This last Spring we finished and returned a large 6 x 9m chenille carpet from Cragside House in Northumberland. The carpet has recently been relaid and newly commision eyemats installed to replace the old druggets – see Cragside’s blog.
This series of posts is from our bulletins throughout the project to the property and show some of the challenges we faced with such a large object.
Bulletin 1. Conservation of the Dining Room Carpet – Cleaning
The Cragside dining room carpet is a Chenille wool faced carpet possibly manufactured by Templetons around 1870-80 specifically for the room. It is an Axminster construction with a wool warp and weft foundation, with jute stuffer yarns. The top layer of wool chenille which forms the pile is held in place with additional cotton catcher warps.
In February 2013 a condition assessment and treatment estimate was undertaken on the chenille carpet. After initial tests it was decided that a full conservation treatment of surface cleaning, wet cleaning and conservation stitching would be possible. It had originally been hoped that conservation work would take place in situ, onsite, but this proved to be very difficult and so the carpet was transported to the Textile Conservation Studio at Blickling.
In February 2014 a week was spent onsite at Cragside to surface clean the carpet and roll it in preparation for transportation to the Studio.
Stages of work onsite included:
- The carpet was gridded out into 1 metre square
- Each square metre of carpet was carefully brushed with a soft rubber brush to remove lint and fluff from the surface of the pile.
- Miele vacuum cleaners were used with the large flat head tool attachment at 90mb suction for 16 minutes per metre square section.
- Where possible webbing patches adhered to the reverse of the carpet were removed.
- The carpet was then rolled and at the same time the reverse was vacuumed at 90mb suction.
The carpet arrived at the Studio on Wednesday 5th March. Working in conjunction with Glyn Charnock of the National Carpet Cleaners Association, tests were undertaken to identify cleaning methods and equipment which would be effective whilst preventing damage both during and after the clean. In particular, the jute stuffer yarns were of concern as they are brittle and very sensitive to moisture.
Although the carpet had been meticulously vacuumed whilst onsite, there was still an amount of gritty deposits deep within the pile of the carpet. Gritty dirt can be quite problematic, wearing away at the structure of the carpet over time.
Tamping or back beating the carpet with latex paddles is the usual way to deep clean gritty deposits from carpets, but as this carpet measures almost 6 x 9 meters a less labour intensive method was developed using a rotary beater bar vacuum cleaner and a piece of sacrificial carpet.
The method used for tamping:
- The chenille carpet was laid face down on the studio floor.
- A sacrificial carpet was placed face up on top.
- The pile of the sacrificial carpet was vacuumed using a rotary beater bar vacuum vibration causes grit / dust to fall from historic carpet below.
- The chenille carpet was lifted and debris vacuumed up each time (a new bag was used & kept to weigh debris.)
- The process was repeated as necessary.
- Finally the front was vacuumed again and the pile groomed.
The wet cleaning method developed was a combination of studio manager Ksynia Marko and Glyn Charnock’s experience, knowledge of products and equipment. Dehypon, a conservation grade detergent, was chosen for its desirable characteristics and low working temperature in conjunction with an industrial application using an upholstery extraction tool which had provision for variable water flow rate application.
Once fully dry, each metre square was then vacuumed again for 5 minutes to remove loosened particles of grit, as seen under the microscope after testing.
The cleaning method was very successful at removing the soiling and grit from the carpet. The carpet now looks considerably cleaner and the colours brighter. The flattened pile of the carpet has been lifted and it now has a rich and luxurious appearance.
Following on from the cleaning, testing will be undertaken to find a suitable solvent to remove historic adhesive from the reverse of the carpet before attaching a new linen tape. Then conservation stitching will commence.