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Padding Tubes for Support


Soft tubes are used to cushion and secure three dimensional artifacts stored on shelves. The tubes provide enough support for use in mobile storage units as well as on stationary shelving. In addition, the tubes are used to pad out folds and creases in textiles and semi-tanned leathers.

The system described is based on the idea of tubes or coils presented by Kronkright (1980), and Odegaard (1986), and expanded by Clark (1988). The latter article, in particular, is very detailed and anyone planning to use the system is encouraged to read this paper before proceeding.



Nancy Davis
Rochester Mus. & Science Ctr.
Box 1480
657 East Avenue
Rochester, NY 14603 USA
Tel (716) 271-4320
Fax (716) 271-5935

Illustrations: Nancy Davis

Publication: 1992



This system consists of tubes made of knit fabric and filled with polyester batting. The tubes are made into ring mounts used to support baskets, small pottery and three-dimensional objects stored on shelves (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Ring mounts are tied onto pH neutral corrugated paperboard so that the mounts can be moved 
               with each individual basket. Note that some baskets are better supported from the interior 
               surface, such as the shallow basket in the foreground on the left.

The coils can be placed directly on shelves, or, for added physical security and ease of transport, the coils can be secured to a tray made of pH neutral board.

Tubes of similar construction are used to provide padding for folds in textiles and semi-tanned garments (Fig. 2).

Figure 2. Tubes that are stitched closed at each end are used to pad out folds and seams in 
                semi-tanned leather clothing. Tubes also can be used to pad woven textiles.

Materials Tools Supplies

  • 100% cotton thread
  • 100% cotton twill tape, 1/4in
  • Awl
  • Corrugated paperboard, alkaline buffered or corrugated polyethylene board
  • Cotton knit fabric or polyester knit fabric
  • Craft needle with large eye and blunt point (for knit fabrics)
  • Detergent, non-ionic
  • Needle punched polyester batting or thermo-fixed polyester batting
  • Pins, stainless steel
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine



  1. Cut a piece of pre-washed knit fabric to the desired length of the tube. The piece should be 1-2in wider than the desired circumference of the finished tube. The width should run along the direction of stretch.
  2. Cut a piece of 100% polyester sheet batting to the length of the fabric.
  3. Roll the batting into a tube.
  4. Secure the last turn with pins to keep the batting rolled.
  5. Position the polyester roll on the knit fabric.
  6. Wrap the fabric around the batting and pin the fabric to itself to form closure (Fig. 3). Remove pins from the polyester roll before the knit fabric is pinned closed.

    Figure 3. Tubes are made by covering rolls of poly-ester batting with cotton-polyester knit fabric.

  7. Stitch the seam by hand or with a sewing machine, using a zipper foot, leaving the smallest seam allowance possible against the tube.

Tubes used to form basket ring mounts

  1. Cut length of coil long enough to form the circumference needed, plus two inches.
  2. Push back the knit corner and cut off the 2in excess of polyester batting. Slip the uncut end into the shortened section. Pull the 2in of excess knit fabric over the join and hand stitch to hold the ring shape (Fig. 4). 

    Figure 4. Ring mounts are made by overlapping the knit fabric at the ends of a tube 
                    and stitching the fabric to itself.

    Finished seams can be made by turning one edge of the fabric over the other before stitching. This refinement may not be necessary for tubes used with baskets and pottery, as long as the seam is placed on the outside of the coil.


The density of the tube can be controlled in two ways: 1) the batting is available in a variety of lofts, or densities. Softer lofts produce less firm tubes while the denser batting makes harder tubes; and 2) the firmness of the finished tube can also be controlled by how tightly or loosely the batting is rolled. If the batting is rolled loosely, a soft tube will be formed. Tubes cannot be made by stuffing a tube with knit fabric, as this produces a very uneven result.

When using the tubes to pad garment folds, it is recommended that the seam and tube ends be finished to prevent loose ends from snagging the object or leaving pieces of knit yarn inside the artifact. It is very important to stitch both ends closed to prevent lint from the fiber batting from depositing on the object.

A basket should be supported by the ring mount and should not sit directly on its base. A softer tube is preferred, as it will deform easily to the contour of the basket without applying damaging stress to the structure.

To position baskets on a shelf, the ring mounts can be tied to pieces of pH neutral double wall corrugated board using 1/4in cotton twill tape. The ring may be removed and used as a support for photography or exhibition, and the baskets can be rearranged in storage easily.

Small pottery vessels can be cushioned and held in position with tubes tied to a piece of pH neutral board that has been padded with a sheet of polyester fiber batting.

Knit fabric should be used to cover the batting and can be attached to the reverse of the board with hot melt glue. If the knit fabric is too abrasive to low fired and slip decorated pottery, a circle of 1mil polyester film can be used to isolate the pottery surface from the knit fabric.

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