Reviving the Roosters

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.