Cleaning Caffoy!

For the last two weeks the conservation team, along with a group of volunteers, have been busy cleaning a section of the caffoy from the Cartoon Gallery. This was removed by specialist textile conservator Zenzie Tinker, as part of the work to decant the second half of the house last winter.

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The caffoy in its original position in the Cartoon Gallery.

 

 

Caffoy is a rich, red coloured wool fabric, similar to velvet, with a floral pattern stamped into the pile. It dates from the 18th century and was used for wall hangings and upholstering some of the items of furniture that we have in our collection. This particular piece covered the wall at the east of the Cartoon Gallery.

 

Decanting the rooms - Knole House 2016

The east wall of the Cartoon Gallery after being cleared of the caffoy.

The back of the caffoy was lined with course linen. Interestingly, in the areas covered by paintings, large rectangular sections were cut out of the caffoy to reveal just the linen. This practice was a way of ensuring that the expensive fabric would not be wasted behind areas that would not normally have been seen. However, it did mean that over time, as and when the picture hang changed, sections of caffoy had to be added to fill in the exposed areas of the linen lining. There are 56 such pieces, some regularly shaped and fixed neatly with stitching, others placed haphazardly, cut in irregular shapes and fixed with tacks. This indicates that there were at least two different picture schemes, as well as the original plan, for that one section of wall.

While these small patches of caffoy have been taken offsite for specialist conservation work, the front and back of the main piece of textile has been carefully cleaned by the team here at Knole.

The caffoy was very dirty with a layer of dust, cobwebs and insect debris on the surface.

 

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Melinda, a member of the team, cleaning with a low powered vacuum.

Following the advice and training of Zenzie and her team, the textile was divided into workable sized sections, roughly 35cm by 35cm, marked out with pins and white thread. We then worked on each of these sections in turn, making sure that we kept a careful eye on the timing so each area received the same level of cleaning, ensuring we didn’t get any patches that were cleaner or dirtier than the rest of the textile!

 

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The has been separated into individual squares for precise and even cleaning.

First, each section was vacuumed using a conservation standard vacuum cleaner with a small brush attachment. The suction on the vacuum was set to a specified pressure to avoid causing any damage to the textile fibres.

Next, a smoke sponge, made of vulcanised natural rubber, was used to remove soot damage and general dust.

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A clean piece of smoke sponge against a piece already used to clean a section of caffoy.

Finally, the surface was vacuumed to remove any sponge residue.

You can see the results!

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A clean piece of linen against a dirty piece.

 

 

Next week, the back of the caffoy will be vacuumed to remove any dirt and dust before the whole thing is rolled and put into storage ready to be reinstated, along with the small patches that have been removed, in the Cartoon Gallery next year.

 

The other sections of caffoy which cover the walls in the rest of the Cartoon Gallery, as well as those in the Reynolds Room, will be worked on, in situ, by the conservation team before the second half of the house is open to the public next year.

Decanting the rooms - Knole House 2016

We’re looking forward to seeing it back home!

Link

Today we’re looking at yet more exciting work in the Spangled Bedroom at Knole. This time it’s all about tapestries! With the bed temporarily living in the Great Hall ready for its own journey away we were able to take down the final two tapestries leaving the walls completely bare. These tapestries went through a careful cleaning and documenting process before being sent off to the De Witt in Belgium. This is a specialist tapestry workshop where the tapestries have been carefully cleaned before being returned to Knole. For a better understanding of how the tapestries were cleaned in Belgium then have a look at our previous blog post ‘How Do You Wash Your Tapestries?’.

The final two tapestries arrived home this morning and have been placed, still rolled and packed, back into the Spangled Bedroom before the next stage of their journey can commence.

Sue and Alice hard at work on one of the tapestries

Sue and Alice hard at work on one of the tapestries

Some of you may remember when we prepared the first tapestries for travel in November 2014. Now that the Spangled Bed has been removed from the room there is plenty of space to work in now. This meant that we were able to set up our tapestry tables right there in the room.

