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Copyright: 2023. The Textile Wiki pages are a publication of the Textile Specialty Group of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works.
The Textile Wiki pages are published for the members of the Textile Specialty Group. Publication does not endorse or recommend any treatments, methods, or techniques described herein.
Tapestry Conservation[edit | edit source]
Factors to Consider[edit | edit source]
Definitions and Terminology[edit | edit source]
Tapestry[edit | edit source]
“The word tapestry is used in many different ways. It may refer to a specific textile technique, to the technique only when used for pictorial patterning, or to such pictorial patterning only when it is designed for mural decoration. Then again it may be used entirely without technical implication - to refer to any pictorial patterning in fabric form. The term tapestry weave is also variously defined and applied, but it usually refers specifically to mosaic-like patterning with discontinuous wefts in a weft-faced weave” (Emery 1995).
Tapestry weave[edit | edit source]
“Tapestry weave is usually weft-faced plain weave … and mosaic-like patterns of solid color areas similarly produced, in other weaves such as twill (e.g. Kashmir ‘shawls’), weft-twining (e.g. Chilkat ‘blankets’), and weft-wrapping (Soumak rugs)" (Emery 1995).
"A construction in which filling yarns are beaten-up so closely as to conceal the warps. Used especially in Navajo weaving" (Tortora 1996).
Traditions of Practice[edit | edit source]
- Historical Approaches to the Care of Tapestries
- Community Collaboration
- Community contacts can be found through the National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers website: https://www.nathpo.org/
Conservation of Tapestries[edit | edit source]
Working Methods[edit | edit source]
Loom[edit | edit source]
Tension Table[edit | edit source]
Simple Tensioning Frame[edit | edit source]
Materials[edit | edit source]
Commercial as well as custom made materials have been used in tapestry conservation. Quality, compatibility, and stability are important factors to consider.
Threads and yarns[edit | edit source]
Materials used in tapestry conservation vary between methodology. The most common approach is to choose something which visually blends from a distance but is distinct from original material when viewed up-close. Color, ply, texture, thickness, and strength of yarn, along with stability and interaction with the original artifact, must all be considered before use. Common threads are outlined below:
Specially dyed woolen yarns, either plied or unplied, are often used to replace missing warps or wefts, replicating original materials. Whether used for re-warping or infilling loss, the twist and weight of the yarn should be taken into consideration. Too thick, and the new yarns could damage dense weave structures. Too thin and the yarns may not perform as needed or not represent the original design well. Samples are often made to assess color, yarn gauge, and other properties.
Silk is most often used for infilling lost areas of silk weft to ensure the original design can be read. Its luster is useful for brightening up areas where original material has been lost. If facilities allow, silk can be dyed in many different colors with relative ease or purchased in a range of colors on a reel. Silk floss can be held in mixed colors to blend better with original materials. In some practices, fine silk threads are used to sympathetically couch down warp threads – following the twist of the warp from top to bottom, without adding or replacing colors.
The strength of polyester fibers makes them useful for adding strength into treatments where the object is likely to be displayed for a long period of time. The variety of available weights and colors also makes it easy to blend in with original materials. Depending on the techniques employed, polyester may be used on its own or held double with a silk or woolen yarn. Gütermann sewing threads are often used. Polyester sewing machine thread can also be used for stitching support and lining materials.
Cotton, especially cotton thread consisting of multiple strands, such as DMC cotton embroidery floss, is used in place of silk to add color and luster to areas of lost weft threads. In some instances, it may also be used for laid-thread couching over larger areas of weak wefts. Mercerized cotton has a shinier appearance than non-mercerized Cotton sewing machine thread can also be used for stitching support and lining materials.
Tapestry needles some in a variety of sizes, but most common for tapestry conservation are 22, 24 or 26. The smaller the number, the larger the needle. Tapestry needles are blunter than standard sewing needles, which makes them less likely to puncture original material and more likely to find the natural holes in the weave structure.
Support fabrics[edit | edit source]
Support fabrics may vary depending on use, including support patches, border backing, full support, and hanging system.
In past treatment traditions, support fabrics were typically chosen to match the original natural fibers. In contemporary treatments, this matching of fabric types is of lesser concern.
Loss Compensation[edit | edit source]
Removal of Old Repairs[edit | edit source]
For considerations and understanding rationale for retaining, modifying, or removing previous repairs, see Addressing Previous Interventions page.
Reweaving[edit | edit source]
Stitching[edit | edit source]
Dyeing, Painting, Digital Printing[edit | edit source]
For information regarding dyeing, painting, and digital printing of support fabrics for loss compensation, see the page on Compensation for Loss.
Cleaning[edit | edit source]
Mechanical Cleaning[edit | edit source]
Wet Cleaning[edit | edit source]
Many American institutions collaborate with and send their tapestries to the DeWit Royal Tapestry Manufacturers in Belgium to be wet cleaned via their patented aerosol suction method.
Support Techniques[edit | edit source]
Full Support[edit | edit source]
Strapping[edit | edit source]
Case Studies[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
Emery, Irene. 1995. The Primary Structure of Fabrics: An Illustrated Classification. New York, NY: Watson-Guptill Publications.
Tortora, Phyllis G. and Robert S. Merket. 1996. Fairchild’s Dictionary of Textiles. 7th ed. New York: Fairchild Books. 563-564.
Further Reading[edit | edit source]
Community Collaboration[edit | edit source]
Carrlee, Ellen and Anna Brown Ehlers. 2020. "Chilkat Blanket Restoration: A Case Study in Alaska Native Authority in Museum Conservation." Alaska Journal of Anthropology. 18 (1) 86-100.
Heald, S. and K. Ash-Milby. 1998. "Woven by the Grandmothers: 24 Blankets travel to the Navajo Nation." Journal of the American Institute for Conservation: 37(3): 334-345.
