Frances Normandin’s Bell Hanger

Frances Normandin, great-grandmother to our clients, designed and created the needlework bell hanger (ca 1930-1940) as a gift for her 15-year-old son,  Fred Louis Normandin, Jr., or “Bub.”  Fred was named after his father, the first grocer in the
Mount Tabor area.  (Conserved, left.)

Frances was born in 1897 and grew up in Portland, attending St. Mary’s Academy, where her artistic talent began to show itself.  She was a gifted painter, worked in the mediums of beadwork, woodcarving, and various kinds of needlework.  She lived to be 97 and was still making beadwork bell ornaments right up until the end, even though she was legally blind.  (We have another of her pieces, a crewel work of their farm in Forest Grove, conserved as well, see bottom.)

When the bell hanger came to us
it was in excellent condition:
* It had yarns missing in both the petit point  and needlepoint areas, both decorative and field (below).
* A ball nut was missing from the pull.
* The entire needlework needed to be cleaned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The hanger and pull were disassembled from the needlework, and the screw piece and sample ball were sent to an excellent blacksmith for replication, Stephen Gossett.  When disassembled, we had our first  look at the original color of the field: teal green!

We began by a thorough vacuuming, both top and bottom side,
to remove deeply embedded debris and fine spider-webbing, above.
During this time were able to again inspect the piece.

Appleton Bros 100% wool yarns were bought to match the existing (faded) colors of the yarn.  I believe the piece was quite colorful with the palette Frances choose, and I am sorry that my efforts to photograph the little bit I saw through an opening between the backing and the needlework did not do it justice.  Above are the best images I captured: the biscuit colored yarn began as a rust or orange yarn, left, and right, peering into the opening, seeing the bright greens and teal and gold of the back of the needlework.

It is always difficult matching yarns; you are matching faded yarns not dyed yarns, and so, what appears a gray field was a dark teal green, and the “gray” is actually faded.  I own every gray wool crewel yarn and still could not quite match it.  In some ways this is preferable; you can see the infill from the original work.

Without taking the back lining off the piece, I could not easily repair the small amount
of missing petit point, however, I was able to infill most of the needlepoint because the linen canvas was not brittle, so there was no fear of breaking canvas threads while coming in from the side to repair the tent stitches.  Above, a thorough example of a basic repair: coming in from the back (or the side) and pulling through each stitch, including edges, until all stitches were infilled.  At the end I pulled through and clipped close,
and very little movement pulled the tip through so it is hidden.

Samples of infill above.  The majority of the needlework is the tent stitch,
and while I could not get a good look at the back of the piece, I assume it was either a diagonal tent or basketweave tent, as there is little distortion.

However, once I was creating infill and removing degraded (moth-eaten or worn) stitches, I also could see that Frances laid yarn threads under many of her tent stitches,
creating the Bayeux stitch (above).  This means the textile is both petit point,
needle work and laid work.  I was able, in most cases, to keep her original underlayer.
In a few instances where i was sure they existed but were now gone, I dared not lay
in the long stitching under the tent stitch for fear of pulling the adjacent yarns,
and so these areas are a bit meager compared to her original work.

When it was time to reassemble the hanging metal and pull, it was difficult, so we are warning our client not to do this unless absolutely necessary.  The screw hung up in the hem, and Mitchell used his long upholstery needle to open the pathway.

Conserved bell hanger, above.

To follow Frances Normandin’s beautiful crewelwork through conservation, start here.

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Frances Normandin’s Crewel Work, 3: Infill and Stabilization

Continuing from our first post on crewelwork and cleaning
Frances Normandin’s beautiful crewel-worked textile circa 1930-1940,
and our second on dyes and color choices:

The process of infill and stabilization began.

Remember that there were two to three repair yarn colors around the outside, infill created at an unknown time, by Frances or other family members.  The yarns were both different colors and also the textures did not match.  Kate made a determination to only remove the extraordinarily odd infill areas, and leave the repairs which blended well.

Kate began with the two border colors, above.

