Inside the conservation lab: treating textiles

Jul 1, 2014

Textiles are some of the most fragile objects in Historic New England’s collection. Not only are textiles endangered by light, temperature, and insects, but they are frequently used until worn out: just think of your child’s favorite blanket. This piano stool, chosen to be installed in Quincy House, was in good condition except for the fabric on the seat. The black and brown fabric was worn on the front of the seat, where the use would have been heaviest.

At Historic New England, original textiles and upholstery are preserved whenever possible. In order to prevent further deterioration of the object, conservators work to stabilize the textile and protect it from further damage. For this stool, very thin pieces of silk crepeline, dyed to match the black of the fabric, were inserted between the fabric and the cotton batting. The loose threads of the fabric were carefully put back into place using tweezers. The threads were then secured to the black silk backing fabric using very thin silk thread and a curved needle. The remainder of the conservation treatment included cleaning dirt and grime from the chair’s wood elements.