After conserving the linings it was time to treat the four satin and cloth of silver/cloth of gold curtains. A similar approach was taken as with the linings, but a lot more work was needed to conserve the appliqué and metal threads as well as the satin.
The original adhesive used (in a historic repair) is, in most cases, water soluble, therefore if the curtains were washed the glue would soften and the pieces of applique would detach from their original positioning.
To avoid the head-scratching jigsaw, it was decided to replace the water soluble adhesive with non-water soluble adhesive (using BEVA 371 film) which is heat or solvent activated and won’t allow the appliquéd areas to detach during the wash process.
The treatment method was as follows:
Agarose gel was applied to areas of appliqué where stitching did not exist or had failed and had been adhered with animal glue and wheat starch paste. The moisture in the gel softened the glue. The piece of appliqué could then be eased off using a thin spatula and placed right-side-down on blotting and the back cleaned with de-ionised water and a cotton bud removing all traces of the previous adhesive.
The area where the appliquéd piece has been taken from was also cleaned, as often residue from the adhesive remained.
Once the consolidation of the applique on the proper left head curtain was complete, preparation was made for wet cleaning. The bath was made on the floor and a team of 6 conservators sponged the fragile surface to make the process as quick as possible.
The number of conservators dropped to four when the rinsing began. The aim was to do one wash bath with detergent and six rinse baths. More rinsing was needed to remove the detergent and the process had to be as short as possible to stop the curtain becoming too soft and fragile. The curtain was dried on a table and weighted to keep it as flat as possible.
To strengthen the satin curtain panels support fabrics were dyed and applied to the reverse. Firstly an adhesive crepeline film was applied to stabilise the weakest areas. It was then activated on the hot suction table and fixed in 2 minutes at 70°C under 60mb of suction.
To make the curtains more structurally sound, a full support layer of silk habotai was dyed and attached to the reverse and secured with spaced lines of running stitches, or ‘grids’.
The curtain was then turned over and work was begun from the front side. The stitching was worked through the support, securing the metal outline threads in place with small stitches and using laid-couching in the severely damaged areas.
The last step before reconstruction was covering the front of the curtain with dyed conservation net. The net was stitched on with evenly spaced vertical lines of running stitches and would act as an additional layer of support and protection.
The reconstruction of the curtains meant the lining had to be re-attached to the satin curtain and the braid had to be re-applied. Re-attaching the lining was done with lines of lock stitches, a method still used today when lining curtains. The remaining pieces of the metal thread braid (click to see previous blog post here) were stitched on along the edges of the curtains.
Before dressing the bed later this year at Knole, the curtains will be re-pleated to their original size and metal rings will be attached as a hanging mechanism.
To read more about the Spangled Bed, click here.