In the border and the image itself,
other than the oddly colored infill mentioned above,
the decision to infill was judged based on missing yarns,
or threadbare or broken yarns (from abrasion or moths).
If the yarns were intact but threadbare, Kate might leave the historic yarn
intact and add to the piece by overlayering the new yarn.

If not, the yarns were removed, which was actually the most time consuming part of the process because it is possible to damage the piece while removing the yarns.

Three quarters of the way through Kate found the darker yarn which actually
matched the outer border, which had slipped off the back of the treatment table.
*sigh*
Of course she went back and redid the completed infill!

Next Kate turned to the various inner infill areas.
This was a bit more fun because Kate was able to use different crewel stitches!.

There were three colors that Kate could not match close enough to satisfy her design eye, though she had every one of the Appleton Bros of London 100% wool crewel colors!
One of the purples, one of the peaches, and one of the pinks.
In all cases it was due to the fading dyes not matching a current dye.

Turning to the border linen stabilization and repair, remember the disgusting bug that stained and also apparently caused the disintegration of the bottom hem edge?  (Above, reminders!)  This was only one of the exceptions Kate had to work around as she stabilized the linen for framing.  The goal was to allow the largest linen edge for framing.

A heavy 1 1/2-inch unbleached hemp twill tape was pinned to the edge at 1 3/8-inch wide.

A running stitch (locked every few inches) was used to place the tape for hand-stitching.

A locking backstitch circled the outer edge approximately 1/4-inch from the tape edge.

The rips were stabilized with a couching stitch.

Corners were stabilized with both running and locking backstitch in a pleasing pattern.

It was important to Kate that her hand-stitching match Frances’ lovely work.

Finally, all parts stabilized, we decided to use a zigzag machine stitch to give
Deann Holtz a strong edge with which to stretch the piece during framing.

Unseen during the assessment, Kate found several small rips in the linen fiber,
and darned holes and rewove areas as she worked the edge stabilization.

Before cleaning / after treatment, above;
The piece came quite clean without dyes running.
ONLY around the bug carcass did stains persist.

Details of the piece after treatment!

I recommend two prior posts on caring for textiles and/or other antiques:

Taking Care of
Your Antique Quilt

(applies to many textiles);

How do I Take
Care of THIS?

(about several antiquities, including textiles.)

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Planter’s Chair: 8 Showcover

We are properly conserving a French-made Planter’s Chair, circa 1860.
(You can begin here, if you like.)
We’ll follow the chair through excavation to the new show-cover.
We left off in the last posting with upholstery buildup
of the inside back, inside arm,  and seat.


Muslin was secured and the inside back and arms
readied for the decorative showcover.

The outside back and outside arms, as well as the
bottom band (apron) will be completed after the showcover and buttoning
is completed on the inside back and arms.

Other than the obvious — that is, our client liked the fabric
and the colors went well in her historic home —
the showcover was chosen because Mitchell knew the velvet
was reminiscent of velvets in the 19th Century,
and so was a good choice for historic reasons.
The lovely fabric is a rayon, cotton and silk pile
on a tightly woven cotton base with a dense thread count.
The gold flecks cause a shimmering effect as you move around the chair.

Trims were also period appropriate embellishments,
especially in their modest appearance with a touch of gold
to play against the gold flecks in the velvet.

When the fabric was delivered, it was immediately unrolled,
a yardage verification was performed, and the entire roll checked for flaws.
Flaws are a common occurrence, and additional yardage must be requested
from the company and/or the fabric returned for replacement.

Patterns were created, which is a lesson onto itself.

Fabric was cut.

Buttons were made (and BTW we usually make extras for our clients.)
Cut into squares, the hand-operated machine
cuts the circles for the button, then molds it onto the metal forms.
These machines are indispensable to a serious upholstery studio.
(Note these images are from another project.)

The inside back muslin was covered with
a thin layer of felted organic 100% staple cotton.
(We buy organic whenever we can.)
The batting acts as a soft buffer between the muslin and showcover,
protecting the showcover from premature wear.
The batting also acts as a dust barrier (filter) and
softens the surfaces creating a sumptuous look and feel.

