In order to center the mounted embroidery into the frame, someone had taped it to the back of the gold window mat. MTS conservator Cara Jordan was able to be remove most of the tape mechanically with limited loss of silk. Small areas of tape that were more difficult to remove were humidified, allowing Cara eventually to lift the tape from the silk.
In order to remount the embroidery, the orange lacing had to be removed. The thread was cut in a few key spots, after which it was easily unlaced from the silk ground. The orange thread was too weak to reuse, so it was returned to the client. To our surprise, the back corners and an area of deterioration on the front had been glued to the board. Cara successfully released these adhered areas with acetone.
We hope that you are as excited to see this embroidery at the McMullen as we are!
The signatures “BO’BRIEN” and “Lily YEATS” are stitched at the bottom corners of the embroidery. Brigid O'Brien is credited as the designer and Lily Yeats was the maker. Yeats had been involved in the Arts and Crafts movement for many years by the time she made this embroidery. She studied embroidery under May Morris, daughter of William Morris, starting in 1888. In 1902 Lily, along with her sister Elizabeth and friend Evelyn Gleeson, founded the Dun Emer guild in Dublin. Dun Emer focused primarily on tapestry and carpet making. In 1908, the group separated and Lily and her sister founded Cuala Industries which ran a printing press and an embroidery workshop. The embroidery that MTS conserved was created in the Cuala embroidery workshop around 1915.
The Boston College embroidery has several condition issues, including fading due to light exposure, an area of unidirectional loss to the right of the figures, and gummy adhesive tape holding the back of the mounted textile to an acidic paper mat. Stay tuned for our follow-up blog on the textile conservation treatment by Cara Jordan.