By Camille Myers Breeze
This week we introduce a new blog theme featuring before and after images and histories of textiles we are treating. Let us know what you think!
In one of the earliest MTS Blogs, Sarah Berlinger introduced readers to the Olympic uniform of hockey player Gordon Smith. Mr. Smith is an alumnus of Middlesex School in Concord, Massachusetts, who are the owners of his prestigious garments. In the midst of the 2012 London Summer Olympics, we thought we'd show you the results of the conservation treatment.
Some highlights of this treatment include dying wool roving a matching shade of ecru and needle punching it to a cotton substrate. These patches were placed behind areas of loss and lightly needle punched to the coat to integrate. Although visually continuous, these patches can be removed in the future if necessary.
All of our display mounts were made of archival Ethafoam and polyester padding with a tan cotton/poly jersey as the show fabric.The deteriorated silk bow was removed from the hat and returned to the owner. A new bow was made from polyester ribbon (the cut edges were painted with archival adhesive to prevent unraveling.) One missing button was replaced with a similar button painted to match.
This project took a year to complete and was returned to Middlesex School in time to be displayed at the start of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. You can learn more about conservation of sports memorabilia in the conservation section of the web site.
Many thanks to Middlesex School, Historic New England and the entire MTS conservation team, especially Sarah Berlinger, Cara Jordan, and Courtney Jason.
by Camille Myers Breeze
When the opportunity to purchase this 1837 New Hampshire sampler arose, I jumped on. The MTS study collection contains many such textiles that come into our hands in need of a conservator's attention.
Three lines of inscriptions read "Sarah R Hamilton born Oct 3rd 1825", "George L Hamilton born Dec 14th 1828," and the maker's inscription, "Sarah R. Hamilton aged 12."
Close examination of these lines show several layers of intervention. Green silk thread had been used to go over parts of the two top lines. At an earlier time, all three lines were also traced in what appears to be pencil. Beneath these the original cross stitching appeared as a thin white silk thread.
Reverse of green over-stitching
The reverse of the sampler shows the later green threads and original white threads below.
We decided to remove the new green thread along with as much of the pencil as possible. This photo shows the front of the sampler after this has been done.
In the closeup below-left you can see that green ink was also used at some point to touch up the lettering. Spot cleaning of the stitching with deionized water was successful in removing this green ink, seen on blotting paper below right.
The reverse of the treated area held one additional surprise for conservators. By unspinning some of the original white embroidery threads it became clear that these letters were originally turquoise blue, a common color from the time period. Chemical processed had caused the silk thread to deteriorate and the dye to fail not only where it was exposed to light on the front, but everywhere except the core of the thread and at some knots.
New blue over-stitching
In light of this new evidence, we decided to restore the inscriptions to their original blue color. We carefully matched the original dye with a new blue mercerized cotton embroidery floss.
New cross stitches were carefully placed over the deteriorated letters in these three lines as well as other places the same thread was used. The original thread was left in place and is now protected beneath the new stitches.
The final image below shows the sampler after it was humidified, mounted and framed by Conservation Assistant Cara Jordan. The restored lettering makes the sampler more legible and reminds us of the cheerful colors originally chosen by 12-year-old Sarah Hamilton for her sampler.
The restoration of deteriorated lettering on the Sarah R Hamilton was an unusual treatment for Museum Textile Services. Having performed this treatment on an item in our study collection, we can now offer a similar restoration it to a client should the circumstances call for it.
This sampler now hangs proudly in the Museum Textile Services conservation studio.