Buttons were placed as shown above on (note these images are from another project.)
A very long button needle is used to place the location of the button through many layers; the button threads are in the needle in all of the images above.
Once the needle is placed it is slowly pulled through and tied (images 5 & 6).
Cotton is used to keep the button from ripping through the foundational cloth.
Once the button is set at the right length or tension (and this is not easy to do),
the folds are placed, as they rarely “fall”into a pleasing folding pattern.

Buttons were installed;
now the entire chair can be closed up.

Moving to the arms:  Mitchell applied stitching and lashing methods to the intersecting
points between the inside back and inside arms (image 1-4, above).  it was necessary to
cinch the back’s termination points tightly to the internal stuffings and steel frame
in order to prevent slipping and easing of the area where the inside arm begins.

The inside arm was hand-stitched which also allowed the seat-to-arm gully to define.  Mitchell secured and buttoned the inside arm show cover.  Note how nicely the
arm-top squares creating a comfortable support for the forearms?

Pausing to show the entire chair at this stopping point.
Note the extra fabric pulled through the seats.


Moving to the seat, Mitchell places a light layer of organic 100% staple cotton batting
placed over the muslin prior to the showcover, for the same reasons as the
cotton batting on the inside back: protection from premature wear,
a dust barrier (filter) and softening the seat ever so slightly.

Mitchell’s notes: At first glance a pattern repeat on a design like this seems
inconsequential.  It is not!  This showcover had a repeat which was visible and
demanded attention to centering, balancing and matching the motif as it related
to the contours and spatial aspects of the chair.  I notice pattern mismatches and
sloppy placement, and believe even laypersons (clients) will notice over time.

The bottom band was created.  The modest diameter
decorative rope braid was hand-stitched below the front edging
prior to padding and final upholstering of the showcover.

Stitchings and stuffings and lashings and soft cotton toppers,
all for the front decorative banding!  It is surprising to non-upholsterers what
measures are taken to ensure long-terms viability of a soft-structure object with
little rigid structure within… all hidden, all an important part of our upholstery heritage.


.

Decorative front banding was
tacked using #2 blue-tacks,
ready to be blind-stitched.

Yes, Mitchell spits tacks;
true upholsterers do!


The decorative rope braid was pinned
and secured with a locking back stitch.

The chair was turned upside down.
A layer of organic 100% staple cotton batting was followed with 400 ct percale muslin, stretched, pinned, and blind-stitched to the foundational cloth.


A final pattern of the outside back was created by Mitchell;
material was cut and machine stitched readied for application.

Another layer of organic 100% staple cotton batting
was placed over the percale, pinned to the underside
of the decorative rope braid, and blind-stitched or tacked.


Decorative gimp braid was carefully secured
using a good grade white tacking glue.


Mitchell included a secret pocket beneath conserved pieces when possible.
Provenance, a DVD or thumb drive, family photos with
the piece can be stashed in a waterproof container.


Remember the steel hoop listed to one side from a regular sitter favoring a position? Notice how the inside back asymmetrical contour lists above?
This is due to the steel hoop listing.
It also effects how the button’s elevations are seen in certain photos,
though they are level — it is an optical illusion due to the tilted frame.
In person the chair rarely reveals the listing but the still shots reveal it!


The Planter’s Chair completed in our studio!

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An overview of the process, from one vantage point, below.

If you would be interested in notification of online classes
coming next year, comment and we will save your email address.
It will be used by no one else for any other purpose.

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May be reposted if our url + copyright is used as reference.

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Planter’s Chair: 7, Buildup, Tufted Back and Seat

We are properly conserving a French-made Planter’s Chair, circa 1860.
(You can begin here, if you like.)
We’ll follow the chair through excavation to the new show-cover.
We left off in the last posting with inside back excavation.


The inside back completely excavated.
Note (even if you can’t see it) the frame’s steel hoop tilts to one side,
a product of repeated sideways sitting by an inhabitant.
As we move on, it will sometimes appear as if our upholstering
was “off” when it was actually the tilt of the back’s steel hoop.


14 oz jute hessian was chosen as a replacement for the

original inside back and arm foundational membrane.

