Following on from our post earlier this year from Julie, who was looking to change career and become a conservator and was on a work experience placement with us.
In July as well as conservation students Fiona and Anna we had the pleasure of hosting work experience to Ruth, a student at a local high school. Ruth has very kindly written this post for us.
My name is Ruth and I have just finished my first year of a-levels. I am really interested in textiles and wanted to find a work experience placement in that area. I sent a letter off to the National Trust Textile Conservation Studio, just down the road from where I live, and was overjoyed to get a placement there for eight days.
Below is a small project that I did on needles and I was surprised there was so much I didn’t know!
A brief timeline of the history of needles;
- 17500 B.C – first needles with eyes
- 7000 B.C – Copper needles
- 2500 B.C – Bronze needles
- 1195 B.C – Secret of hardening iron reaches Europe
- 500 B.C – drawing plate used for producing wire
- 60 A.D – Phrygier discovers embroidery
- 1200 A.D – The needle enters China
- 1496 – Leonardo da Vinci constructs a machine to point needles
- 1615 – Aachen makes needles from fine, pure steel
- 1730 – Stephan Beissel founds a needle factory in Germany
- 1755 – First ever patent for a needle with eye
- 1790 – Thomas Saint applies for a patent for a machine to sew shoes
- 1811 – Abel & Michael Morall constructs a device for the pressing of eyes
- 1845 – Elias Howe & Singer invent the sewing machine
Some types of needles include;
- Embroidery needles - long eye which makes it easier to thread multiple embroidery threads as well as thicker yarns.
- Betweens or Quilting needles – have a small rounded eye. Used for making very fine stitches on heavy fabrics.
- Milliner needles – useful for basting (tacking) and pleating. They are also used in millinery work (designing and manufacturing of hats.)
- Curved needles - Some of their uses include sewing awkward seams and are especially good for box making. They are also useful in textile conservation.
- Beading needles – very fine and have a narrow eye which allows them to fit through the center of beads and sequins.
- Chenille needles - similar to tapestry needles and are useful for ribbon embroidery. They have a large long eye and very sharp point.
- Tapestry needles – a large eye which allows them to carry a heavier weight yarn. Have a blunt tip which is usually bent at a slight angle from the rest of the needle.
Stitches used in Textile Conservation;
Self-couching stitch – used to secure torn, frayed or weak areas to a new support fabric. Quite a common stitch used in textile conservation. Worked parallel to either the warp or the weft.
Support stitch – used to hold large textiles to a new backing fabric while distributing the weight of the thread evenly. Usually the support stitch is applied in a staggered pattern parallel to the warp.
Herring-bone stitch – quite a simple interlacing stitch, similar to cross-stitch. It can be used to join two layers of fabric while maintaining flexibility. Also used to hold down single-fold hems or the edges of patches.
Slip stitch –almost invisible on the right side. It is used for blind hemming and to attach linings to textiles.
Whip stitch – used to join backing fabrics to main piece. When the fabric is opened up, a flat joint is created which avoids seam build up.
Images taken from Canadian Conservation Institute website.
During my time there I was given a variety of tasks to do, including stitch exercises, labelling pieces from the Le Char de Triomphe tapestry from Castle Drogo, cleaning a rare lampshade from The Argory and I even got to help out with some of the tapestries too! I have really enjoyed my time at the studio and have learnt so much from this experience!