After documentation it was time to start the treatment. The first step was to lay out the linings and satin inside a humidity tent created from a metal frame (a strawberry cage!) with a polythene sheet over to enclose the lining. A humidifier was set up inside to pump a fine water spray into the tent.
The linings were allowed to reach a humidity of 95% to allow them to relax. As the object was starting to relax glass weights were applied and it was then allowed to dry flat.
Humidification resulted in the linings and satin to regain some of their lustre and body.
After testing a variety of methods, detergents and buffer solutions, each piece of lining was washed in the wash table, pinned out flat and left to dry.
An IMS : Acetone : Water (40:40:20) mix was used at the beginning of the wash to remove greasy soiling, followed by a wash bath with Dehypon LS54 (a conservation grade detergent) without a buffer and also with a buffer with a pH of 6. The linings had an initial pH of 3.2 and was very acidic, so by introducing these different wash baths and using a buffer, which is a means of holding the pH at a steady level, we allowed the pH to be increased slowly.
The soiling was very bound within the fibres, probably due to acidity, and proved difficult to remove through wet cleaning. Some dye loss also occurred although prior to cleaning it was noted that the ground of the silk was ‘cloudy’ where the dye had run from the crimson into the cream areas. This was probably due to the high humidity which, in combination with historic atmospheric pollution at Knole, had caused the silk to become more acidic and de-stabilised the dye. After wet cleaning there was still some greyness to the object with striations of grey but overall the linings had improved immensely.
Once washed, the damask linings had regained some of their handle and were less fragile. However they were much split and required an even, all-over support but could not withstand extensive stitching. An adhesive support was selected as the most appropriate treatment. Fine silk crepeline, a very fine gauze-like fabric, was dyed to match the damask and the crepeline was stretched out on polythene (which makes a backing film) and a 25% solution in soft water of Lascaux adhesive, (360HV and 498HV in a 2: 1 ratio) was applied with a small roller. This creates a fine adhesive backed fabric.
The damask panels were laid out and aligned and small ‘plasters’ of crepeline were used to hold distorted areas in place. Panels of adhesive crepeline were cut to shape and then applied using a roller system and laying the film evenly on to the reverse of the damask. The panels were turned face up and loose fragments were re-positioned.
The adhesive film was then activated using a heat suction table and once cool the adhesive was set and the silk fixed to the support. Both linings had to be activated in two parts as they were too wide for the table.
The final stages of the treatment of the linings are to apply a dyed silk support to the reverse and dyed conservation net overlay using support stitching. This will take place once the proper right curtain linings have reached the same stage.
To read more on the Spangled bed project, click here.