In July we told you about the hole we discovered behind the coat of arms when separating its layers for treatment. Two months on and we are in the midst of the delicate process of supporting the red damask.
Before starting the work it was essential to consider what effect the hole in the fabric, together with the 5.5 kg weight of the embroidery and the plans for its for display at Kensington Palace will have on the longevity of the throne canopy. Experience of supporting and displaying large heavy textiles we have in abundance….supporting those with a large hole crops up less often.
A conservator’s aim must always include damage limitation, and this is especially so when very old large heavy textiles are involved; once degraded and weakened they can pull themselves apart. The tried and tested way to combat this is to give them a support – a brand new backing fabric stitched evenly in a grid formation to the original, reinvigorating it. For the cloth of state, this is the approach we have taken but rather than stitching the support evenly, we need to put our needles to work to compensate for the uneven strain and tension caused by the fragile and varied state of this particular piece of damask. This means both stitching directly above the coat of arms where the majority of the weight will be borne and also spread across the top edge of the damask – as our conservation scientist Ian Gibb said, ‘like a belt and braces’.
Before we can begin this stage of the work, we need to replace the original patch which was removed for conservation and sits behind the coat of arms. This will be brought back to life by meticulously realigning the many loose silk threads and securing them down. This part of the treatment has been especially satisfying as, with the gentle unfurl of a loose thread here and there, suddenly the original damask pattern re-emerges.
By Charlotte Gamper, Senior Textile Conservator
In our next post: find out what has been hiding behind the coat of arms for the last 307 years….
Acquired with the assistance of the Art Fund. Conserved with assistance from Lord Barnby’s Foundation, Idlewild trust, The Radcliffe Trust and the Worshipful Company of Tin Plate Workers alias Wire Workers. We are grateful for their support.