How do I roll large textiles?

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Category: Handling
Posted by Conservation Answers(Questions:33:Answers28)
Answered On 25 February, 2014 12:26 am

A large textile may need to be rolled for storage. Textiles that have painted elements can be especially vulnerable. Loss of the paint layer may occur as the flexible textile does not provide a rigid support for the (often brittle) paint layer.

In preparation for rolling a large textile you will need the following items.

  • A large cardboard or PVC roller, preferably at least 200mm in diameter and longer than the width of the textile for ease of handling. Large cardboard tubes are available from concrete form work suppliers. (Note: elsewhere we have advised that you avoid PVC. That is generally true, however the rigid pipes used in plumbing do not have the additives that other softer PVCs have, and so are generally considered safe to use).
  • Clean white cotton fabric, or acid free paper and polyethylene sheeting.

Then follow the steps below.

  • Cover the roller with fabric, or acid free paper.
  • If there are painted or decorative elements, roll the textile with the paint/decorative side out to avoid compression of these layers.
  • Place the textile face down on a sheet of fabric or polyethylene plastic covered with acid-free tissue.
  • Cover the reverse of the textile with another sheet of clean cloth, or polyethylene plastic.
  • Ideally use four people to roll the textile: two on either side of the roller and two to keep some tension on the textile as it is rolled.
  • Place the roller at one end of the textile.
  • Roll the cylinder over the textile, keeping the object under slight tension, taking care to ensure that it is rolled evenly.
  • Dacron™ can be used to pad out uneven textiles, or textiles with applied decoration. Dacron™ must not be in direct contact with the object, interleave with tissue paper.
  • Wrap the rolled textile in another piece of fabric or polyethylene for further protection.

Rolling multiple textiles

  • Each textile should preferably have its own roller.
  • If you must roll more than one textile onto a single roller, lay all the textiles out flat and face down, interleaved with a cushioning layer such as Cellair™ and acid free tissue.
  • Remember all the textiles should be paint/decoration side out.

  • Do not rest rolled textiles on the ground as their own weight will crush paint layers or decorative elements.
  • Suspend the roll from any of the following: brackets on the wall, on a specially designed rack, on shaped blocks or chairs to lift it from the floor.

Information about storing textiles, including helpful instructions about rolling textiles can be found in reCollections. Click on the following link to go directly to the relevant pages:

The Spurlock Museum at the University of Illinois, USA, also has a very informative website including information and a short video clip showing a large textile being rolled. Click on the following link:

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