Monday, April 11, 2011
Reader Question: Scarf Storage and Care
In recent weeks I've been asked a few times how I store and care for my scarves. First though, I want to talk about wearing and enjoying your scarves. Over on my sidebar is something my grandmother once told me, "There's no point in having nice things if you don't use them." If you've been lusting after an Hermès or other nice scarf, but worry about ruining it, stop worrying. First, the fabric is more resilient than you'd think. Twist it, knot it, and you'll be amazed at how those wrinkles and creases disappear overnight. Silk is an incredibly strong fiber. I have a sheer silk scarf that belonged to my grandmother that's probably 50+ years old, and it still looks almost new. With some sensible precautions* and care, your good silk scarves can be passed to the next generation with years of wear still ahead.
While some fold their silk carrés meticulously and store in their original boxes, I'm more of a visual creature, and need to see colors and patterns when choosing which scarf to wear.
I utilize this semi-clear three-drawer thingy, purchased at one of those container stores. It protects scarves from dust, yet allows air to circulate and allows me to readily see what I have available. I fold the squares along the original fold lines plus one and stack inside the drawer. My large carrés are in the bottom drawer, with smaller silk squares in the middle drawer, and those irregular pieces collected here and there in the top drawer. They're easy to get to and easy to put away at the end of the day. Because this mini-armoire is kept on a shelf in a dark closet, I don't worry about fading, but if you keep your scarves out where sunlight can get to them, I'd recommend something more opaque.
The only storage exception are the plissés which I do carefully re-roll by wrapping around my hand and store in their circular boxes to preserve the pleats.
My larger oblong scarves get the hanger treatment. Again, I need to readily see what I have or I won't wear it. None of these are particularly pricey or delicate items; if they were I'd fold and store flat.
That's a cedar block hanging middle top of the picture to keep moths away. Watch out for sharp edges on hangers which can snag scarves. I probably should replace the rest of those plastic ones with wood.
Cleaning good silk scarves can be intimidating. Many of the Hermès printed silk scarves have dyes that can run if wet (which is why I never wear mine in the rain). Many people swear by hand washing in very mild soap with a Shout Color Catcher in the water to pick up any dyes that run, and then hanging to dry, and pressing with an iron (no steam) on the cool silk setting, using a pressing cloth between iron and silk. I haven't worked up the courage to try this yet.
I've had two of my Hermès silk carrés dry cleaned, mostly successfully. If you have a dry cleaner you trust, ask them NOT to press the hems out flat. I did, however both times my instructions were not followed. But with a little steam and some patience, I was able to roll the hems back out between thumb and forefinger and restore to their original rounded shape. Otherwise I was pleased with the results.
Mostly though, I avoid cleaning or laundering my silks. Most of the time, all they need is a bit of airing out, draped over a hanger for a day or two. * I try to avoid contact with makeup or moisture, and remove my scarves before eating.
For my other scarves made of cotton or rayon, I'll hand wash or sometimes machine wash in a lingerie bag and hang to dry. Cashmere voile scarves can also be handwashed in gentle soap (many recommend The Laundress, haven't tried this yet) and hung to dry.
Do you have any scarf care tips or techniques? Any to avoid?