Plowden Medal winner – Ksynia Marko

We are delighted to let you know that Ksynia Marko our Textile Conservation Advisor has been awarded by the Royal Warrant Holders Association the prestigious Plowden Medal 2016 for her outstanding contribution to Britain’s cultural heritage. You can read more about the award  here.

250-year-old tapestries are checked for pests at Osterley Park

250-year-old tapestries at Osterley are checked for pests by textile conservation advisor, Ksynia Marko, from Norfolk. Photo © Johnny Green/PA Wire

1. Spangled bed, Knole Kent.

Since late 2013 we have been working on the bed curtains from the Spangled bed from Knole in Kent. This series of posts will update you on the work we have done to date.

This beautiful bed, which is covered in delicate gold and silver spangles, has been a voyage of discovery it is thought to date from the 1620’s and appears to have been commissioned by Lionel Cranfield in about 1621 and eventually arrived at Knole through the marriage of his daughter Frances to the Earl of Dorset.

25556It is important to become familiar with an object before embarking on treatment and the team has taken time to think through the various processes, weighing up what can and cannot be done.

Curtains showing glimpses of damage before the conservation process

IMG_9984conv aHead curtain detail showing original colour and spangles beneath the net covering on a side border. The border fabric matches that of the bed coverlet and headcloth and is a different design to the vertical appliqué panels of the rst of the curtain and the foot curtain.

Detailed documentation of the make up of each curtain, the materials, fabrics and stitching patterns found will mean that their original apprearence is becoming better understood. Careful examination is revealing the complexity of the structure of the curtains which, in conjunction with research on their history before they came into the possesion of the Sackvill family, may help provide a clearer understanding of their original use.


Coarse red net encases the curtains and work started in early 2014 to unpick this net and the stitch repairs which have been worked through all the layers. The linings are extremely fragile and are very rare early damask which has been dated to between 1585 and 1610. The initial plan was to remove the lining, wet clean them and mount them onto support fabric whilst further test are undertaken on the satin silk.

Conservators removing the heavy net layer (left) and the fragile and splitting damsk lining of the head curtain (right)


The Balfour of Burleigh Tercentenary Prizes for Exceptional Achievement in Crafts. In 2015 The Radcliffe Trust commemorated the 300th anniversary of its establishment by Dr John Radcliffe of Oxford. To celebrate the event it asked organisations that it supports for nominations of individuals that demonstrated excellence in a particular field. The National Trust nominated two members of staff, Trevor Hardy, Master Mason at Hardwick Hall, and Ksynia Marko the textile studio manager. Both Trevor and Ksynia received certificates as recognition of their work and to mark their nomination.

The list of nominees and special prize winners as well as pictures of the celebratory dinner are available on the Radcliffe Trust website at:


National Trust Magazine The Spring edition, out now, features an interview with Ksynia in which she describes her own training and some of the work being undertaken at the studio. ‘Much remains to be done to preserve our rich textile heritage, from humble lampshades to huge carpets, and we would like to thank all those who continue to support our work.’

 ‘Our Norfolk’ is an impartial online guide…
designed to help you make the most of our county.
See the textile conservation studio featured under The Arts category;


Nor-folk – See some of our staff featured in the ‘rogues’ gallery featured on this independent web site. Some wonderful portraits of working people taken by professional photographer Hal Shinnie, who spent a day at the studio trying to make us all look beautiful and interesting – thanks to his patience and expertise he had some success!

Other local news

The North Norfolk Post December issue featured an article on the revival of historic looms, part of the Living Looms Project based in Stourport, enabling a replica carpet to be made for the library at Felbrigg Hall. The original dates from around 1830. The new carpet was installed just before Christmas so you will be able to see it when the house opens on the 27th February.

Felbrigg will host an exhibition of needlework cushions inspired by the collection and made by the Eastern Region Embroiderers Guild members. Visit this lovely property and see the exhibition which runs 30th April – 29th June.



Green champions celebrated at Environmental Awards

We had a lovely evening at the National Trust’s East of England’s Environmental award having been nominated in the Waste-not Category.
The Studio recycles 88% of it’s waste through our waste contractor Biffa as well as composing our kitchen waste.
Sadly we lost out to the very deserving Peckover House.
It was good to see how our properties in the East of England are striving to reach our environmental targets, sometimes in very creative ways.
Read more news from the awards in this post from the National Trust East of England.

National Trust in the East

From reducing energy use and saving water to planning for a green future, work by National Trust teams to help create a greener region has been celebrated at an awards ceremony last night.


With winners coming from Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex, the East of England Environmental Awards saw muddy boots, kitchen uniforms and blustery coastlines swapped for suits and evening wear for the ceremony at Anglesey Abbey, near Cambridge.

National Trust teams from around the East were competing for prizes in ten categories, including Green Kitchen, Wise Use of Water, Holiday Cottage Hero, Best Energy Reduction and Green Team of the Year.


As the largest conservation charity in Europe, the National Trust is committed to reducing its energy consumption by 20% by 2020. Of the remaining 80%, half will be from renewable energy sources.

