Emery was curator emerita of Technical Studies at the Textile Museum, in Washington, D.C. Although she was trained as a dancer, an illness made her turn to weaving as a therapeutic activity. She taught herself to weave and began studying Navajo and Spanish Colonial textiles. She preferred the American Indian textiles over the more sophisticated work of Europeans and Americans. In 1954, she became a research curator at the Textile Museum and dedicated herself to working in the field of anthropological textile studies.