Behind the Scenes in Conservation: Painted Silk Bedspread

by Conservation

10/24/2019

conservation , textile conservation , behind the scenes , Joseph Urban

A steady hand and a sharp eye are key for the repair currently underway of this painted silk taffeta bedspread in the textile conservation lab. The wavy, light-colored lines are places where the silk has pulled apart due to mechanical stress and light damage. To repair it and help make it strong enough for display, the damaged areas were supported with a super thin silk material called crepeline, which is stuck to the back of the original silk with a light, conservation-safe adhesive.

Then, the weakest, split areas are stitched using a technique called laid thread couching. The stitching ensures the layers stay together and torn edges can’t pull away or move any more.  You can see some lines of the stitching under the conservator’s tiny curved needle. A curved needle is used so the silk can lay flat while it is being stitched: no need to pick it up, bend or handle the delicate material. The bedspread will be part of an exhibition scheduled for August 2021.