The symmetry of the hessian grain positions relative to the frame positioning
and lack of symmetry was calculated and transferred by graphite and chalk
to the hessian in order to insure the best positioning of the woven medium.
The hessian was stretched and pinned then lashed with
heavy 12-ply linen twine in a locking blanket stitch.


Mitchell placed double cross stitches along strategic
points of the hoop and vertical supports to
ensure the hessian did not move over time.

The seat and back now will be built together.

On the seat, arms and back, the buildup occurred in
reverse order of excavation; what came off last went on first.

Second stuffings (horsehair) was secured to
the conserved pod and additional hair added over the lashings
to replace original hairs broken over many years of use.
A new cotton topper was placed upon the hair.
A 7 oz cotton/hemp muslin was stitched to the pod,
making the surface ready for the new showcover.


Historic hair filled cummerbund (lumbar filler)

was lashed into position using linen twine and
covered with 9 oz open weave hessian.


Notice how the lumbar filler wraps around the inside arms,

creating a semi-firm seal between the seat contours
and the inside back and arm base.

The serpentine hair-filled crest and arm “collar” was reinstalled,
loosely stitched with linen twine awaiting amendment.
It was amended just below using polished coir
in order to add resilience to the historic roll.
Even in well-kept upholstery, some losses occur to fibers:
they break, powder, and sift through their encasements.

The serpentine crest and arm roll
were fully lashed using linen twine.

Note the definition of the contours and sloping lines,
running down to the hair pod.

The original inside back second stuffings
(cleaned and teased), was set into the conserved form.
Mitchell left the historic flocked wadding on the hair surface
so the evidence of period materials would be available for future generations.

The second stuffings were lashed into place using linen twine.
Notice the attention paid to using the historic lashing patterns,
easily seen on the outside back of the foundational hessian.

Tufting began using a 5 oz finely woven hemp hessian.
The patterns taken earlier were applied and adjusted to the conserved form.
Mitchell did not want to return the chair’s back in the form
in which our client was familiar, but rather the historic form.
(BTW our client was appraised and excited about these prospects,
but it is always advised to discuss before changing the form of a familiar chair!)

Above, the beginning stages of tufting
showing the elevations and folds defined,
but before Mitchell buttoned the tufts.

Tufts were held in place with 5 ply linen twine knotted
to the back foundational membrane.
In the first image, the muslin was pulled over the crest
and a running stitch installed to secure.
In the second image, note the anchor point for buttoning
was knotted to the foundational membrane.

The inside back muslin was also secured around each arm,
and the buttons continue onto the inside arms.
The gully continued to be defined as a decorative element.

Mitchell attached the inside arm muslin to the form
defining the final arm top and final button placement.
The outside back and outside arms will be completed
after the showcover and buttoning is complete on the inside back and arms.

With that, we move to the the showcover, next post!

An overview of the process, from one vantage point, below.

If you would be interested in notification of online classes coming next year, comment and we will save your email address.  It will be used by no one else for any other purpose.

©MPF Conservation.  May be printed for your own use.
May be reposted if our url + copyright is used as reference.

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Planter’s Chair: 6, Excavation, Back

We are properly conserving a French-made Planter’s Chair, circa 1860.
(You can begin here, if you like.)
We’ll follow the chair through excavation to the new show-cover.

We left off in the last posting with the Buildup of the Seat.

With the seat buildup completed, Mitchell removed the protective covering
from the inside back (Image #1, discussed why here).

He excavated the original inside back cotton topper (See excavation back
the image with the seat was blurred so showed the image
without the seat built-up) and horsehair, above.
A thin batting of cotton flocking lint, original to the piece, was exposed;
a good deal of the color is the actual color of this flocking, though it was also dirty.
.

Both were cleaned and teased as necessary, and laid face down.

The crest (fiber filled) edgeroll and adjacent collar was lashed
to and around the perimeter of the crest to arm hoop,
over the heavy hessian foundational membrane.
After inspection, notes and patterns were created,
then the edgeroll was carefully removed.