This has a few benefits for us. To start with it means that we don’t have to roll the tapestry, transport it up to the Needlework Room (up some very steep and narrow stairs!) and then unwrap it again. Anyone familiar with the National Trust’s 9 agents of deterioration, to be found in our Manual of Housekeeping will know that the less we move any object the better. Every time an object is handled it increases the risk that it will somehow be damaged.

By taking our tapestries straight down onto the tables to be worked on we reduced the risk and work factor by a lot!

The other big positive about doing this work in the Spangled Bedroom was that we were able to do it in front of our wonderful visitors!

Sarah and Lolly unpicking a

Sarah and Lolly making a temporary repair to the galloon edge.

We all enjoyed talking to our visitors about the work we were doing. It really allowed people the opportunity to see things that are so often hidden away behind closed doors. Here at Knole we are getting more and more excited about doing this kind of work in front of visitors as we really get going on building our brand new conservation studio! When the studio opens it will provide a unique experience for visitors so make sure you come to check it out in a few years.

The rich colours of the back of the tapestries gives a better idea of how bright and vibrant they would have looked when new.

The rich colours of the back of the tapestries gives a better idea of how bright and vibrant they would have looked when new.

We used special 'Musreum Vacuums' to carefully clean the surgace dirt from the front and back of the tapestries.

We used special ‘Musreum Vacuums’ to carefully clean the surgace dirt from the front and back of the tapestries.

Until then there’s plenty of interesting conservation works to be seen at Knole. Now that the Spangled Bedroom is providing more space you may just see more conservation projects appearing in the near future…

Knole Conservation Team

How do you wash your tapestries?

Three of the Spangled Bedroom tapestries that were prepared for washing back in November (Tapestrytastic!) safely made their way to Belgium. Siobhan our project conservator made the trip out to see the tapestries go through the washing process.

The De Wit Centre

De Wit Royal manufacturers, founded in 1889, have been restoring tapestries for over a century. At international level, it is one of the world’s leading restorers for museums and private customers. It has combined the use of traditional skills and state of the art conservation techniques to offer a facility that can deal with all aspects of tapestry conservation and restoration.

In the past tapestries were most commonly washed using temporary baths made from polythene and plastic pipes. It required large quantities of softened and deionised water as well as adequate drainage. The tapestry would be fully immersed in the bath and to facilitate efficient soil removal, mechanical action in the form of sponging was essential. In order for the whole surface of the tapestry to receive the same treatment, the tapestry would be rolled on a roller in the bath as the sponging progressed across its entire surface.

Though this method of washing is highly efficient at soil removal, there are drawbacks. The tapestry undergoes considerable physical stress as it is repeatedly rolled and rerolled. Mechanical action and sponging can damage fragile threads. The process is lengthy and drying can take between 12 and 24 hours allowing potentially fugitive dyes to migrate and spread.

Yvan Maes De Wit, the present director, represents the fourth generation of tapestry weavers and restorers at de Wit, and has been responsible for developing a unique system for tapestry washing using aerosol suction. This was patented in 1991 and is the only facility in the world that offers this service.

Diagram from the De Wit website showing the wet cleaning process.

Diagram from the De Wit website showing the wet cleaning process.

This system uses a combination of aerosol spray and vacuüm suction. It is fitted with integral sensors to control pH, temperature, water flow and pressure. The facility consists of an enclosed chamber with glass panels. The base is a large suction table 5 x 9 metres. Ranged across the ceiling are 45 aerosol sprays approximately 1.75 metres above the platform. During the cleaning process the tapestry is held in place by continuous suction. When the aerosol is turned on the chamber fills with water vapour which is drawn down evenly through the entire tapestry.

Start of the washing process

Start of the washing process.

A low concentration of a non-ionic detergent is introduced to the aerosol system for as long as is deemed necessary for soil removal. This is replaced by softened and then de-ionised water during the rinsing process. In cases of extreme soiling sponging can be carried out from a gantry. The tapestry is still held under suction whilst being sponged, therefore there is no possibility of movement which would result in damage to weak areas of silk.

