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Textile Conservation Team News

Members of the Stan Hywet Needlework Guild are part of a textile conservation team lending their skills with the needle to help preserve and conserve the furnishings and textiles on display through the Manor house.

Spring 2016

The conservation process was a little slow over the winter, what with various members traveling and family events. And family events causing traveling.

We finished the needlepoint settees in the music room during this time and moved on to a silk and lace piano throw with metallic fringe and metallic threads in the embroidery in the center panel.

The throw is visible on the piano in the archival photo on the easel in the Music Room. The center silk panel was shattered, all the embroidery was wheat-colored and there was very little sparkle left in the metallic fringe.

When we carefully turned it over to evaluate the underside, we were all surprised how vibrant the colors were--orange and pale blue flowers, green leaves. The piano the throw rested on was in front of a west window, and it must have laid there for years. The UV radiation triggers a chemical change in the moisture of a textile, and turns all the moisture to hydrogen peroxide. And we know what that does...it's in teeth-whitening strips.

We have noticed numerous times how the visible side of a tapestry, or needlepoint upholstery is faded and dirty, but turn it over, and the colors are brilliant. That's when we get a hint of the majesty of these pieces when they were new. I have tried to take photos with both sides visible to illustrate this, with varying degrees of success.

Reverse side of the piano throw Reverse of Piano Throw

The throw has recently been completed, with backing on the silk panel, tulle over the front and a lightweight, sheer fabric on the back. We look forward to seeing it back on the piano.

When a textile is brought up to the Dormitory for us to work on, the first couple hours are spent in evaluation of the piece--what needs to be done, how we can best do it, what materials will we need, do we have these materials on hand?

We sometimes spend a little time in speculating on the origins of the textile. There are settees with both Flemish and French tapestries for upholstery. Where did all the needlepoint come from which is on the set of three settees?

And the valence from the Reception Room??? That has been a long time in the research phase. The Stan Hywet Needlework Guild is going to reproduce the valence, with actual stitching to start this summer.

The poor valence was treated horribly by well-meaning people back in the 1970's--we are talking iron-on patches, self-stick vinyl and glue. We had to slowly and carefully detach the vinyl without ripping the original linen, taking as little original stitching fibers as possible with it.

Detail of a prior repair Detail of prior repair

Through bits of fiber on the reverse side of the valence we could determine what was used on the front side. Three different fabrics were used to patch the valence, along with the sticky vinyl. The valence has pieces of velvet sewn to the ends to make it wide enough for the window, although when it was made it was somewhat wider. Over time, at least one entire scallop had been removed, making the alternation go rose-tulip-tulip-rose-tulip, and several scallops had been cut down and seamed back together.

Valance in its present conditionValance

After doing a little research, we think it may have started life as a lambrequin, a scalloped piece of needlework which hung over the edge of a fireplace mantle. These were popular in the early 1800's. I have seen these in America, it is not known at this time if they came over from England. So, it's possible our sad little valence is over 200 years old. We can tell multiple hands stitched it, however long ago. The linen background is in decent shape, but a great deal of the stitching fiber is missing.

We have recently started on the camelback settee from the linenfold hallway. That's the greenish one with the three humps.

This settee is upholstered with a French tapestry, and has all the problems associated with tapestry--rotten silk warp threads, gaps at color changes, lots of dust, and our nemesis--glitter. It is in better shape than several we've worked on, we hope to have it completed in about 6 weeks.

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Updated: May 16, 2016
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