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To sew or not to sew?

This topic contains 5 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of Judith Haemmerle Judith Haemmerle 1 year, 3 months ago.

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    Profile photo of Rose McMahon
    Rose McMahon

    The recommended labelling technique for attaching accession numbers to textiles is sewing a written tag onto textiles.

    What would be the correct course of action to take if the textiles are very delicate, and there is a potential for the labelling procedure to cause unnecessary damage to the item being labelled?

    Would it be a sensible course of action to ask a skilled needle worker to undertake the procedure, rather than a curator who is competent to perform the procedure on textiles of a robust nature, where there is less risk of damaging the object, but is concerned about causing the minimum necessary distress ?


    Profile photo of Sarah C. Stevens
    Sarah C. Stevens

    Hi Rose,

    if the textile is so fragile stitches are not appropriate, you can tuck a label with it in it’s box. If it can take stitches, you could attach the label with just one stitch to reduce any possible damage, choosing an accessible spot.

    and if it is a costume on a hanger, you can put the label on the hanger instead.

    and yes, asking someone with more skill than you feel you have is another good option.



    Profile photo of Rose McMahon
    Rose McMahon

    Thank you for your reply, Sarah.

    I am not for a moment suggesting that this should be the automatic response to the labeling of a textile, just a possible approach to a particular set of circumstances. It would seem counter-productive to the long term preservation of a delicate item to subject it to avoidable damage during the marking and labeling process.

    Best wishes




    Profile photo of Joni Joseph
    Joni Joseph

    Hello Rose,

    We wrap our delicate textiles in tissue and attach a label to the exterior so we know what is inside to avoid unwrapping and wrapping again. We’ve also placed small unattached tags with the object if we intend to display the textile in the future so the tag can be discreetly hidden while on view. One must be diligent in keeping the number and object together since they aren’t physically attached, but that is a positive trait of a Collections Manager, is it not?

    Good luck,



    Profile photo of Patricia Miller
    Patricia Miller

    This brings up something that I’ve been trying to find out. Assuming that you want to sew a label on, where do you get your thread? We have always purchased Egyptian long-fiber cotton thread from Talas, but they no longer carry white thread, only black. Can someone suggest a source for this, or do you have a preference for something else? Thanks
    Pat Miller


    Pat, I have 100% cotton thread from my local quilting supplies shop.  OTOH, our few sewn tags go into Video Game themed t-shirts, usually attached to the size label, so it’s not quite the same level of fragility that you might have.  I’ll be interested in hearing why this acceptable thread or not – textiles are definitely not my field of expertise!


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