Heirloom Storage Boxes and the Doily Problem
In the corner of my parents’ living room stands a highboy (chest of drawers on tall legs). When you open the drawers, a pile of antique pillowslips, napkins, dresser scarves, and doilies erupts. In a small family, handmade textiles accumulate, and my mother is the delighted collector. However, nineteenth-century chests of drawers are a far cry from heirloom storage boxes.
What a Pest!
Lifting out a few layers of fabric, you come across the occasional piece of dog kibble. There hasn’t been a dog in the drawers; this is just where the mice hide their stolen food. The house and furniture are as old as the textiles, and mice, moths, and damp get in anywhere. Some pieces have pronounced creases, discoloration, or holes from heaven knows what.
Who Made This, Anyway?
Several of the linens have carefully stitched antique monograms that I can’t quite decipher. My mother sometimes knows who left her one piece or another, but we puzzle over them: Is that a T for Trilson or an L for Leonard? One of these days we really must write these things down. Smartphones make this task easier: I can take a video of my mother telling me about the piece, photograph it and add a note, and then make a catalog. (And maybe I will, some day . . .)
My mother is so keen to pass along these treasures to her only child, who lives thousands of miles away. Once I called her and said, “I’m going to ask the question you’ve been waiting years for: May I have a doily? I need one for the top of a table. Don’t send more than three.” (She sent nine; she couldn’t help herself. Some of them are on long-term loan to a friend who also needed a doily.) They deserve care and skilled preservation; the women who made them put so much skilled effort into them. We’re just at a loss for how to start.
I think my mother will find PieceWork’s Home Care for Your Heirloom Textiles Kit under the tree this Christmas. Along with an acid-free storage box and tissue paper, the advice in Linda Moore’s detailed article (available as a downloadable PDF) on caring for heirloom textiles, she might appreciate something else even more: my help in preserving and recording these treasures.
Editor, Spin Off Magazine
Featured Image: One of my favorite pieces, this may be embroidered or woven. Sadly, it is discolored. Photos by Anne Merrow.
Discover more about caring for your heirloom textiles in these issues of PieceWork!