The aerosol/suction combination creates a very even and intense cleaning system with the advantage of the entire tapestry being treated simultaneously. The continuous flow through the tapestry means dirt is loosened from the fibres efficiently and then immediately drawn away avoiding the danger of re-deposition. There is no movement of the tapestry, therefore no mechanical damage from manoeuvring a wet textile can occur. The tapestry is never completely immersed in water thus avoiding dimensional change or shrinkage.

The washing control room

The washing control room

Another good property of continuously working suction is that fabrics that have undergone previous deformation can recover their shape. Irregularities in the fabric can be flattened out when it is dry and immobilised, on the suction table, before cleaning begins. This latter operation together with drying enables the old fabric to recover its original shape.

Finally the full treatment time is quite short. A tapestry measuring 45 m² can be completely dried at 30° in two hours owing to the process of uninterrupted suction over the entire fabric at the same time. If we consider that average cleaning time lasts one hour and rinsing 2.5 hours, the whole cleaning process therefore requires less than 6 hours. Any risk of hydrolysis of fragile fibres is thereby averted and the entire treatment can be constantly supervised throughout a normal working day.

Washing the Spangled Bedroom Tapestries:

Two of the tapestries, one large and one small were laid out on foam to support them on top of the mesh layer of the large suction table. The tapestries were sprayed from the top of the wash chamber, with a mist of soft water and conservation detergent while the suction from beneath drew though the wash liquid.  A sample of the wash liquid is collected throughout the treatment and tested for pH and conductivity.

Sample of the wash water

Sample of the wash water being collected.

The dirt in the tapestries is very acidic, so as the wash progressed this improves and moves toward a more neutral PH. Conductivity measures the ability of a solution to carry a current, the very black dirty water coming off the tapestry at the start of the wash had a high conductivity. This improved as the wash progressed and the water passing through the tapestry became clearer, carrying less particles and ions that could carry a current.

A video microscope mounted on a boom shows the surface of the tapestry and any especially weak areas can be closely monitored. This process lasted for around an hour. It was clear during this process that where there was glue residue on the reverse the water could not be pulled though the tapestry effectively.

Animal glue removed from back of tapestry.

Animal glue removed from back of tapestry.

Once the aerosol spray was turned off the front of the wash chamber was opened and the two conservators from De Wit were able to start gently brushing the tapestries with soft brushes to help loosen and remove the dirt and adhesive. They started by turning off the suction and rolling the tapestry on a large pipe to its centre, this allowed them to spray and brush the reverse of the tapestry rolling back as they went.

Mechanical cleaning of front of tapestry

Mechanical cleaning of front of tapestry.

Mechanical cleaning of tapestry reverse

Mechanical cleaning of tapestry reverse

They then brushed the other half of the reverse in the same way. After they had finished brushing the reverse, the suction and the aerosol spray were turned on for ten minutes to draw through the loosened dirt. After this the aerosol spray was turned off and the front was brush washed, then again the aerosol spray was applied to wash through the loosened soiling. The water used is approximately 26-28 degrees and the warmth allows the animal glue to be softened and removed. This process lasted for about 1 hour.

Following this the tapestries were rinsed for two hours. As samples of the water were collected you could clearly see how the washing process and rinsing had removed the soot, dirt and acidity from each tapestry.

Samples of wash water

Samples of wash water

The suction remained on during the drying process. Very large towels were laid across the top of the tapestries, which were then covered with a thin plastic for about 30 seconds. This process was repeated twice with the towels and twice with absorbent paper to blot a lot of the water out of the tapestries.

Drying the tapestry.

Drying the tapestry.

They were then left to dry at 30 degrees with the suction on for two hours. The complete wash and dry cycle was finished by 7pm. It was then left to rest overnight in situ. The transformation of the tapestry after cleaning was amazing – not only were the colours considerably brighter, with unsightly glue stains removed, but the tapestry was soft and pliable to touch.

