Furnishing Textiles


One of four sets of red fulled wool curtains from the Long Gallery, Brodick Castle, Arran, probably dating from the 19th century. The curtains are of simple construction; pleated with attractive silk braiding about 3cm from the side and bottom edges.

Before restoration

The general condition of the curtains was poor which made them vulnerable and not fit for use due to tears in the fulled wool and missing hooks. The stresses imposed by drawing the curtains and certain accidental damage have ripped the hooks out of the fabric.

There were numerous repairs in the wool and the original heading tape was much damaged or missing.

Rufflet tapes and buckram heading tapes are designed to be robust and to aid the distribution of weight to prevent acute stress points developing.

Before restoration

Condition detail
Most of the silk braid exposed to light had been chemically damaged, physical damage was also evident, probably due to the handling of the edges, and inappropriate repair work. Here you can see well intentioned repairs, which included the use of a sewing machine, the machine foot would have caused sever physical abrasions to the silk wrappings and the cotton cording was punctured.

Light has an effect on fibres causing them to weaken. The ultra violet (high energy end) of the light spectrum is particularly damaging to silk because it is harnessed, in the amphorous regions, into breaking bonds. This result is the shortening of the fibre chains making silk fabrics more easily broken and fractured.

Before restoration

To repair the torn wool, pleats were deconstructed and tears supported onto a suitably dyed fabric (cotton was selected as the most suitable support fabric due to lightness of weight and ease of drape). Whilst the original heading was inadequate it was not removed but covered by a new robust heading tape; a suitable ground for the reattachment of the hooks.

Treatment detail
Pleats were reconstructed once the conservation stitching had been worked.

Treatment detail
New heading tape in place, spanning the original.

In all conservation treatments the chose of materials depends on criteria specific to each object and the use and function of that piece.

Before restoration

Treatment detail
Extensive work was undertaken over the damaged braid. The most unsightly and damaging old repairs were removed; the braid rearranged and caught down in a manner that covers and protects any remaining original material, while imitating some of the detail of the original construction.

Conservation sewing threads do not always replace ‘like with like’, synthetic threads are used due to good stability and a good range of thicknesses and colours. Mercerised cotton stranded is more robust than silk and often used as an alternative due to its high luster.

After Conservation
Detail of conservation stitching and reconstructed pleats.

After Conservation
Detail of the long strands of cotton stranded laid and couched down over the braid.

To reduce the risk of damage occurring it was recommended that curtains were drawn as seldom as possible and closed only with a pulling cord. Historic Houses often rest curtains, while the building is closed for winter, by lifting the bottom edges off the floor onto a chair, this reduction in strain helps to relax the fibres.