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NATCC conservation hints for artists and sewers.

Spending a delightful week at the NATCC (North American Textile Conservation Conference), served to reaffirm my own conservation quirks, and I am here to set you on that same path. Conservation is a thing all artists should consider when creating their work. Quilters, sewers, knitters alike, benefit from making good choices in the construction of their work. It does not take a long time for unfortunate choices to result in losses. Here's the top three issues we as the artist can easily address as we build our works.

Marking pens: There's a lot out there, and are often used by quilters. They can be a bad choice—especially the kind that "fades away" with water, steam or time. They have been known to degrade fabric. You are spending a long time on that quilt. It's filled, or will be filled, with family memories, and are often passed down to the next generation. I have seen the damage show up in less than 10 years, and this is with washing. You simply do not want to use them. What to use instead? Chalk wheels work, if you are careful not to shake it off while you are handling your project, but I have had the best luck with regular graphite pencil. The marks are small, unobtrusive, but easily visible it you go searching for them. Yeah!

Shoulder pads: Yep, store bought shoulder pads are loaded with chemicals that will degrade the garment in which they are inserted, causing the shoulders to darken. You'll need to make your own to combat this issue. They are easy to make, and they are far better than the industry standard. Your clothes will look better, and perform longer with your own hand made shoulder pads.

Glues and adhesives: These darken and become brittle with time. Do not use fusible web for hems. Do not use hot glue, and avoid Fray Check. These all degrade quickly, and are only a quick fix that do not even perform well in the short term. Stitch that hem up. It's going to look better than any fused hem anyway. Do not glue on trim--not even those delicate bridal appliques. Tack them down with thread. If you need to stabilize an edge with fray check, just be sure to cut your fabric larger than necessary, and trim away the Fray Check after you stabilize the fabric edge with a zig-zag, bias binding or serger.

All of these tips will make your projects look better, perform better, and last longer. It's worth the effort in both the short term, and in the long term, so don't be sewing projects with no thought to conservation. We don't want to leave a mess for our future conservators to clean up.

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