The tapestries after drying.

The tapestries after drying.

After drying 4 After drying 5 After drying

Siobhan

Humidification!

Conservation of the bed hanging linings from the Spangled Bed continued throughout last year. Here’s an update from the National Trust textile conservation studio:

Humidification and wet cleaning

 Humidification of linings

The linings and satin were laid out inside a humidity tent created from a metal frame (a strawberry cage!) with a polythene sheet over to enclose the lining. A humidifier was set up inside to pump a fine water spray into the tent.

Lining relaxing in a humidity tent.

The linings were allowed to reach a humidity of 95% to allow them to relax. As the object was starting to relax glass weights were applied and it was then allowed to dry flat. Humidification resulted in the linings and satin to regain some of their lustre and body.

Wet cleaning of linings

After testing a variety of methods, detergents and buffer solutions, each piece of lining was washed in the wash table, pinned out flat and left to dry.

 An IMS : Acetone : Water (40:40:20) mix was used at the beginning of the wash to remove greasy soiling, followed by a wash bath with Dehypon LS54 (a conservation grade detergent) without a buffer and also with a buffer with a pH of 6.

The linings had an initial pH of 3.2 and was very acidic, so by introducing these different wash baths and using a buffer, which is a means of holding the pH at a steady level, we allowed the pH to be increased slowly.

Applying detergent and sponging the silk damask lining.  The lining sits on a mesh covered grid in the wash table to allow the wash and rinse solution to drain away, preventing it becoming too soft.

Applying detergent and sponging the silk damask lining. The lining sits on a mesh covered grid in the wash table to allow the wash and rinse solution to drain away, preventing it becoming too soft.

The soiling is very bound within the fibres, probably due to acidity, and proved difficult to remove through wet cleaning. Some dye loss also occurred although prior to cleaning it was noted that the ground of the silk was ‘cloudy’ where the dye had run from the crimson into the cream areas. This was probably due to the high humidity which, in combination with historic atmospheric pollution at Knole, had caused the silk to become more acidic and de-stabilised the dye. There is still some greyness to the object with striations of grey but overall the lining has improved immensely.

left to right – samples of water collected during wet cleaning process.

left to right – samples of water collected during wet cleaning process.

Removal of the silk damask and satin patches

It was decided to remove the patches to allow a more effective treatment of the satin.  Any necessary conservation treatment would have been worked through the patches causing damage and the patches would be lost as a future resource for research.

 The satin patches and the damask patches on the reverse of the satin were found to be adhered with starch paste. Damp blotting paper was placed over the patch and weighted in position. It was left for several hours allowing the glue to swell and soften. The patch could then be peeled away from the satin.

Humidifying the satin patch with dampened blotting paper.

Humidifying the satin patch with dampened blotting paper.

The patches were easy to remove and fortunately most of the adhesive came away with the patch and was not left on the curtains. The aim is to document and conserve most of the patches which will provide valuable information on some of the textiles used to furnish Knole or Copt Hall during the late 17th century.
Once the satin was humidified and the adhesive softened, the satin patch could be peeled from the surface (above) and the patch removal complete  . Once the satin was humidified and the adhesive softened, the satin patch could be peeled from the surface (above) and the patch removal complete

Once the satin was humidified and the adhesive softened, the satin patch could be peeled from the surface (above left) and the patch removal complete (above right).

Once the patches were removed, the satin curtain panels were humidified using the same method as for the damask linings.

 Adhesive treatment of the linings

Once washed, the damask linings had regained some of their handle and were less fragile. However they were much split and required an even, all-over support but could not withstand extensive stitching. An adhesive support was selected as the most appropriate treatment. Fine silk crepeline, a very fine gauze-like fabric, was dyed to match the damask and the crepeline was stretched out on polythene (which makes a backing film) and a 25% solution in soft water of Lascaux adhesive, (360HV and 498HV in a 2: 1 ratio) was applied with a small roller. This creates a fine adhesive backed fabric.

