Textile Conservation Studio Internship

Textile Conservation Intern working on state bed at Blickling Hall

I am Rosie Butler-Hall, the new Textile Conservation Intern at the National Trust Textile Conservation Studio in Norfolk. I started working at the studio at the beginning of September following the completion of my MA in conservation of cultural Heritage at Lincoln University. Previous to that I had also completed a Graduate diploma in conservation of historic objects and a bachelor’s degree in textile design at Norwich University of the Arts.

I visited the studio in 2015 for a weeks work placement which is when I first found out about the internship. Alongside my post graduate degrees I also completed a number of other textile conservation placements, notably at Doddington Hall in Lincolnshire, working on their Heritage Lottery funded tapestry conservation project, and at Strangers Hall in Norwich packing their textiles for storage. 

Latest updates

31 May 19

Visit to Hampton Court Palace

I was invited to Hampton Court palace by Mika Takami where they have a tapestry cleaning facility as part of their in-house textile conservation studio. As well as washing tapestries from the Historic Royal Palace collections, they also deal with private work at the studio. The washing facility is housed in one of the greenhouses at the palace, on a purpose built wash table with scaffold frame. The tapestry is first wetted out until all the fibres have been hydrated and the surface of the tapestry is submerged in water. Following this, detergent is gently sprayed from jets moving across the surface of the tapestry attached to a metal beam. Several textile conservators sponged the textile to remove the ingrained dirt from the surface, they are laid face down on a movable platform above the tapestry. Following the sponging the tapestry was rinsed until the clarity of the water reached as near to 100% as possible. Two conservation scientists took samples of the water at regular intervals using a UV reader to gauge the clarity of the water. Once the tapestry had been rinsed, the wash bath was drained and the tapestry was covered entirely in toweling to blot it dry and fans were put on to dry the tapestry. Once the tapestry was cleaned and left to dry I was given a tour of the textile conservation studio. Unlike the National Trust Textile Conservation Studio, the studio at Hampton Court is separated into specialisms. There is a costume conservation department, an upholstery department and a tapestry conservation department. Each year there is a rota change and each of the conservators move around amongst the three specialisms ensuring that they gain a thorough experience of all areas of textile conservation. My visit to the Hampton Court Palace studio was an invaluable experience for me, not only because I was able to see the washing of a tapestry from start to finish, an experience I had never seen before. But also having an insight into another studio enabled me to see how a studio dealing with many segregated specialisms is run.

Textile Conservation Studio Intern external visit

30 Apr 19

External training, painted textiles by Vivienne Lockhead

Vivienne Lockhead is a painted textile conservator with 27 years of experience, and recently finished working at the Peoples’ History Museum in Manchester. She came to the National Trust Textile Conservation Studio to give us a two day course in the conservation of painted textiles. In preparation for the practical part of the course, myself and intern Bathilde prepared some adhesive coated fabric samples. We stretched silk crepeline and Stabiltex® over a large metal table covered in silicone release paper, making sure that the grain of the fibers were straight. The Stabiltex® and silk crepeline were then coated in Beva gel in white spirit and left to dry. A second metal table was covered in polythene and another two pieces of Stabiltex® and silk crepeline were stretched across it ensuring that the grain was straight. These were then coated in a mixture of Lascaux adhesive in water. Once dry the samples were then cut up into strips to hand out during the practical workshop held by Vivienne. On the first day, Vivienne gave us a presentation about her career at the Peoples’ History Museum, and the painted union banners that she had encountered there. The second day was a practical workshop in which we analysed a series of historic painted textiles, looking at the deterioration which they had suffered. In the afternoon session, Vivienne had prepared a series of painted sample on different backgrounds and using different paints, such as oil paints and acrylic paints on linen canvas, cotton and silk. We had to use a series of different solvents to clean the samples and judge whether the solvents were suitable for that type of paint/fibre. The prepared adhesive coated samples were applied over a variety of different paints and their appearance was noted as to their suitability as a conservation choice.

Rosie Butler Hall, trialling painted textile conservation techniques

15 Apr 19

External training, Carpet training by Ksynia Marko and Glynn Charnock

As part of the yearly external training sessions at the National Trust Textile Conservation Studio Ksynia Marko and Glynn Charnock gave us a one day masterclass in understanding historic carpets. Ksynia Marko is a highly experienced textile conservators with years of experience in the conservation of carpets, and Glynn Charnock is a professional historic carpet cleaner. We were introduced to the basic structures of carpets, how they are made and how to identify different types of carpets such as Axminsters and Wiltons and understanding whether the pile was made up using a symmetrical knot, or an asymmetric knot using a very handy trick involving a piece of paper and a pencil! We were also introduced to the main types of deterioration carpets face, involving pest damage and loss to the wefts on the face of the carpet due to wear and tear. We practiced identifying different types of carpets using examples, working our way around a table using a magnifier and our newly acquired knowledge into identifying carpets. Glynn Charnock gave us an overview of the techniques he employs when cleaning historic textiles, and the options there are available for cleaning extremely large carpets. The whole team then had to work together in groups to assess large carpets looking for their faults, and possible causes of damage, and finally we learnt how to safely pack and roll a carpet for storage. The whole day was an excellent insight into understanding how carpets are made, their agents of deterioration and cleaning methods.

Conservators rolling a carpet