Irene, Emery, 81, curator-emeritus of the Textile Museum and an authority on the structure of fabrics, died Thursday at George Washington University Hospital after a stroke.
Miss Emery joined the museum staff in 1954 as a research curator. In 1966, she published "The Primary Structures of Fabrics: An Illustrated Classification," which remains a standard work on the subject. She was made curator-emeritus when she retired about 1970, but had remained active at the museum since then.
Over the years, Miss Emery conducted weekly seminars for curatorial personnel, consulted with collegues at the Smithsonian and other organizations, and developed ideas that led to the establishment in 1973 of the Irene Emery Roundtable on Museum Texitles, an annual meeting of professionals in the field.
Miss Emery, who was born in Michigan, earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy at the University of Wisconsin. She later taught at the University of North Carolina and at Miss Porter's School in New York. She also studied with Martha Graham, the doyenne of modern dance in the United States, and was a member of Miss Graham's original troupe.
When an injury forced her to give up dancing. Miss Emery went to Chicago, where she studied sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago. In the 1930s, she moved to Santa Fe, N.m., where she sculptured and also completed commissions in needlepoint and learned to weave. In 1947, she joined the Laboratory of Anthropology in Santa Fe and began her studies of textile structures and classifications.
In 1954, she moved to Washington to join the Textile Museum.
Survivors include a sister, Isabel Emery Sedgwick of Washington.