The damask panels were laid out and aligned and small ‘plasters’ of crepeline were used to hold distorted areas in place. Panels of adhesive crepeline were cut to shape and then applied using a roller system and laying the film evenly on to the reverse of the damask. The panels were turned face up and loose fragments were re-positioned.

Applying the adhesive coated silk crepeline to the reverse of the lining using the roller system.  The polythene backing is peeled away during the process.

Applying the adhesive coated silk crepeline to the reverse of the lining using the roller system. The polythene backing is peeled away during the process.

The adhesive film was then activated using a heat suction table and once cool the adhesive was set and the silk fixed to the support. Both linings had to be activated in two parts as they were too wide for the table.

Fixing the film to the lining on the right hand side, part of the two part activation.

Fixing the film to the lining on the right hand side, part of the two part activation.

The final stages of the treatment of the linings are to apply a dyed silk support to the reverse and dyed conservation net overlay using support stitching. This will take place once the proper right curtain linings have reached the same stage.

Note: All images © NT Textile Conservation Studio

 

Further investigation in to the Spangled Bed curtains

Another fascinating update from the National Trust textile studio on how conservation work to the Spangled Bed is progressing.

Proper Right Side Curtains
The treatment of the proper right side foot and head curtains began in October 2014. It was decided to commence treatment before completion of the proper left side curtains so that approaches to treatment are consistent across the set. They were photographed and documented before deconstruction. The bobbinet support and silk linings were removed. Seam types, tack and stitch holes, pleats and curtain ring positions (old and current), previous fold lines and remains of previous stitching were recorded, as well as condition. The process feels very much like an archaeological ‘dig’ as layers are peeled away and new discoveries made.

Proper Right Head Curtain

The proper right head curtain during removal of the red cotton netting which was used to protect lining on the reverse

The proper right head curtain during removal of the red cotton netting which was used to protect lining on the reverse (above). Yellow damask (at the foot where a conservator is working) and red wool ‘patches’ became more visible and we began to get hints that something lay beneath.

The curtain from the foot end, the heading and the netting removed

The curtain from the foot end, the heading and the netting removed, but all is not what it appears!

A large red wool and damask ‘patch’ or overlay (indicated by the red outline) covered most of the central part of earlier lining of very fragile yellow damask.
A large red wool and damask ‘patch’ or overlay (indicated by the red outline) covered most of the central part of earlier lining of very fragile yellow damask. The overlay was probably applied as the yellow damask was becoming very split. Once this lining was released from the satin we found extensive adhesive patching on the reverse. A much smaller piece of the same yellow damask was also found on the proper left head curtain, hidden beneath another pieced patch.
The proper right head curtain with the lining removed revealing crimson satin patches (reverse side up) and yellow damask patches.
The proper right head curtain with the lining removed revealing crimson satin patches (reverse side up) and yellow damask patches.

We have left the red bobbinet on the face of the curtain to give support to the very fragile applied decoration. This will be removed once the patches have been removed and the curtain is turned for humdification.

Proper Right Foot Curtain

The proper right foot curtain from the reverse, the red bobbinet removed.

The proper right foot curtain from the reverse, the red bobbinet removed.

The proper right foot curtain, damask lining removed with red damask, satin and burgundy silk patches revealed.  The red damask was also found as a patch on the proper left foot curtain.

The proper right foot curtain, damask lining removed with red damask, satin and burgundy silk patches revealed. The red damask was also found as a patch on the proper left foot curtain.

The proper right foot curtain with the satin face up, the heading and lining removed and laid flat showing light damage, soiling and discolouration

The proper right foot curtain with the satin face up, the heading and lining removed and laid flat showing light damage, soiling and discolouration. The applique embroidered panels are much damaged with extensive loss and previous repair. The arabesque panels of laid metal thread embroidery between are now known to have been not quite as plain as they now appear (see ‘Spangles’ below).

