures/storing.htm. If you must fold a rug, you should use padding; here are some instructions http://www.netnebraska.org/extras/treasures/pdfs/Folding%20Textiles.pdf
Good advice, all! As well, Edie Wageman may find it helpful to know that professional textile conservators do have methods of relaxing wrinkles without the use of heat. However, as a textile conservator myself, I can tell you that even after all appropriate(read “safe”) methods have been attempted, those wrinkles will likely persist, especially in a piece like a Navajo rug. In the end, it seems better to appreciate the rug with some wrinkles rather than compromise its integrity.
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