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). 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.

Conservation of Cragside’s Chenille Carpet

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.

IMG_0145Chenille carpet in the dining room- Cragside House

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.

IMG_0151Vacuuming each square metre with a Miele vacuum cleaner and large flat head tool attachment at 90mb suction for 16 minutes.

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.

IMG_0719The carpet arriving in the studio

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.

Reception of an Embassy rehung.

Re-hangingAfter full conservation treatment at our conservation studio, the Reception of an Embassy tapestry is now back hanging in the Ballroom of Powis Castle.

Property staff using the hoist mechanism to rehang the tapestry.Property staff using a hoist mechanism to rehang the tapestry.

If you are in the area, please do go and take a look or if you would like to know a bit more about this tapestry take a look at The National Trust’s Collections online information here.

Reception of an Embassy – Bulletin 4

Continuing on from earlier posts about the conservation work we undertook on the Reception of an Embassy tapestry from Powis Castle here is the fourth in a series of bulletins we sent to the property. This bulletin dates from June 2014.

The relative silence from the Studio has been due to us tackling the challenging vertical cut that ran through the whole length of the tapestry.  This cut had been crudely re-stitched and was coming apart so conservation was necessary for aesthetic and structural reasons.

I have just calculated that based on 5½ warps per cm and a total height of 370cm that we inserted over 2,000 warps.  This section took us 360 hours to stitch, by far the longest in the whole tapestry.

All the new warps inserted across the long vertical cut which runs the full height of the tapestry © National Trust Textile Conservation Studio

All the new warps inserted across the long vertical cut which runs the full height of the tapestry.

Once all the new warps were in place we could begin to stitch them in place with brick couching in stranded cottons and wools to match the missing weft.  In some areas there was loose original weft still remaining.  In these areas the warps were woven in and out of the weft to mimic the original weaving technique. 007

Detail showing the failed stitching along the vertical cut.  


Detail showing the warps inserted across the vertical cut.

The vertical cut went through the Latin inscription ‘EX FERRO/FI(V)NT/QVE/DVRATVRA/PER EVVM’, which translates as ‘out of iron come things that will last forever’, on the banner over the striped doorway and a letter was missing.  This was the letter ‘V’ in FIVNT.  In order to replace the letter a tracing was taken of another letter ‘V’ in the inscription onto Melinex, a clear polyester sheet.  This tracing was used to determine the positioning of the couching stitches that would make up the missing letter.IMG_1573

 New warps have been inserted across the vertical cut and a tracing of existing letters made to fill in the missing letters.


 Part way through couching with cream and dark brown wool to recreate the missing letters. IMG_2586 The missing letters filled in.

The other major challenge that we have faced in the second half of the tapestry has been some of the crude re-weaving that has been carried out in the dark brown wool areas.

The dark brown wool weft is particularly vulnerable to degradation due to the iron salts that were used to mordant (fix) the dyes originally.  These iron salts accelerate the degradation of the wool fibres with the result that the dark brown wools are often lost.

In the Powis tapestry the re-weaving has been crudely executed in a yarn which is black rather than dark brown to match the original.  A small sample of the re-weaving yarn was taken from the reverse of the tapestry and examined under a microscope to determine what type of fibre it was – it proved to be 100% acrylic!  Having said this the re-weaving was very extensive, so in areas where it had been reasonably well executed the decision was made to leave it in place, blending in any further weak areas with new brick couching in wool.  In the areas where it was very crude, causing distortions and the black colour was visually disturbing the decision was made to remove it.  The decision as to which areas to leave and which to remove was made at the outset of the treatment with the whole tapestry laid out so that specific areas could be examined against the overall effect.

The striped archway once the crude acrylic re-weaving had been removed and replaced with dark brown wool brick couching.

 The final five sections of the tapestry are in better condition, so we are feeling like we are on the homeward straight now.  The next job is to order the weaving of some new brown galloons with which to edge the tapestry.  When the tapestry was taken down for conservation it had a blue linen fabric edging all four sides, when this was removed the original dark brown galloons were revealed on the two side edges.  The decision was made to have new galloons woven for all four sides to give a crisp outline to the whole tapestry.  The original side galloons will be protected beneath the new replacement ones.

The tapestry will then be lined with down proof cotton cambric to protect the conservation stitching and to reduce the movement of air through the tapestry and consequently the soiling.  We currently propose to re-use the popper tape to re-hang the tapestry from as it is in good condition.

Reception of an Embassy – Bulletin 3

Continuing on from earlier posts about the conservation work we undertook on the Reception of an Embassy tapestry from Powis Castle here is the third in a series of bulletins we sent to the property. This bulletin dates from January 2014.Tapestry being worked on in the studio © National Trust Textile Conservation Studio

The tapestry is mounted onto a frame and stitched onto a support of linen scrim. The conservation stitching provides a combination of strength and support by evenly attaching the tapestry to the linen support fabric and an aesthetic reintegration of missing areas of design.

An area of previous crude repair which was unpicked, new warps were inserted and then couched down with coloured wools to match the missing wefts. By removing these visually distracting repairs the original weaving can be read more readily.

The shoulder and face of this figure have had a previous repair which has been crudely executed in unsympathetic yarns and colours. The repair was removed, new warps were inserted across the hole, then couched down through to the linen support fabric with wool and stranded cottons in the correct colours. This conservation stitching gives a more accurate impression of the original design. The aim with tapestry conservation is that when the tapestry is viewed overall the original design should be harmonious and able to be read, but when the tapestry is viewed close to it should be possible to see which elements of the weaving are original and those that are repairs. The spaced couching over one warp and under the next uses the same principle as the original weaving, but is carried out through a support fabric so that it is possible to easily identify it as a repair.

The work on the tapestry is progressing well and we have completed ten out of 26 sections. As well as dealing with the inherent weaknesses in the tapestry, for example failing horizontal slits and degrading dark brown wool and cream silk at some point in its history the tapestry has been cut up into quarters and then re-joined. The top left hand quarter has obviously been exposed to more agents of deterioration during its life as it has several bleached stains and completely missing areas. It is not known what has caused this damage, but in the bleached areas the wool warps and weft are very brittle and there are completely missing areas. In some of the missing areas it is not possible to know exactly was the missing design was so the decision was made to in-fill the hole with a dyed fabric patch. A specially woven ribbed fabric was used to imitate the tapestry weave to give the correct texture.

The next few sections of tapestry that we are moving onto are less damaged and their conservation will be more straight-forward; before we face the challenge of the vertical cut that runs the whole width of the tapestry.