Documentation

This is just one drawing of many produced as part of  the extensive documentation undertaken

This is just one drawing of many produced as part of the extensive documentation undertaken to record seam types, threads, stitch holes, stain marks, crease lines and constructional features. This is supplemented with detailed photography. The aim is to record condition and structure, but very importantly to develop an impression of the alteration and remodelling that the bed hangings have undergone over the centuries.

The documentation has had to be far more extensive and detailed than we first estimated. However, it is a real opportunity to capture information, which once the bed hangings have been conserved, will be lost for another 50 –100 years. Together with archival research we may, hopefully, gain a greater understanding of the history of the bed.

IR, UV and RTI) photography

Dean Sully, Degree Programme Co-coordinator for the MSc in Conservation for Archaeology and Museums and NT Adviser on archaeological artefacts and Stuart Laidlaw, lecturer in archaeological photography and related imaging techniques, both from UCL came to the Textile Conservation Studio to undertake Infra Red (IR), Ultra Violet (UV) and Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI). The aim was to see if any of these techniques would help pinpoint where spangles had been originally located by picking up silver sulphide residues, the degradation product of silver. However neither UV or IR fluoresced or picked up residues in the satin ground. However, the IR photography may be useful in making existing marks easier to read.
RTI photography

RTI photography is a technique which is very new to the studio. It is used to map surface variations by means of the manipulation of light across the surface at different elevations. Individual photographs are taken at each elevation (using a special camera with no built-in filters) which, once brought together using specialised software, creates a film showing surface variations.

We are awaiting the final results of this process which we hope will show original stitch holes more clearly, possibly another means of looking at lost applied decoration.

Findings
Close examination of the curtains is making us ask questions about the bed. Is it all it appears?
A crease line, with stitch holes either side, and spaced metal tack holes runs across most of the width of the proper right foot curtain

A crease line (above), with stitch holes either side, and spaced metal tack holes runs across most of the width of the proper right foot curtain. A similar line has been found on the proper left curtains. There are a further two (possibly even three) lines of stitch holes in a different pattern across most of the width lying above and below this crease line.

Line of stitching which held the heading tape

The seam shown above sits just above the hem border. The line of stitching in the satin above the seam and a small and dense group of stitch holes tell us that this was once the heading of the curtain, the line of stitching was where a curtain or heading tape was originally attached and the tight group of holes shows where a curtain ring was positioned.

Spangles (silver and gold plated silver sequins)

On close examination it was found that the curtains had many more spangles decorating the surface than first thought. Close examination of the arabesque panes of the curtains, which has twisted gold and silver threads laid in a formal design of rosettes, was found to have stains and impression marks indicating former positions of spangles (see the images below), the yellow circles indicate the location of impression marks. In many areas no evidence now remains.

yellow circles indicate the location of impression marks . yellow circles indicate the location of impression marks

On the reverse of the satin stitch holes can be seen showing how the scallop applique detail was originally attached (see below). These scallop edge strips are now mostly attached with adhesive. It also shows that there were three small spangles (silver sequins) at the each point and a large spangle below.

 On the reverse of the satin stitch holes can be seen showing how the scallop applique detail was originally attached ...

Seams

The variety of seams and the way the curtains have been cut and pieced together indicates that the fabrics have been re-used and probably re-modelled. It poses many questions about date, but more importantly, whether the fabrics were originally constructed in their current form. Has it always been a bed or was it something else before? Working with the Curator Emma Slocombe, who is carrying out a survey of inventories from Knole and associated properties, is important in trying to understand the history of these textiles.

An original backstitched seam stitched with silk.  The embroidery is worked across the seam.  A linen lockstitch can be seen worked through the seam turning.

An original backstitched seam stitched with silk. The embroidery is worked across the seam. A linen lockstitch can be seen worked through the seam turning.

A later backstitched seam stitched with linen thread. See how the design has been cut through and the seam is worked over the embroidery.

