Conserving antique textiles

April 07, 2011

Antique textiles, as most textile collectors know, have inherent in them the twin problems of conservation and non-invasive display.

Objects that are investments of finances as well as passions, are highly vulnerable to the risk of deterioration presented by the elements and by the characteristics of the object itself. These risks can be hedged partially by good conservation techniques.

A few tips and techniques for preserving fragile textiles :

* An antique textile made of fragile material (e.g. silk, lace) is rarely ironed. If the material is strong ironing may be done at very low temperatures but without direct contact with the textile. A thin sheet of mulmul may be place over the antique textile to be ironed.

* Creases may be reduced using the cold poultice method. The textile in question from which creases need to be removed is laid out on a flat surface. A barrier of waterproof sympatex is laid over it. Next, a blotter paper or fabric layer dampened with deionised water is laid over the sympatex. Finally, weights such as flat glass or bags of lead beads are placed over the creased areas. This results in reduction of creases.

* Another method that may be used on colour-fast antique textiles is using an ultrasonic machine to disperse water in the form of a fine mist. This method may not be used with textiles that have fugitive dyes or with beads or other metal-based embellishments.

* In case there is a loss of warps or wefts in a particular area, patching is done to arrest further losses. Either an underpatch or an overlay may be used depending on the nature of the loss, to secure ans stabilise the fabric. Patches may be stitched on or glued on using adhesive that is actiavted by heat or solvent, depending on the strength of the fabric in question.

These tips are extracts from an article that appeared in The Straits Times.

jm

April 2011

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