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Seeing in Different Ways: A Liz Magor Backpack Project
Seeing in Different Ways:
A Liz Magor Backpack Project

Why Paper Discolours (Part 2)
Why Paper Discolours (Part 2)

Why Paper Discolours (Part 1)
Why Paper Discolours (Part 1)

Mending a Tear in an Aboriginal Drum
Mending a Tear in an Aboriginal Drum

Distortions and Dimensional Changes
in Paper (Part 3)
Distortions and Dimensional Changes
in Paper (Part 3)

Distortions and Dimensional Changes
in Paper (Part 2)

Distortions and Dimensional Changes
in Paper (Part 1)

After treatment
Oscar Cahén: Innovative Conservation
for an Innovative Artist

Rigid Water Gels: New Treatment Options for Paper Conservators

Structural Remedies for Canvas Paintings

Organizing and Preserving Collections - Part 4: Digital-based Material

Organizing and Preserving Collections - Part 3: Photo-based Material

Organizing and Preserving Collections - Part 2: Paper-based Material

First Steps
Organizing and Preserving Collections - Part 1: The First Steps

Natural Dyes
The Use of Natural Dyes in Textile Conservation

A Relocation Project

Challenges of Preserving Contemporary Artwork

Preserve Your Investment through Art Conservation

A Project Completed: Heritage Preserved

Old and New Methods for Cleaning Paintings

I Can See Clearly Now – Or Can I? Part 2

I Can See Clearly Now – Or Can I?

The E.J. Hughes Mural: An Expanded Project

Is She or Is She Not an Emily

Treating Art with Sensitive Media

Malaspina Mural: An Update

For the Artist: Testing Your Materials

Conservator as Art Historian

Alum Sizing and the Art of W.J. Phillips

Treatment of an Elizabeth Keith Wood Block Print

Structural Treatment of an Emily Carr

The Treatment of a Monumental Wall Hanging

Changing Images

Preserving a Rare Record

Gold Leaf: Imitation and Genuine

The Case Against Canvas Backings

Heritage Colours: Research Discovers Original Colours

Lighting Your Art: Balancing Seeing and Protecting

The Double-Sided Emily Carr Painting

Choosing a Period Picture Frame

How to Identify a Picture Frame

Stretching Canvas and Restretching Artwork

Mounting Textiles

Aging Paintings:
Some Causes and Effects

Chine Collé Prints

What's Your Favourite Color?

Backing Removals

Rips, Holes and Tears

Filling in the Gaps

DIY – Preventative Care of Paintings

Frame it Right

Fire, Water and Smoke-Damaged Paintings

Inherent Vice

Saturated Problems:
A Water-Damaged Painting

Moldy Paper

Conserving Time

Conserving Paper: Dos and Don'ts

Repair of Textiles

Conserving Wood

Rescuing Endangered Murals

Repairing Acid-Matte Burn

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Exhibition Openings & Events

  Conservation Corner Back

Repair of Textiles

by Joan Marshall

This is the fourth in a new series of articles about conservation written by professional conservators. We hope you will find them interesting, and welcome any comments, questions or suggestions you may have for us.

Hutton quilt conservation

Detail of a quilt repair (2000)

We often take textiles entirely for granted. After all, we are intimately surrounded by them; our clothes, our upholstery, and rugs. We use them when we do the dishes, step out of the shower or go to bed.

Textiles can be historical documents, as well. The sewing machine came into commercial use in the early 1840s, so finding common machine-sewn garments in the graves of members of the ill-fated Franklin Expedition of 1845 indicates that its use spread like wildfire, almost akin to the rapid dissemination we have come to expect with current technology.

This fourth Conservation Corner article concerns the Indian chintz cotton quilt-top in the photographs. Jon Ackroyd, owner of the quilt-top, reports that it was made by a relative, Catherine Hutton, an unmarried, genteel writer of novels in 1832. Catherine made many quilts that remain in the family. One extraordinary silk quilt, "...also has a unique accessory item, a book. Every piece of cloth (in the quilt) has a sample stuck to a page...and is identified as to where it came from. Mrs. Johnson's tea dress, October 1823, and so on." The chintz quilt top is completely hand-stitched, as are many quilts, but had it contained machine stitching we would know that it was from later than 1832, or had been more recently repaired.

a good partial overall(2000),

This quilt-top is a complex variation of the pattern, Grandmother's Flower Garden, with diamonds and floral appliques concentrated in the central area of the textile. The Indian chintz it is made from is comprised of many colourful block prints almost entirely in floral patterns. The quilt piecing is stitched visibly and with great skill.

The owners wanted to enjoy this extraordinary piece of family history by first conserving, then protecting and finally, displaying it. The piece was discoloured and stained and it was not known when it had last been cleaned, if ever. In addition, there were many weak areas, tears, and areas of loss. After colourfastness testing showed that the dyes would not run, the piece was washed in a very large shallow tank that allowed the delicate 7.5- x 9-foot piece to be washed and rinsed completely flat, without ever being moved from position. This also allowed it to be closely observed. The textile was washed to both improve its appearance and to reduce acidity that had developed in the cotton. It dried quickly.

Next, repair was started. Cotton patches of suitable colours were underlaid beneath tears and areas of loss. Each torn fragment of the original was almost invisibly stitched in place to these backing patches. Finally a cotton lining was stitched on, around the perimeter of the quilt top, thus protecting and supporting the piece. A window was cut into the new lining to allow a portion of the original construction of the piece to be visible.

Because of the repairs and supportive lining, the still fragile quilt-top can now be carefully handled. The acidity and its consequent destructiveness were removed through washing, retarding further deterioration. Now the inherent refined aesthetic of the piece is more visible and the owners can display the quilt-top. By keeping it dust-free and away from any sources of ultra-violet light, such as sunlight this richly historic family heirloom can continue its journey into the future.

© Joan Marshall

 Fri, Feb 1, 2008