Laura sent me two identical goldwork on silk embroideries that are in terrible shape. She thinks I may have the skills to save them. I appreciate the thought. After a year of restoration research (I really don’t want to screw up), I began the restoration process. Let’s see what we have to start with:
Yeah, it’s pretty ugly. Take a closer look:
When you do goldwork embroidery, you use layers of fabric so the weight of the gold doesn’t rip apart the fabric. The goldwork itself is stunning, which is why I am so surprised that the embroiderer screwed up the fabric layer part. This is one layer of silk on a layer of netting. The roosters and other birds are padded and therefore 3D – making them that much heavier. The silk has now hardened and crumbles like paper. The weight of the gold is too much for the silk.
Let’s enjoy the goldwork:
I’m not giving up without a fight. Today, I cleaned it using Restoration, a fabric cleanser made specially for antique fabrics. Using a paint brush, I applied it to the fabric only and then used the same technique with plain water to rinse. The silk is so hard. I had hoped the water would soften it. We shall see. Phoebe is very concerned.
We’ll see what happens after everything dries. Theoretically, the next step will be to insert a layer of muslin between the silk and the netting – adding some support. Then I can use Miracle Muck (an archival polymer adhesive) to glue everything back into place. Then I would add some quasi-quilting stitches in invisible thread for more support. To quote the inimitable Tim Gunn: this concerns me.
If the silk remains too brittle, then I may have to cut out the centers and try to save the goldwork edges. You could stick a gigantic candle in the center or a tricked out Christmas tree.
Ultimately, the pieces would be matted to a velvet board for further support. In future, they would have to be displayed on a horizontal surface, like a glass table or shadow box on a table. Next weekend, Phoebe and I will try to muck! Fingers crossed for the miracle part.