Displaying, Storing and Caring for your Scarf Collection

Will you wear your scarves? Display them? Or keep them packed away for careful inspection and appreciation? Whatever you decide, it's important to guard your collection against dust, dirt, and - especially - moths.

Moth balls are fairly effective but tend to leave that smell. Try moth traps instead. Pheromone traps attract and eradicate the male moths, leading (with luck!) to the end of the breeding cycle. There are also moth suppression traps, which attract both males and egg-laying females. You'll find numerous brands on offer at various price points. Do look out for non-toxic versions.

The Constrain Spray Pest Controller has a great advantage over many other moth-proofing sprays in that it does not give off any toxic fumes and is therefore suitable for domestic use. It is available in the UK from Restore Products, but they do not currently ship overseas. If anyone knows of a similar product available in the US, do please let me know.

To Wear... or Not to Wear?

Do you collect because you enjoy wearing scarves? Or do you hope that your collection will survive to be passed down to future generations?

The UK Conservation Register website suggests that you assign a 'status' to each item in your collection: 'expendable' or 'to be preserved'. Regarding items you choose to wear, the site asks, "Are you happy for the accessory to be wholly expendable... with a limited life?"

Conversely, the site urges that items you wish to preserve should not be worn, used, or even unnecessarily handled. Quite possibly your collection will include some items that fall into the former category, and also some that fall into the latter. It's completely your call of course, but well worth a bit of thought.

Displaying your scarf collection

Displaying scarves well can be something of a challenge, and do bear in mind that light of all kinds - but in particular direct sunlight - is a great enemy of fabrics. Exposure to light will eventually cause discoloration, fading, and eventually disintegration. Framing is probably the best option for permanent display. This is definitely a job for a professional framer, as getting framed fabrics to lie wrinkle-free is a challenge. If you do decide to have your scarves framed, then ensure that the materials used are archivally-stable.

Textile display hangers and rods are a 'do it yourself' option, and allow for the scarf on display to be changed regularly. Sacred Silks offer a range of bamboo scarf hangers. However, I'm unsure from the illustrations of the hangers in use (all done in Photoshop) how a scarf would actually hang on these. Possibly lighter fabrics wouldn't hang straight?

You can also, with a little searching, find textile display rods and hangers online, although I'm very discouraged to find that many of the 'ethnic' carved fabric hangers are made from Asian hardwoods. This is almost certainly contributing to illegal logging of the few remaining hardwood forests. Please don't buy them! Instead, your local handyman/hardware store may be able to help you to create something similar.

Scarves can be backed with a fabric 'mount', and the edges of the mount then stitched over stretcher bars (available from art stores). However, by stitching the scarf to the backing, you will unavoidably do a certain amount of damage to the scarf.

Perhaps the best option is to attach four crocodile clips to the wall, and - clipping the scarf by its corners - stretch the scarf between them. This means that there is no frame to detract from the visual impact of the scarf, and scarves can be changed easily and quickly. It will, however, make small abrasions at the corners of the scarves, where the clips are attached, so is probably not a good solution for very delicate scarves.

One final idea - the Swirl Marketing Blog suggests displaying scarves trailing from oversized martini glasses. A fun idea that could really work in the right setting.


For general information and ideas on storing scarves see Scarf Care - some of the ideas, such as tying scarves to rings attached to a wall, could double as display options! (coming soon)

However, for the longer-term storage of delicate or valuable scarves, archive envelopes are highly recommended. These transparent polyester envelopes protect the scarf while allowing it to be seen. For larger items such as shawls and stoles, consider investing in acid-free storage boxes and tissue paper. These are usually made to museum standards and will guard your shawls and scarves against acid discoloration, in addition to protecting them from dust and snags. If you do prefer to store your scarves in the original boxes, or in a drawer or a chest, it's worth considering first lining them with an acid impermeable polyester film (such as Mylar or Melinex) to create an acid-free environment. Such a lining will have the added advantage of preventing snags to the scarf fabric.

As noted above, prolonged exposure to light is not good for fabrics, so do store your scarves in the dark. Where possible, the storage area should also have a stable moderate temperature and moderate humidity.

Textile conservation

Finally, if you have concerns about a valuable or particularly fragile scarf, it may be worth consulting a qualified textile conservator. In the UK the Conservation Register offers lots of guidance and access to a database of qualified conservators. Similarly, the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works has lots of information and lists of conservators in the US.

Next: Resources for Scarf Collectors