Speaking after the ceremony, the Trust’s Environmental Practices Adviser for the East of England…

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Hatching or Hachures

A report on a tapestry weaving training day by Textile Conservation Intern Yoko Hanegreefs

On the 18th & 19th September Caron Penney, Master Weaver and textile artist came to the Studio to teach a two day course on understanding tapestry. As textile conservators a good understanding of how tapestries are made and of different weaving techniques can only be beneficial when carrying out conservation treatments. So everyone was very excited to have the opportunity of weaving a tapestry sample for themselves.

IMG_4731Caron Penney demonstrating weaving a diagonal line

 After learning how to warp up a simple tapestry weaving frame, we tried out different weaving techniques that are used in both historic and modern tapestries. As historic tapestries are traditionally woven from the reverse side and modern tapestries more commonly woven from the front, we tried out various techniques from both sides.

IMG_4705 adjStudio overview – setting up the weaving frame

The first technique we tried out was weaving diagonals. This is often used as a dividing line between two colour blocks in a design.

IMG_7185 adjDiagonal lines – sample

IMG_7194Diagonal lines – Gideon tapestry “Gideon chooses his army” Hardwick Hall

Other techniques included slits, and single and double interlock. A slit is created by weaving two blocks of colour that meet but do not go over the same warps, so consequently a gap is left between the two colours. The weaver then sews this up. Historically a linen or silk thread was used.

With a single interlock, a line is created by weaving with two colours towards each other and interlocking the two threads. A double interlock is similar but can only be woven from the reverse side. One colour thread is linked around two threads of the adjacent colour, creating a strong bond between the two colour blocks. The linking can be seen from the reverse, but gives the impression of a simple line on the front.

IMG_7187adjSewn slits and double interlocks – reverse sample

IMG_4839 adjSewn slits and double interlocks – as found on reverse on a late seventeenth century tapestry

Hachures is a weaving technique used to let two colours run into each other. It is often used with a lighter and darker tone of the same colour to create shading.

Hatching is a technique used more often today to create a shift in colour.

IMG_7192 adjHatching and hachures – sample

IMG_4843 adj

Hachures – as found on a late seventeenth century tapestry

The last technique we tried out was blending. Different colour thread strands were mixed prior to weaving to make up a weaving thread. By regularly changing the strands of coloured thread, you can create a mottled effect.

IMG_7185adjBlending – modern sample


IMG_4945adjBlending – as found on a late seventeenth century tapestry

I very much enjoyed the course and learnt a lot about historic and contemporary weaving.  I am sure that all of us will take this knowledge back to the tapestries we are currently working on and have a closer look at the different techniques used.



Conservation of Cragside’s chenille carpet – part 2

This series of posts is from our bulletins to the property throughout the conservation project of Cragside’s chenille carpet they show some of the challenges we faced with such a large object.

Bulletin 2.  Adhesive removal and yarn selection

Tamping and cleaning of the carpet allowed an assessment of the condition of the reverse. It was found that hessian tapes had been glued onto the reverse of the carpet in many places to provide support. These were applied not just around the edges where the weave had begun to fail due to moth attack, but also in many areas where previous repairs had been worked through to the back. There were two adhesives present; a glassy, crystal like, yellow adhesive thought to be shellac and a firm, gummy, cream coloured adhesive which was latex.

glue with notesImage showing the two adhesive types present

Due to the hard nature of both of these adhesives they needed to be removed to allow a needle to be passed through the carpet for conservation stitching.

Extensive tests using different solvents, solvent mixes and poultices were undertaken. It was discovered that, although the shellac adhesive was easily activated with a few solvents, the main problem was removing the softened adhesive from the woollen weave and fibres of the carpet.

Different application methods of the solvents were tried. These included applying the solvents through Sympatex® (a breathable waterproof material that allows only vapours through) and the use of a Laponite® poultice (clay like substance that holds the solvents allowing slow evaporation)¹. Unfortunately none of these processes helped to draw the adhesive from the surface of the carpet and the problem was compounded by the Laponite® which was also difficult to remove from the weave. In both cases, once the solvent evaporated, the adhesive redistributed, becoming very hard so that a needle could not be passed through.

As a result the initial approach was to manually break the shellac adhesive by applying pressure with hand tools and removing the dusted shellac with a vacuum.

It was found that the latex was easily activated by the application of white spirit but, like the shellac, once activated it was also incredibly difficult to remove from the carpets base weave. Using a wax working hand tool the sticky jelly like adhesive was slowly and methodically lifted from the surface. Not all of the residual adhesive could be removed from the weave, but it was enough that the surface was no longer sticky and conservation stitching would now be possible.

While the work to remove the adhesive was being undertaken a thorough search for woollen yarns was carried out. The yarns will be needed to infill the many worn and lost areas of chenille pile on the front of the carpet. In most places, where there is now very little of the pile and pattern remaining, the yarns will be laid down flat with couching to secure in place. Where the pile is still good but small areas of damage exist it is hoped that the yarn can be inserted like tufts to infill losses.Many different yarn samples were acquired and their qualities were compared. The yarn selected was the double knit Blue Faced Leicester supplied by the West Yorkshire Spinners. It is thought that this yarn will provide good durability and strength. It also proved to dye well when sampled.

_MG_2527Choosing the right yarn. Short listed yarns were test dyed before deciding on the double knit Blue Faced Leicester wool (far right)

In the next phase of conservation, stitching will be undertaken to consolidate damage on the reverse of the carpet before starting full conservation on the front.

¹ Laponite® is a registered trademark of BYK Additives Ltd.