Studio life

Fringing galore

Before the Spangled Bed satin curtains could be treated they had to be deconstructed. The first step in deconstruction was removing the metal fringing along the edges.

The metal thread fringes which adorn the outer edges of the curtains have been examined and documented during the past few months. There are two types of narrow fringes which border the curtains. The yellow-tipped fringe is composed of a woven structure of yellow silk bordering the woven silver metal thread heading and a silver metal thread looped fringe. The red-tipped fringes are composed in the same manner but alternate between silver and gold metal threads. Drawings and photographs were produced to understand the structure of the fringes.

Spangled bed trimmings

Odd lengths of both fringes had been used to trim the sides and hems of all the curtains. We also found silk attachment threads to the reverse of the fringes, suggesting that they may have had another use before being used to trim the bed curtains as we see them today.

The position of the fringes and their attachment method was also carefully noted. Once the fringes had been documented they were removed from the satin and then surface cleaned using a conservation vacuum.

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Removing the fringing for wet cleaning

Our next focus turned to developing a wet cleaning method for the fringes, to reduce heavy soiling and tarnishing. After consulting the Metals Conservation Adviser for the National Trust, we developed a metal cleaning solution similar to commercially available Silver Dip. However, our solution was specifically formulated for the fringes and its strength tested for safety of use. Small sections of the fringe (15cm at a time) were cleaned with a PH buffered wash solution, agitated with a soft bristle brush to loosen dirt and corrosion products. Next, the metal cleaning solution was applied to the section of fringe with a brush, the dirt and corrosion products absorbed by blotting paper. The buffered wash solution was used again to stabilise the PH of the fringe. Finally the whole length of fringe was rinsed four times with deionised water in a shallow tray before being pinned out to dry on a soft board.

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Fringing before and after cleaning

To read more about the Spangled Bed, click here.

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