A later backstitched seam stitched with linen thread. See how the design has been cut through and the seam is worked over the embroidery.

A second seam stitched with linen thread, but a different style of stitching.  Is it the same date as the backstitched seam above but by a different hand, or is it from a different date?

A second seam stitched with linen thread, but a different style of stitching. Is it the same date as the backstitched seam above but by a different hand, or is it from a different date?

A machine stitched seam attached a narrow panel down one edge of the head curtain.

A machine stitched seam attached a narrow panel down one edge of the head curtain. This was undone during deconstruction, and could date back to the last quarter of the 19th century. The line of silk thread below it is locking stitches which were probably used to hold a previous lining close to the satin, a technique still used in making curtains today.

 Lining seams

A linen thread stitched seam, similar to that found on the satin, probably worked at the same date.

A linen thread stitched seam, similar to that found on the satin, probably worked at the same date.

Pale yellow silk stitched seam with remains of a previous old seam line in the seam allowance.  There is also some indication of pink silk stitching in seam allowances on the linings.

Pale yellow silk stitched seam with remains of a previous old seam line in the seam allowance. There is also some indication of pink silk stitching in seam allowances on the linings.

Next Steps

Once full documentation of the proper right hangings is complete, we hope to concentrate on devising a treatment plan for the embroidered satin, probably the most complex aspect of the conservation of the bed. Research on potential treatments has been on-going and we now need to apply some of the research findings.

Note: All images © NT Textile Conservation Studio

Tapestrytastic!

A team of nine volunteers assisted by the Conservation Team spent two weeks at the beginning of November carrying out some essential preliminary conservation work to three of the five 17th century Flemish tapestries from the Spangled Bedroom. Representing stories from Ovid, they came to Knole at the end of the 17th century from Whitehall Palace. Therefore, they are highly significant, but centuries of hanging in the Spangled Bedroom have taken their toll, and these tapestries are now one of our highest priorities for conservation.

The tapestries show signs of substantial wear and tear and light damage. They are extremely brittle to touch and encrusted with dirt. To ensure their survival they require full conservation treatment which will include surface cleaning, washing and re-lining.  To be washed they are being sent off to the De Wit tapestry conservation studio in Belgium.

The work we were to carry out before going to Belgium was to remove the existing linings, vacuum clean the front and back of each tapestry and document the tapestry, including taking thread samples, recording damage and earlier repairs. Thankfully we weren’t going it alone. For the first day we were instructed by Ksynia Marko (NT Textile Conservation Advisor) and Rachel Langley (Senior Conservator) from the NT Textile Conservation Studio.

Ksynia demonstrates how to do a warp and weft count.

Ksynia demonstrates how to do a warp and weft count, this is part of the documentation of the tapestry.

Using a needle you count the amount of warp and weft per centimetre.

Using a needle to count the amount of warp and weft per centimetre.

The tapestries are very vulnerable to further damage and have already torn in many places where the textile fibres have deteriorated. To prevent further tearing during transport and the wet cleaning process Rachel showed the team how to sew in holding stitches.

A polyester cream thread was used for the holding stitches. The stitches are quite big and vary where they are sewn in depending on the path of the damage.

The smallest tapestry laid out before having its lining removed.

The smallest tapestry laid out before having its lining removed.

Sue documents the lining, measuring the components of the tapestry hanging mechanism.

Sue documents the lining, measuring the components of the tapestry hanging mechanism.

Val uses a scaple to cut the through the stitching attaching the lining to the tapestry.

Val uses a scalpel to cut the through the stitching attaching the lining to the tapestry.

Alexandra cuts through the stitching securing the folded galloon edge (the blue border).

The reverse of the tapestry is vacummed once the lining is removed.

The reverse of the tapestry is vacuumed once the lining is removed.

The front of the tapestry is vacummed as we roll it.

The front of the tapestry is vacuumed as we roll it.

