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Embroidered Hanging

Description
An embroidered Chinese silk banner, probably early 20th Century; brought out of China by Thomas Edwin Scott after the Relief of the Siege of Peking.

Condition
The condition of the silk background was very poor due to an inherent chemical problem, the components in the black dye oxidize the fibres; a process accelerated by high luminance (light exposure), heat and pollutants. Other concerns were detached gold threads, unsightly and ill executed repairs and moth activity in the top felt border.

Mordants are used to make the dye chemically attracted to the fibre; if metallic iron mordants have been used these act as a catalyst and aid the breakdown of fibres. Many dark colours in silk and wools were dyed using iron mordants.

Treatment
Surface dirt was removed with vacuum suction. Very fine synthetic threads were laid and couched to stabilize the shattered bi-coloured blue/black silk. In the gold work, the poor repair work was removed and loose threads reordered and couched in cotton. The extant blue cotton backing was used as the support for conservation stitching.

Gold threads can be manufactured in a number of different ways and may vary widely in quality of manufacturer and materials.

gold-1

Treatment detail
Before conservation, much of the stitching securing the gold threads was in poor condition and there were many rather unsightly repairs.

gold-2

Treatment detail
After conservation, unsightly repairs were removed before the radial brick couching was reworked.

Composite objects are often more susceptible to changing conditions such as humidity & heat, because the component parts react differently and the structure cannot accommodate the differential movement. When gold threads are part organic and part inorganic, swelling of the organic material will strain the metallic coating and potentially pressurise sewing threads.

Treatment detail
a dyed nylon tuile was tensioned and secured over the stabilised silk. In effect the hanging was sandwiched between the backing and the net overlay.

 

Condition
The tapestry was clean but weak due to the loss of coloured wefts and failure of the threads used to sew up slits. The tapestry had been restored in the past but the reweavings were not skillfully executed, they were crude and unsightly. The galloons were not original and in a poor state.

Fine sheer or micro filament net fabrics are often used as an overlay which can be disguised by dyeing. The net has more than one function; it protects and the tensioning gives some overall support.

Treatment detail
Moth damaged top border was encapsulated in a coloured Baumann cotton.

Treatment detail
The hanging system was improved by reinforcing the top with webbing tape, creating a firmer fixing ground for the hanging hoops.

Wool felt is a favorite food for the clothes moth, especially if it is dirty and in a location where the larvae can feed undisturbed. Central heating prolongs the active season and damage can progress quickly if the early signs of infestation are not detected.

After Conservation
The weight is well distributed along the top edge, compared with the hanging before conservation.

Tapestries are under considerable strain from their own (often) great weight and as the coloured wefts, traditionally wool and silk, are not continuous from selvedge to selvedge the gaps or slits become points of weakness if the sewing threads fail. For this reason weak tapestries are often given a full linen support backing.

Treatment
It is important for a conservator to select the most stable materials to reduce chemical interaction with an object and to minimize fading on exposure to light.

Tapestry conservation techniques are often very time consuming, exacting and repetitive. It is important to a conservator to select the most stable, to reduce chemical interaction with an object, and long lasting materials, for example to light fading.

Tapestry conservation techniques are often very time consuming, exacting and repetitive. It is important to a conservator to select the most stable, to reduce chemical interaction with an object, and long lasting materials, for example to light fading.

Conservation Detail
A previous repair before removal; unstable colours often fade at a very different rate from the original making any repair work very obvious.

 

Conservation Detail
A detail of brick couching. The lines follow the direction of the weaving (where possible), the weave of the support fabric is aligned with the stitching lines and the correct amount of excess or “bag” is incorporated so that the support fabric does not pull and cause tensions. It is important that the stitching lines extend into the adjacent stronger areas of weaving.

Stitching trials are carried out to work out appropriate spacing for the conservation stitching. The criteria are: avoiding “tram line” effect, obtaining desirable colour blending to aid the visual interpretation of the story or scene and providing enough support to stabilise the tapestry.

Reconstruction
The galloons (not original to the piece) were in a very poor condition so it was decided to reconstruct the tapestry with new purpose dyed woollen pieces. The coloured border enhanced the tapestry and added definition to the edges.

Many tapestries have been altered during their lifespan and it is often the borders and galloons that suffered the scissors; they are frequently cut into or removed because the tapestry was too big for the intended space.

After Conservation
The tapestry was lined in cotton sateen and a Velcro hanging system stitched along the top.

The chosen lining fabric should be an effective barrier to prevent dust passing through to the front of the tapestry.

Velcro® (or hook & loop fastening) is a very effective aid to hanging textiles because it distributes their weight evenly and securely.