A painted rayon souvenir handkerchief next to one of the options we considered for re-framing.
Rayon is a semi-synthetic fiber made of regenerated cellulose. Like naturally occurring cellulosic textile fibers—including cotton, kapok, linen, hemp, jute, and ramie—rayon is used for a wide range of fabrics for household textiles as well as fine and utilitarian fashions. Unlike its cellulose cousins, rayon has also been widely used to mimic fabrics normally made of fibers as wide ranging as silk and wool. It can therefore be difficult to identify rayon when it is found in museum collections.
This unusual (and large!) synthetic banner, recently conserved at MTS, feels similar to wool to the touch.
Rayon exploded in the 1920s as a popular fashion fiber, beginning with socks, lingerie and clothing. The variety of available fabrics and finishes meant that any women could now wear garment types once affordable only to women who could buy silk. By the end of the 1930s, rayon was six times as plentiful as silk in American clothing.
This French example from 1937 shows how rayon was adopted in styles that could have been silk.
World War II again caused a bump in the production of rayon, both for fabrics and for tire cord--a replacement for rubber, which was scarce. After WWII, rayon saw competition from other synthetic fibers such as nylon, acrylic and polyester.
This WWII jacket is part of the collection of American Women's Voluntary Services uniforms recently conserved at MTS.
Rayon is prone to stretching, sagging, and pilling. Despite these problems, trade brands such as Modal rayon became increasingly popular for use alone, or blended with cotton or spandex, for household textiles such as towels and sheets. Early viscose rayon was found to lose strength when wet, but high-wet-modulus (HWM) rayon was released in 1960 as an answer to this problem.
Part II of "Rayon Through the Years" will focus on the technological changes in rayon production... which help account for the many names the fiber goes by.
By Camille Myers Breeze
Museum Textile Services and the Peabody Historical Society of Peabody, Mass, will host a Sampler Study Day at the Historical Society's Smith Barn at 38 Felton Street, Peabody on Saturday, January 26, 2013 from 10-12. To reserve a space please call the Peabody Historical Society at 978-977-0514 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image courtesy of Peabody Historical Society.
This event is for individuals who own antique needlework samplers and pictorial embroideries and would like to learn more about the condition, significance, and proper care of these textiles. Members of the public are invited to bring their samplers to the Society's Smith Barn on Sampler Study Day for a professional evaluation. The fee to participate in this program is $20 per sampler.
Image courtesy of Museum Textile Services.
Camille Breeze will evaluate the condition of each sampler brought to the event and provide participants with a one-page conservation worksheet. She will also discuss potential conservation issues and make recommendations for the appropriate mounting and framing of these heirlooms. Peabody Historical Society Curator Heather Leavell and Assistant Curator Lyn FitzGerald will share information related to the age, decorative motifs, and overall style of each sampler. They will also provide resources for researching the history of a sampler's maker. To ensure the long-term preservation of these textiles, Leavell and FitzGerald will advise participants on the proper care of samplers, including optimal storage and environmental conditions.
Image courtesy of Museum Textile Services.
Museum Textile Service's Cara Jordan will be help participants complete a short survey to include their samplers in a searchable online database administered by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America
. The goal of the NSCDA Sampler Survey is to inventory all extant samplers and pictorial embroideries in museums and private collections to promote the preservation and study of this important art form.
If your historical society or museum is interested in hosting a Sampler Study Day, please contact Camille Myers Breeze at email@example.com or call 978-474-9200.
by Camille Myers BreezeFor nearly a week, the Beard & Weil Galleries
at Wheaton College in Norton, MA, was the scene
of great collaboration and ingenuity as students of ARTH 335 Exhibition Design installed their Fall 2012 show, "100 Years 100 Objects." The exhibit showcases an object for each of the 100 years since Wheaton Female Seminary became Wheaton College.
"100 Years 100 Objects" will be on display December 3, 2012, through February 15, 2013.
Camille Breeze was hired to participate in two days of teaching and exhibit prep thanks to funding from the Art/Art History Department and the Evelyn Danzig Haas '39 Visiting Artist Program
. After a short presentation about careers in conservation, Camille broke students into teams according to what remained to be done to install a pair of priceless textiles conserved by MTS.
Pair of Buddhist scrolls, conserved with assistance of Wheaton College interns Michelle Drummey and Gabrielle Ferreira in summer 2012, were already hanging when Camille arrived.
The first team underwent the final framing of a silk embroidery depicting "Hagar and Ishmael are Cast Out by Abraham" (Genesis Chapter XXI), by Eliza Wheaton Strong (1795-1834). This exquisite textile is very fragile but together the team cleaned the framing materials, placed the embroidery behind the custom mat, and backed the new frame with Marvelseal before hanging it in the gallery.
Upon Eliza Wheaton Strong's death, family members established Wheaton Female Seminary, which later became Wheaton College.
The remaining student teams addressed tasks related to the mounting of the c 1780 costume of the Duchesse de Choiseul, which had been conserved at Museum Textile Services in 2012. You can read about this project in intern Gabrielle Ferreira's first
Josephine Johnson '13.
The bust of the custom manikin was covered with show fabric by senior Josephine Johnson, who is planning for a career in conservation. The base for the manikin was assembled by a team including senior Morgan Bakerman, who is writing her thesis about the dress.
A third team addresses the skirt support, which originally was accomplished with rigid paniers. Students started with a replica of the skirt made by Cara Jordan from cotton muslin. Next, they machine sewed 3-inch twill tape in two rows across the skirt and threaded flexible polypropylene tubing through the channel. The tubing provided the shape of the paniers, and additional pieces of twill tape tied across the underside created the correct, flat silhouette.
Camille Breeze models the paniers after final touches were made by students.