Conservation[edit | edit source]
Asai, Kaori, Emma Biggs, Patricia Ewer and Kathryn Hallett. 2008. “Tapestry Conservation Traditions: An Analysis of Support Techniques for Large Hanging Textiles.” In ICOM Committee for Conservation preprints. 15th Triennial Meeting, New Delhi. Paris: ICOM. 2:967-75.
Barlow, Alexandra and Olha Yarema Wynar. 2018. "The Mortlake Horses: A Collaborative Approach to the Conservation of 17th-century British Tapestries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art." In AIC TSG Postprints. American Institute for Conservation 46th Annual Meeting. Houston. 17-30.
Breeze, Camille Myers. 2000. "A Survey of American Tapestry Conservation Techniques." Lowell, MA: American Textile History Museum Textile Conservation Center.
Brutillot, Andre. 2002. "Reflections on Slit Stitching in Tapestries." In Readings in Conservation: Changing Views in Textile Conservation edited by Mary M. Brooks and Dinah Eastop, 2011. Los Angeles: The Getty Conservation Institute: 210-215.
Carò, Federico, Giulia Chiostrini, Elizabeth Cleland, and Nobuko Shibayama. 2014. "Redeeming Pieter Coecke Van Aelst’s Gluttony Tapestry: Learning from Scientific Analysis." Metropolitan Museum Journal. 49 (1): 151-64.
Getts, Anne and Sarah Gates. 2019. “In-Painting for Old Tapestry Repairs: A Non-Traditional Approach to Restoring Tapestry Legibility.” In North American Textile Conservation Conference preprints. 12th Biennial Meeting, Ottawa-Gatineau. NATCC: 119-133.
Goodin, Dana. 2017. “Agarose Two Ways: Successes and Challenges in Large-Scale Gel Applications.” In AIC Textile Specialty Group Postprints. American Institute for Conservation 45th Annual Meeting, Chicago. Washington, DC: AIC 161-175.
Hansen, E.F. and Derelian, S. 1991. "Conservation I: Effect of wet cleaning silk tapestries." Museum Management and Curatorship. 10 (1): 93-96.
Hwang, Minsun. 2019. "Erasing a Problematic Past: A New Application of Paper Conservation Expertise in the Corrective Treatment of a 17th century Chinese Tapestry." In AIC TSG Postprints. American Institute for Conservation 47th Annual Meeting, Uncaseville. 35-46.
Lennard, Frances, and Maria Hayward. 2006. Tapestry Conservation: Principles and Practice. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.
Lugtigheid, Renee. 1995. “A Tale of Two Tapestries: Considerations of Restoration, De-restoration, and Re-restoration.” In Readings in Conservation: Changing Views in Textile Conservation edited by Mary M. Brooks and Dinah Eastop, 2011. Los Angeles: The Getty Conservation Institute: 284-289.
Marko, Ksynia. 2020. Woven Tapestry: Guidelines for Conservation. London: Archetype Books.
Quye, A., Hallett, K., & Herrero, C. 2009. Wroughte in Silk & Gold: Preserving the Art of Historical Tapestries. Edinburgh: NMS Publishing.
Seth-Smith, Alexandra and Tracey Wedge. 1996. "Animal Glue Removal from Sixteenth-Century Flemish Tapestry Fragments: A Comparative Study of Three Cleaning Methods." In Readings in Conservation: Changing Views in Textile Conservation Ed. by Mary M. Brooks and Dinah Eastop, 2011. Los Angeles: The Getty Conservation Institute: 370-377.
General[edit | edit source]
Brosens, Koenraad, and Yvan Maes De Wit. 2019. Tapestry Production and Conservation: 125 Years of De Wit Royal Manufacturers of Tapestry. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols Publishers.
Burr, Betsey, Nancy Odegaard, Barbara Teller Ornelas, Anne Lane Hedlund, and Delana Joy Farley. 2018. "Pointing in the Right Direction: Identifying Technological Features to Orient Navajo Textiles." In AIC TSG Postprints. American Institute for Conservation 46th Annual Meeting, Houston. 97-110.
Cleland, Elizabeth, Marjorie E. Wieseman, Francesca De Luca, Alessandra Griffo, and Costanza Perron Da Zara. 2019. Renaissance Splendor: Catherine de' Medici's Valois Tapestries. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Marko, Ksynia. 2020. Woven Tapestry: Guidelines for Conservation. London: Archetype Publications. In AIC TSG Postprints. American Institute for Conservation 28th Annual Meeting, Philadelphia. 75-88.
Myers Breeze, Camille. 2000. "The Evolution of American Tapestry Conservation." In AIC TSG Postprints. American Institute for Conservation 28th Annual Meeting, Philadelphia. 75-88.
Larochette, Jean Pierre and Yadin Larochette. 2020. Anatomy of a Tapestry: Techniques, Materials, Care. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing.
Sheng, Angela. 1995. "Chinese Silk Tapestry: A Brief Social Historical Perspective of its Early Development." Orientations: Chinese and Asian Textiles 1983-1997. 1998. Hong Kong: Orientations Magazine Ltd.: 166-171, 225.
Materials[edit | edit source]
Ballard, Mary W., G. Asher Newsome, Susan Heald. 2019. "An Ongoing Mystery: Copper Kettles and Chilkat Blue." In AIC TSG Postprints. American Institute for Conservation 47th Annual Meeting, Uncaseville. 99-113.
Solazzo, C., S. Heald, M.W. Ballard, D.A. Ashford, P.T. DePriest, R.J. Koestler, and M. Collins. 2011. "Proteomics and Coast Salish blankets: A tale of shaggy dogs?" Antiquity. 85: 1418-1432.