An early 19th-century pictorial embroidery came to Museum Textile Services from the New England Historic Genealogical Society late in 2019. It is a mourning embroidery made by Caroline Jackson when she was nine years old. The pictorial embroidery depicts a young woman wearing a bonnet and period dress standing in a landscape of fields and trees. The trees, grass, woman’s gown, and bonnet are embroidered in satin stitches of polychrome silk. The sky and woman’s face, skin, and hair are painted in watercolor. The silk taffeta ground fabric was sewn to a linen prior to embroidering. The linen is folded around a wooden stretcher and tacked along the sides with metal tacks. It has reverse-painted glass and a gilded frame.
Based on a literature review and testing carried out at MTS, Conservator Kayla Silvia selected a treatment using the adhesive Klucel G® (hydroxyproylcellulose,) due to its lack of sheen and ability to be reactivated with solvents. Losses in the painted silk were first infilled with patches of silk haboutai that was painted with gouache and coated with the adhesive solution, 4% Klucel G in deionized water. The silk haboutai patches were positioned between the linen and painted silk, and the adhesive reactivated with solvent vapor for several minutes. Reactivation of an adhesive this way minimizes potential damage to the fragile silk that can occur with heat reactivation.
Then the pictorial embroidery was remounted on its wooden stretcher with an archival board acting as a barrier and support to the back of the embroidery. The board and stretcher were encased in fabric and the pictorial embroidery stitched to the mount. Upon return to the New England Historic Genealogical Society, conservator Todd Pattison reframed the embroidery in its original materials.
This was the first collaboration between the New England Historic Genealogical Society and Museum Textile Services. We look forward to more opportunities in the future.