Tapestry is a woven fabric, the pictorial design of which is an integral part of the structure, rather than stitched on to a pre-existing canvas as with embroidery.

A late 19th  or early 20th Century tapestry, with verdure design based on a 1680-1720 original.

The tapestry was clean but weak due to the loss of coloured wefts and failure of the threads used to sew up slits. The tapestry had been restored in the past but the reweavings were not skillfully executed, they were crude and unsightly. The galloons were not original and in a poor state.

Tapestries are under considerable strain from their own (often) great weight and as the coloured wefts, traditionally wool and silk, are not continuous from selvedge to selvedge the gaps or slits become points of weakness if the sewing threads fail. For this reason weak tapestries are often given a full linen support backing.

It is important for a conservator to select the most stable materials to reduce chemical interaction with an object and to minimize fading on exposure to light.

Tapestry conservation techniques are often very time consuming, exacting and repetitive. It is important to a conservator to select the most stable, to reduce chemical interaction with an object, and long lasting materials, for example to light fading.

Conservation Detail
A previous repair before removal; unstable colours often fade at a very different rate from the original making any repair work very obvious.

Conservation Detail
A detail of brick couching. The lines follow the direction of the weaving (where possible), the weave of the support fabric is aligned with the stitching lines and the correct amount of excess or “bag” is incorporated so that the support fabric does not pull and cause tensions. It is important that the stitching lines extend into the adjacent stronger areas of weaving.

Stitching trials are carried out to work out appropriate spacing for the conservation stitching. The criteria are: avoiding “tram line” effect, obtaining desirable colour blending to aid the visual interpretation of the story or scene and providing enough support to stabilise the tapestry.

The galloons (not original to the piece) were in a very poor condition so it was decided to reconstruct the tapestry with new purpose dyed woollen pieces. The coloured border enhanced the tapestry and added definition to the edges.

Many tapestries have been altered during their lifespan and it is often the borders and galloons that suffered the scissors; they are frequently cut into or removed because the tapestry was too big for the intended space.

After Conservation
The tapestry was lined in cotton sateen and a Velcro hanging system stitched along the top.

The chosen lining fabric should be an effective barrier to prevent dust passing through to the front of the tapestry.

Velcro® (or hook & loop fastening) is a very effective aid to hanging textiles because it distributes their weight evenly and securely.