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Late Viccy clothes-restoration

Posted: Sun Apr 22, 2007 5:56 pm
by Cat
Hiya clothes peeps, the situation is that today Bucket was seduced by some rather beautiful but decidedly tired Late Viccy items at a car boot sals. They are a gloriously detailed bolero length jacket made by Marcelle of Savile Row which I reckon I can fix, given patience and a following wind.
The problem is the dress. It looks like glazed linen or silk (the slub is quite apparent) and in places the warp (the thicker slubby thread)has been eaten but the weft has been left alone. How can we stop it getting worse? Other thing is, what might it have been treated with to make it so crisp? I'll post pics when I can persuade Bucket to take them and post them, I really am crap at this techknowledgy lark...

Posted: Sun Apr 22, 2007 6:21 pm
by sally
If its silk what you might have is 'shattering'. This seems to happen to old silk quite often and as far as I know its not fixable. If its a linen, it may have been starched or maybe glazed with some sort of dilute gum then the shine/clendering is done with hot irons, but to be honest, if the damage is bad you probably jus want to pack it up in acid free tissue and box and save it for reference, it may not be wearable if the fabric has perished significantly.

Posted: Sun Apr 22, 2007 6:40 pm
by Cat
Cheers, hon! Yes, it may well be the decomposing silk-thing that you said. I have to admit to having very carefully tried on both garments, the jacket is in a much stronger state than the dress so I think it must be silk in the dress.

Posted: Sun Apr 22, 2007 8:36 pm
by seamsmistress
I agree with Sally, it does sound like shattering, which is often noticed by the vertical weave threads disintegrating, leaving the horizontal weave threads intact. The worst damage is usually noticed on the outer folded edges of pleats or gathers, but if it is really bad, the damage will be more uniform. I was told by a conservator that the shattering is due to the salts used in the dying process at that time.

As to repair. Is the garment of significant historical importance? If you think it is, it might be worth getting expert advice as to it's conservation/repair. This work can be expensive though, so storing as Sally advised, in acid free tissue and box is the interim solution until work can be undertaken.

If you don't think it's a particularly important item [at a boot sale, it might be thought that the previous owner didn't think so?] then it may be possible to effect repairs to small areas, taking good cloth from hidden areas such as hem turnings to do so.

Larger areas are more of an issue though. In the past, I've found the worst damage is usually under the arms, possibly due to perspiration, across the back, especially if the garment was very well fitted and at the top of skirts, where gathered to waistbands. If the shattering is in the main upper body of the garment, there's little can be done. It might be possible to to do something with the top of a skirt, especially if it is too long for it's new owner, or if a bodice worn over it covers the area, which could then be replaced with a modern 'best match'.

We need pictures! Best of luck

Posted: Mon Apr 23, 2007 1:20 am
by Neibelungen
I would suggest getting some conservation grade netting and carefully binding that with some stitches over the shattered area. While you could replace small sections with fabric from other areas, from a conservation, restoration perspective your fundamentally altering the item, rather than preserving it or lessening the risk of further damage.

Karen Finch wrote a good book 'The care and preservation of Textiles' which gives a good guide to dealing with textiles and the possible approaches to looking after them.

As Seamsmistress said, the shattering is due to the mordanting used in the dye process, as both tin and iron salts are not good for preserving silks. Also depending on dates, the earlier basic acid dyes tend to be quite destructive in the long term. ( it's one of the reasons later 19th C leathers tend to suffer from red rot compared with earlier leather) Unfortunately there's not much you can do about it , and even intact parts will themselves be brittle.

Posted: Mon Apr 23, 2007 1:44 am
by Tuppence
Agreed, we need pictures.

Also agreed it sounds like shattering (which can rarely happen with non silk fabrics).

Sally's right, shattering cannot be repaired - though it can be slowed down. It generally has to do with a combination of the dyeing and weaving processes, the - um - bodily stuff, like sweat that builds over the lifetime of a garment - and in large part, bad storage.

Even when the silk is the right age for shattering, and had not been well cleaned, it can still shatter if it's not been stored well (humidity and light being the worst offenders, as well as acidic conditions).

The proper way of looking at textile conservation is that you do as little as possible to make the garment safe. As Sally says, it almost certainly isn't wearable if the shattering is bad - and wearing it would only make it worse.

Other prima areas for damage to occur is at the vertical seams (esp on something tight fitting), and at the shoulders and horizontal seams - especially if it's been stored on a hanger.

Depending on the fabric, if it's brittle it could be again due to being stored badly - silk will become quite brittle if the humidity is not right for a long time.

If worst comes to worse, you can replace pieces using old matching materials from elsewhere, or in the case of silks, using new fabric that you can have dyed to match.
Weaker areas that do not have to be wholly replaced can be mounted on special conservation fabrics, using special conservation threads. The threads and fabrics are extra lightweight, so they don't alter the design integrity, but they are ultra strong, so they take the strain away from the original fabric.

Depending on exactly what's wrong with it, it may need some work before being packed away in a box if it's not going to get worse.
As Sally said, LOTS of acid free tissue, and an acid free box, to prevent nasty things happening. Then add lavendar or cedar somewhere near the outside of the box to prevent moths, etc, and put it somewhere dark and reasonably stable in temperature and humidity - NOT somewhere damp in the slightest (I've seen so many gorgeous things ruined becvause they've been hidden away in auntie's attic :roll: ).

It sounds like a lot, but I'm part of the crowd that believes all old clothes are worth preserving, not just the significant ones (after all, given enough time everything is signifacant).

Posted: Tue May 01, 2007 4:49 pm
by Lady Wolfshead
Just a few things to add to the already good advice given above, if you want an expert opinion go to the ICON website (Institute of Conservators) and there are lists of textile conservators throughout the UK, so you might find someone local. Some conservators will offer advice for free, especially if they are attached to a museum rather than freelance. You should also find information on textile conservation on the website.

If you choose to go ahead and conserve it yourself, when stitching it to a backing you want to stitch it taking a sort of vertical crenellation line of stitching, roughly 1cm apart, to prevent stress on surrounding threads. The main concern with conservation these days is that whatever you do it should be possible for someone else to reverse it later when a better technique is found.

Lastly, when packing the item for storage, roll the acid free tissue paper into loose sausages to fill out sleeves and support any folds in the skirt. Do not fold it as this will only increase the shattering.

Would love to see pictures! :)

Posted: Tue May 01, 2007 9:19 pm
by Cat
Message from Bucket, who is busy making a waistcote for Sat night at Rockingham, getting made redundant, landing new job, marking coursework (etc):
I will post some pics in a couple of weeks. THANKS for all the advice.