During the final push on Saturday afternoon, the base was attached to the exhibit platform, the manikin bust was installed, the paniers were tied to the manikin, and finally the costume was dressed.
The costume of the Duchesse de Choiseul, c 1780.
Working with an academic institution like Wheaton College is one our favorite jobs at Museum Textile Services. Many thanks go out to Leah Niederstadt, Museum Studies Professor and Curator of the Permanent Collection, and Zeph Stickney, Archivist and Special Collections Curator, for asking Camille to help in this intense and rewarding project.
Leah Niederstadt and Zeph Stickney editing label copy written with the help of students.
by Tegan Kehoe
In Part I of this series, I shared examples of crewel embroidery conserved at MTS and the early-20th-century Needlecraft Magazine article teaching needleworkers how to practice this craft. In Part II, we explore two more textile genres.
The article "Gay Posies on a Quilted Coverlet" appeared in the July 1934 issue of Needlecraft: the Home Arts Magazine, p. 8.
The July, 1934, issue of Needlecraft has an article about the timeless art of quilting. It features a quilt with a similarly geometric, symmetrical floral pattern, called “posies round the square.” The patchwork squares in both quilts are interspersed with sections of white quilted background.
An early 20th-century quilt before conservation, cleaning, and repair treatments.
The example above shows a quilt from this time period that was recently conserved by Museum Textile Services.The beautiful and intricate quilting pattern in the white section of this quilt is similar to some of the patterns used in the quilt shown in Needlecraft, and to patterns “J” and “G” at the bottom of the page. This quilt was wetcleaned and repaired by us in 2008 so that the owner could continue to gently use it on special occasions.
The article "Darning on a Filet Ground" appeared in the February 1935 issue of Needlecraft: The Home Arts Magazine, page 5.
An article titled “Darning on a Filet Ground” appears in the February 1935 issue of Needlecraft, displaying work using the same technique as a set of place mats that MTS conserved, also in 2008. This craft is alternately called “filet darning,” “net darning” or “filet lace.” The article says that because the process is simple and quick, a set of curtains or placemats would be “by no means an over-ambitious undertaking even for the woman who has only a little time to give to needlework.”
After wet cleaning the placemat was blocked, held in place with pins to dry straight.
The pieces that MTS conserved were a little more complex; instead of darning onto an existing net mesh, they were executed in filet crochet, which has a similar visual effect. One of the ways to tell the difference is to look at how the edges are done. Needlecraft Magazine explains how to finish the edges of the square mesh net that forms the base of the work by turning the edges under and hemming them. However, in the piece we treated, the edges have a crochet scalloped finish. Perhaps Needlecraft magazine would not have recommended crochet filet “for the woman who has only a little time,” but the effect is quite delicate.
Filet place mat after mounting and conservation framing.
These place mats were made by the owner’s grandmother. They came to us quite stained, and we washed them in Sodium Borohydride, an effective and gentle method of bleaching. At the completion of the project, the owner kept four of the place mats as they are, and had two of the place mats framed to give to her children.
Looking through Needlecraft Magazine is a blast from the past, and is also a reminder of the timelessness of so many of the textile arts that we are fortunate to conserve at MTS.
At the dawn of the 19th century, a young English woman by the name of Miss Grimshaw created a self portrait out of precious silk and watercolors. In the tradition of memorial embroideries of that time period, a piece of thin silk was first painted, then backed with a stiffer cotton, and finally embroidered through both layers.
Miss Grimshaw's portrait before conservation
The textile underwent quite a journey before arriving at Museum Textile Services. It was brought to America by Miss Grimshaw's son, D. Grimshaw, in 1838. This may be when the embroidery was placed in an ornate fluted frame over a wood board. Later, a paper mat with an oval cut-out was glued directly on top of the painted silk. The frame was again disturbed in the 20th century, as evidenced by some scotch tape holding the layers of board together.
Before conservation, the textile was acidified and brittle from age and contact with the wood board. The frame was weak, had been overpainted, and was losing its plaster.
The first step was to unframe and disassemble the embroidery to get to its core components. What we found inside was a layer of impossibly-fragile silk being held together entirely by the stitching and paint.
Reverse of embroidery
The silk to which the cardboard mat was glued had long since separated from the center. This allowed the mat to be lifted off, leaving behind a rough oval of silk and silk embroidery threads. Cracks were present in the painted areas and some chunks of silk had detached, revealing the cotton backing fabric.
Damage to the painted silk along the right side
The proposed treatment was an aggressive one; lining the back of the silk was not possible because the embroidery stitching passes through both the silk and the cotton backing fabric. Instead, a sheer conservation fabric treated with an adhesive film would have to be placed on top of the embroidery to ensure the self portrait remained intact. Adhesive treatments of this kind are not reversible, so they are used only when other treatment options are exhausted.
Printed silk being inserted behind losses
Before the sheer overlay went on, losses in the silk were addressed using a unique procedure. A photograph of the intact foliage on the left side of the image was flipped horizontally in Photoshop to match the foliage on the right side of the picture. This reverse image was then printed on silk fabric using a color laser printer. (Print-on fabric is available at http://www.dharmatrading.com
Damaged area after compensation and adhesive overlay, and before new mat was applied
The new silk was placed carefully underneath the shattered edges of the textile to camouflage losses. The adhesive overlay was then completed, locking the old and new layers together. The embroidery was hand stitched to a fabric-covered archival mat board.
Miss Grimshaw's self portrait after conservation
A computer-cut oval mat was provided by our frame supplier and a new fluted frame was found that matches the old one almost perfectly. The textile was framed and the frame was sealed with Marvelseal barrier film.
Now that this fragile piece of history has been stabilized and preserved, it lives on to be enjoyed by its owner, Miss Grimshaw's great-great-great-great-great granddaughter!