The tapestries are stored on a roller. We unroll one end, work on it, and then carefully roll it to another roller.

The tapestries are stored on a roller. We unroll one end a section at a time, work on it, and then carefully roll it to another roller.

The process of wet cleaning the tapestries was patented by the De Wit in 1991. The method involves lying the textile flat on a suction table. The suction applied to the fabric is constant and uninterrupted and keeps the tapestry in this position until cleaning and drying has been completed. A cloud of steam, to which a very small proportion of detergent has been added, is produced above the entire fabric and is sucked through it.

The wet cleaning in action. Image from De Wit website

The wet cleaning in action. Image from De Wit website

Diagram from the De Wit website showing the wet cleaning process.

Diagram from the De Wit website showing the wet cleaning process.

 Thanks to our volunteers, Alexandra, Alice, Andra, Bekki, Jo, Lolly, Sue, Val and Vicky for all your hard work.

Alex, Emily, Lucy, Melinda, Sarah and Zena.

Deconstruction discoveries…

 …An update on conservation trials of the Spangled Bed from the National Trust Textile Studio.

The Coarse red net that encased both curtains silk satin has been removed from the back of both curtains, previous stitch repairs have been removed and they have been carefully deconstructed into their lining and crimson silk satin. Removing the linings was a slow process due to their fragmentary nature and ‘crisp’ handle, and several areas required netting and tracings taken prior to removal.

This has revealed several fascinating finds. The curtains have been patched with six different types of damask patches, a linen patch and a plain silk patch. All of the patches appear to have had former uses. There is evidence of seams, lockstitches and darning repairs which are unrelated to areas in the curtain.

Proper Left Foot curtain – (viewed with the top of the curtain at the bottom of the page) showing seven types of different patches.

Proper Left Foot curtain – (viewed with the top of the curtain at the bottom of the page) showing seven types of different patches.

Pink damask patch at bottom of curtain, patched with another patch of same damask.

Pink damask patch at bottom of curtain, patched with another patch of same damask.

Pink damask patch no. 2 applied upside down.

Pink damask patch no. 2 applied upside down.

Seamed damask patch no.3

Seamed damask patch no.3

Pink plain silk patch – same as large patch in lining.

Pink plain silk patch – same as large patch in lining.

Yellow damask patch.

Yellow damask patch.

Green damask patch seamed to yellow patch.

Green damask patch seamed to yellow patch.

proper left head curtain - Satin patch adhered upside down. Same satin as arabesque design with the metal thread removed leaving design visible.

proper left head curtain – Satin patch adhered upside down. Same satin as arabesque design with the metal thread removed leaving design visible.

Damask patch of different design to lining adhered on the back of the lining.

Damask patch of different design to lining adhered on the back of the lining.

The position of the patches at the top of the curtains suggests that the curtains have been turned around with the patched damage having been originally at the hem. This is confirmed by the discovery of previous ring attachments at the bottom of the curtain, above the lower border. These would have been the original ring fixing points used to hang the curtains, and they may also be the original ring fixing from a previous use, thought to have been wall hangings (see image below, the white squares indicating ring attachment points).

sb10

There are several types and styles of seams throughout both curtains, including machine stitching, indicating there are several periods of repair and reconstruction.

Another yellow damask, of a different design to that used for patching the foot curtain, was also found at the heading of the head curtain as pieces, and attached to the right side lining panel as a narrow strip finishing as a wider panel at the hem. It suggests that the yellow damask was originally a full length panel seamed to the two colour damask lining and was cut away during a later period of repair and reconstruction.

the yellow damask panel found at the hem of the p.l. head curtain with a narrow strip attached down the length of the right side lining panel.

the yellow damask panel found at the hem of the p.l. head curtain with a narrow strip attached down the length of the right side lining panel.

The next stage of treatment is to construct a humidity chamber to relax the curtains and linings before wet cleaning is carried out following further tests.

Alex, Emily, Lucy, Melinda, Sarah and Zena