Embalming your wedding dress, your great-grandmother's handmade quilt, or a valuable old tapestry in one of those cardboard boxes with a cellophane window could be a costly mistake. No fabric should remain folded in a sealed box for years, and cellophane windows can trap damaging moisture. Storing fine textiles is not difficult: Do the job correctly and preserve your precious garments for decades.
Have the dress professionally cleaned as soon as possible. Some stains, such as sweat, perfume and alcohol, may be invisible at first but will darken with time if not removed.
Choose between box and hanger storage. Keeping the dress in a box may prove to be more practical, but hanging the garment in a closet is the best way to prevent difficult-to-remove creases. Purchase plenty of acid-free tissue paper. You'll need it whether you fold or hang the dress.
Line an acid-free cardboard box with acid-free tissue paper if you are storing the garment in a box. Lay the hem in the box first and then fold the dress accordion-style, placing crumpled tissue paper between each fold. Stuff the inside of the bodice and sleeves with crumpled tissue. Layer more tissue on top and cover with the box lid.
Wrap a wide hanger with cotton batting if you are hanging the garment, then cover it with muslin. Hang the dress and stuff the bodice, sleeves and any deep folds in the fabric with acid-free tissue. Cover the dress with a muslin garment bag and hang it in a cool, dry closet. Take care not to crush it with other clothing.
Check the dress's condition each year. If boxed, repack so the folds are in different places; if hung, wash the muslin cover.
Sandwich the quilt between two clean cotton sheets and then fold the trio accordion-style. Place it on a shelf or in a drawer, but never in a plastic bag or cardboard box. If using a cedar chest, line the chest with acid-free tissue paper to prevent direct contact with the wood's oils.
Air out the quilt once a year, but do it inside, as sunlight can fade vintage fabrics.
Spread a quilt over a guest bed and then top it with a cotton cover for protection is an easy but safe storage method if your houseguests are careful--and infrequent.
Choose a wall away from direct sunlight and hang a quilt from a rack to enjoy.
Wear cotton gloves while handling antique silk kimonos, wallhangings and other fragile textiles. Have them professionally cleaned and packaged in acid-free tissue paper, which helps keep fabric from yellowing. Remove any metal rings or hooks before storing. Depending on their shape and size, tapestries and textiles may be stored folded, hung or rolled on cardboard tubes.
Roll small items on acid-free cardboard tubes, inserting sheets of acid-free tissue as you roll. Wrap the entire roll in cotton sheeting and tie the ends loosely with cotton twill tape.
Use large storage boxes to minimize the number of fabric folds. Videotape or photograph valuable textiles for insurance purposes. Store the video in a fireproof box or a safe-deposit box. Vintage linens should be hand-washed in hot water with mild soap, rinsed and line dried. If ironing is required, mist with distilled water and iron embroidery on the reverse side. Don't use starch, which is carbohydrate-based and may attract insects. Light is your linens' enemy: Ultraviolet rays from sunlight and fluorescent lights can damage fibers and cause fading. Low light or darkness are recommended for textile storage. Ask a professional to do the job right.
Never use colored tissue to store textiles. The color can bleed into the fabric. Don't roll hand-painted textiles, as the paint may crack.