A Hidden History at Claydon House


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The elaborate 17th-century wedding suit of Edmund Verney Rosamund has been busy writing an article for the National Trust Arts Buildings and Collections bulletin about the conservation of Edmund Verney’s wedding suit. Take a look at page 14 for her … Continue reading

New light shines on historic Mortlake tapestries

Textile Conservation Studio:

Some of these Blickling Mortlake Tapestries are ones we have in the past worked on at The Textile Conservation Studio.
It is great that they can now be seen clearly by visitors through the use of LED lighting.

Originally posted on National Trust in the East :

Blickling Hall’s 17th century Mortlake tapestries were the ultimate piece of furnishing one-upmanship in their day and remain one of the most significant items in Blickling’s collection. However, the rich colours in these tapestries have been shadowed in dim light for years to help prevent them from fading. Now, visitors will be able to appreciate the full spectrum of figures and characters on these magnificent tapestries with the installation of LED lighting.


House manager Jan Brookes-Bullen is delighted the tapestries will be seen in a new light…

These eight-piece works chart the story of Abraham and are based on a series of designs first woven in Brussels in around 1540. The earliest known set was bought by Henry VIII in 1543-4 and survives at Hampton Court Palace. The tapestries at Blickling were woven in the 1650s at the Mortlake workshop on the banks of the Thames outside…

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Tonsorial Tips from the 16th Century

Here at the Studio we thought that we could do our bit for ‘Movember’, the charity that has been set up to raise awareness of male cancers. The campaign asks men to take action by changing their appearance by growing a moustache for the 30 days of November, to spark conversation and raise funds.

DSC06863We are conserving a 16th century tapestry from Powis Castle in Wales. The tapestry is entitled ‘The Reception of an Embassy’ and it has been described as the most enigmatic tapestry in the Trust’s collection. It is uncertain what historical event the tapestry depicts and there are many possible suggestions. However, the accurate architectural details identify the location as Damascus, and it is thought that the scene represents a Venetian diplomat meeting officials from that city.

One fact that is certain, however, is that the figures in this tapestry are very ‘on trend’ and are pretty much all sporting fine moustaches and beards.

The tapestry had many problems that have been addressed during the conservation, but one that occurred throughout the piece was the decay of the dark brown wool wefts. This is due to the iron salts that were used to mordant or fix the dyes, which hastens the breakdown of the wool fibres. This loss of brown wool has resulted in loss of outlines and some crude re-weaving. In some places this has happened in the gentlemen’s moustaches and we have had to use some well placed conservation stitches to return them to their former glory.

Hope that these gentlemen will encourage you in your pursuit of hirsute perfection and should you wish to find out more about the Movember cause please follow the link.

Or to find out more about this tapestry: National Trust Collections – Powis tapestry.



This buff coat and doublet has come to us from Seaton Delaval Hall, Northumberland and according to the note stitched to it belonged to Sir Jacob Astley (1579-1652), Baron Astley of Reading who served as a Sergent Major to King Charles 1st in the Civil war. He fought at Edgehill and Naseby and after surrendering to the Parliamentarians in 1642 he eventually retired to Maidstone and died in 1652.

This piece is currently being conserved through a donation by the Peoples Postcode Lottery and should be back on display at Seaton Delaval for the 2015 opening season.


Comings and goings in the studio

img_7226.jpg Each year we produce an annual report for our activities in the studio.

Our latest report covers the years 2012 to 2014 and gives you a concise glimpse into the last two years of the studio and our work within the National Trust.

Annual report 2012 – 2014

Further reports can be found on our annual report page


A brief history of the needle

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;

  1. Embroidery needles - long eye which makes it easier to thread multiple embroidery threads as well as thicker yarns.
  1. Betweens or Quilting needles – have a small rounded eye. Used for making very fine stitches on heavy fabrics.
  1. Milliner needles – useful for basting (tacking) and pleating. They are also used in millinery work (designing and manufacturing of hats.) 
  1. Curved needles  Some of their uses include sewing awkward seams and are especially good for box making. They are also useful in textile conservation.
  1. Beading needles – very fine and have a narrow eye which allows them to fit through the center of beads and sequins.
  1. Chenille needles similar to tapestry needles and are useful for ribbon embroidery. They have a large long eye and very sharp point.
  1. 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;

Couching stitch

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

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

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


Slip stitch –almost invisible on the right side. It is used for blind hemming and to attach linings to textiles.


Whip stitchWhip 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!

Studio tours – Heritage Open Day

Heritage Open Day Tours 2014On the 13th September, as part of Heritage Open Days, we are giving you the opportunity to join a free tour of the studio. These tours are limited in numbers so booking is essential.

The tours last for around 1 hour and give you a chance to see what our conservators are working on and see some of the National Trusts beautiful textiles up close.

We will also be providing tea and cakes for donations to the National Trusts ongoing conservation work.