Embroidered Hanging

An embroidered Chinese silk banner, probably early 20th Century; brought out of China by Thomas Edwin Scott after the Relief of the Siege of Peking.

The finished restored work

The condition of the silk background was very poor due to an inherent chemical problem, the components in the black dye oxidize the fibres; a process accelerated by high luminance (light exposure), heat and pollutants. Other concerns were detached gold threads, unsightly and ill executed repairs and moth activity in the top felt border.

Mordants are used to make the dye chemically attracted to the fibre; if metallic iron mordants have been used these act as a catalyst and aid the breakdown of fibres. Many dark colours in silk and wools were dyed using iron mordants.

Surface dirt was removed with vacuum suction. Very fine synthetic threads were laid and couched to stabilize the shattered bi-coloured blue/black silk. In the gold work, the poor repair work was removed and loose threads reordered and couched in cotton. The extant blue cotton backing was used as the support for conservation stitching.

Gold threads can be manufactured in a number of different ways and may vary widely in quality of manufacturer and materials.

Treatment detail
Before conservation, much of the stitching securing the gold threads was in poor condition and there were many rather unsightly repairs.

Treatment detail
After conservation, unsightly repairs were removed before the radial brick couching was reworked.

Composite objects are often more susceptible to changing conditions such as humidity & heat, because the component parts react differently and the structure cannot accommodate the differential movement. When gold threads are part organic and part inorganic, swelling of the organic material will strain the metallic coating and potentially pressurise sewing threads.

Treatment detail
a dyed nylon tuile was tensioned and secured over the stabilised silk. In effect the hanging was sandwiched between the backing and the net overlay.


Fine sheer or micro filament net fabrics are often used as an overlay which can be disguised by dyeing. The net has more than one function; it protects and the tensioning gives some overall support.

Treatment detail
Moth damaged top border was encapsulated in a coloured Baumann cotton.

Treatment detail
The hanging system was improved by reinforcing the top with webbing tape, creating a firmer fixing ground for the hanging hoops.

Wool felt is a favorite food for the clothes moth, especially if it is dirty and in a location where the larvae can feed undisturbed. Central heating prolongs the active season and damage can progress quickly if the early signs of infestation are not detected.

After Conservation
The weight is well distributed along the top edge, compared with the hanging before conservation.