Sunday, 14 March 2010

Antique Textiles - to restore or conserve ?

I came across this beautiful old picture frame last week at a car boot and couldn't resist buying it for just a £1. Do you blame me? Even though its in a really sorry state !

The paper label on the back states Goodyers 174 Regent Street London and it stands with back stand and has the glass still intact. The back is in a cotton brocade, and is in good condition. The front is embroidered silk damask and has seen far better days. The silk is rotten in many places and has lost the weft or warp. The stitching is blended satin stitch and has couched metal thread applied . Metal braid has been stitched to the inner and outer edges.

I considered the frame to be 1900s or even earlier. I've done a bit of research on Goodyers shop in Regent Street and they seem to have been around in the mid / late 1800s early 1900s, can't find much detail on them.
As the embroidery was on such poor condition I decided that it would be too great a job to restore it . Shame but there you go. Silk is tough stuff but once it goes into this poor condition there is little that can be done. But I did want to do something with this stunning piece of possible Victorian work. (Its of course possible that the frame was made and assembled in this time using a much earlier piece of embroidery. I have some pieces of waistcoat from 100 years earlier that resemble the work on this piece ! )

I do respect textile work that has been done in the past and try my hardest to keep original pieces intact but this was beyond repair - I'm just trying to justify to myself taking it apart !
So thats exactly what I decided to do. Take it apart - thats a bit like writing in a book - something you are taught as a child never to do and that never goes away , does it !
Before taking anything off, I knew that I would keep the back covering and would rework the front in my own embroidery at a later date. The piece of embroidery that I would remove I would use on a dolls outfit. So I had plans for the future. That helped determine how carefully I would dis-assemble the frame.

I carefully prised off the backing board from the front frame. The glue used is the old fashioned rabbit glue that cracks over time but seems to set solid.

I then very carefully cut the main fabric from the board around the edges with a sharp scalpel.

Inside the frame the edges have been bound with cotton cloth that looks to be about 1850s in design.

Underside showing stitching.

The only part that I damaged whilst removing everything was the outer metal thread braid, it ripped badly but the inner braid came off okay and is still very useable.
The silk is badly worn as I have said but I do want to try and use it. It needs backing with something to hold it together . Not sure at this point what I will use to stablize it. Any suggestions would be very gratefully accepted. Any ideas on age of piece would be interesting too.
I always wonder with old needlework about the people who made it and the ones that used the item. It does seem as if antique pieces have life still in them and I am sure it will be happy to be conserved and used for something else instead of just being thrown away.
I will let you know how I get on with this wonderful job sometime in the future.I hope I can do justice to the craftmanship used in this once fine piece of emboidery.


Yve said...

Wow, lovely frame. I see people reusing vintage clothes and fabrics in their dolls all the time and have some clothes that are beyond repair but I am terrified of touching them. You are brave, but then, you know what you are doing!

Vintage to Victorian at Dairy House Antiques said...

What a gorgeous piece of work. There comes a point where we know that something is beyond repair, but rather than destroy it the piece can often be reworked into something else to treasure.

Good luck, and thanks for following my blog! I shall enjoy reading through your posts - but not tonight!


littlebitwired said...

Wow, what a challenge. I wodln't have had the guts to take that apart. But it looks like you did a wonderful job. I can't wait to see where that piece shows up.

Kella said...

The underside of the embroidered silk is so beautiful in itself.

Your skill in taking it apart and still keeping it intact is ace, I'm not sure I would have been able to do that.

Tabourella said...

I just stumbled on your blog and I am delighted to know there is someone else who takes delight in the beauty of such work, now faded, but nevertheless so precious.