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

08 Aug 19

Wet cleaning of an embroidered footstool cover from Mottisfont Abbey

The National Trust textile conservation studio occasionally work in collaboration with other conservators and studios, in the case of this project we worked in collaboration with Heather Porter upholstery conservator who’s based in the conservation studio in NT Knole. An embroidered footstool cover from Mottisfont Abbey was sent to the textile conservation studio for wet cleaning as the cream wool of the embroidery had become very dirty. Removal of adhesive was also required around the edge of the embroidery where a braid had been attached. Following testing, acetone was selected to remove the adhesive residue using swabs and blotting paper, this was a very effective method of removal and revealed the original light cream colour of the wool. The next stage of the treatment was to complete wet cleaning, samples of each colour of dyed wool were taken from the back. Dye fastness test were carried out using detergent in soft water, and deionised water, and the samples were kept wet for 24 hour with no noticeable dye run. The embroidered footstool was washed in a mixture of soft water and Dehypon detergent and rinsed between each wash bath using soft water. Following the wet cleaning the embroidery was stretched to size and pinned squarely whilst it dried to ensure that it would fit onto the footstool it was to be reattached to. Once dry, the embroidery was stitched to a piece of linen in preparation for it to be sent back to Heather Porter for reupholstering to the footstool.

Textile Conservation Intern Rosie wet cleaning footstool cover

28 Jun 19

Conservation of the Gideon Tapestry from Hardwick Hall

In April I completed a tapestry stitch sampler, the aim of which was to familiarise me with the techniques required for use in the conservation of tapestries. Following the completion of the sampler I was to assist senior conservator Rachel Langley in the conservation of the 12th in the set of a series of thirteen tapestries from Hardwick Hall. The set depicts the biblical story of Gideon, and this one shows Gideon attacking the Midianites. The previous tapestries have been conserved over a period of around 23 years so in order to ensure that each tapestry in the set is conserved in a similar way the same materials have been used and the same methods implemented. Under the supervision of Rachel Langley I began stitching up slits on the tapestry, a slit is where two different colours of wool are not interlocked and need to be held together using polyester threads. The original slit stitches were sometimes still visible but new stitches simply placed over them as it was important that they were not removed from the tapestry. It was important that these slit stitches were pulled tightly together and they strengthen the tapestry when it is hung again. I proceeded to use the brick couching technique I had learnt when completing my sampler, this stitch is used to fill any areas of loss of the design in silk and wool. The areas of the tapestry most likely to have become degraded and lost are areas of dark brown and black wool, as the iron mordant in the natural dye degraded the structure of the wool. The lost areas of wool are conserved using purpose dyed wool as well as colours pre-dyed and purchased from Appleton’s. The silk threads in the tapestry are also very prone to becoming weak and lost over time, these areas are stitched using three strands of cotton as the cotton is stronger than silk and the colours can be combined to create the create shade required.

Textile Conservation Intern Rosie working on the Gideon Tapestry from Hardwick

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