The serpentine hair-filled crest and arm “collar” were carefully lifted
from the steel hoop frame after anchoring stitches were cut.
Mitchel retained the stitches within the hessian so he could
refer to them to replicate the original stitch patterning as necessary.


The serpentine hair-filled crest and arm “collar” was laid atop

the original inside back in the order removed.

The “cumberbund” — the lumbar filled  support — was carefully
removed, patterned, cleaned and readied for reapplication.
It was also placed atop the other inside back pieces in the order removed.

The hoop frame exposed, with the
original hessian foundational membrane, above.

Finally the original hessian foundational membrane was removed, and the steel hoop (frame) was fully exposed. Notice the nice contour to the seat pod at the rear.  From an upholstering engineering perspective, the roll around the seat rear and inside arms play an important function relative to a semi-firm barrier between the inside arm and inside back, keeping a tight fit between those elements.  The roll also acts semi-independently from the central portion of the pod, where the primary center of gravity exists, allowing the sitter to drop into the springs without collapsing the seal between the lumbar area of the inside back and the seat.  It is also easy to see the geometric flavor of the Art Nouveau style, though the chair precedes the production of that style by several decades.

The back is fully excavated, and we move to the
inside back buildup and conservation, next post!

An overview of the process, from one vantage point, below.

If you would be interested in notification of online classes coming next year, comment and we will save your email address.  It will be used by no one else for any other purpose.

©MPF Conservation.  May be printed for your own use.
May be reposted if our url + copyright is used as reference.

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Frances Normandin’s Beautiful Crewel Work, 2: Treatment, Colorwork

Continuing from our first post on crewelwork and cleaning
Frances Normandin’s beautiful crewel-worked textile circa 1930-1940:

The textile is cleaned, but I want to step back to look at some images (before cleaning)
to share some surprising comparisons and talk about caring for a textile.


These images show the front side of the crewelwork
on the left (above) or bottom (below),
and the backside, right (above) or top (below).

Notice how little the dyes have faded?
A bit of brilliance is gone, and that is all…
And look at how neat her back stitches are?
For those who don’t know, it is important when doing needlework
that you pay attention to the backside and keep it neat,
so as not to create knots or pull unwanted threads through.
This is even more critical in textile conservation,
where a pulled knot can deteriorate a fragile textile.

Plus, even though the textile was uncovered/unprotected,
it must have been shown on a wall with little ambient light from outdoors,
because though the dyes had better mordants than the dyes in the older Hearst piece below, shown for comparison (and because geeky stuff like this turns Kate on),
where the older dyes, many of were vegetable, fade quickly.

The back side of the Flemish Sofa’s seat tapestry, Hearst Castle.

Now check out the comparisons of the
Flemish Sofa from Hearst Castle, above,
front versus back, shown during reweaving (**Note bottom).  Yes I posted a lot of pics — but I geek out on imagining what the sofa might have looked like when the dyes were vibrant!  Imagine the sofa, right, in the intense colors shown above!  Wow!  A vibrant interior!  The intensity of the colors has faded.  In fact, textiles conservators have the privilege of seeing true colors of objects versus the dusty faded aged colors!

THAT should change the way you see
things next time you visit a museum!

It is important to keep textiles and paintings out of direct light, and know that even ambient light and fluorescent lighting can cause damage over time.  Placing them under proper glass with UV protection will also help maintain their colors.

If your piece is a large textile, consider only displaying it on special occasions,
or in a dark room, one where you can keep shades drawn.
On the other hand, putting keepsakes away completely results in situations
where the family doesn’t hear the stories, and therefore may not value the pieces
when family members pass on — so our advice is to strike a balance!

Moving back to Frances’ crewelwork:

The crewel yarns arrived, and Kate
will  begin infill.  Unlike our previous project, where she muted the infill colors to make the piece present properly, she is able to use the closest match possible to the original colors, especially on the border, right.
Still, there are three yarns that Kate cannot match exactly — two greens and an orange.  They’ve faded enough that the infill yarns a just a tad bit off.

On the other hand, someone long ago also added two different yarns, assuming they repaired it on two different dates, below!  I don’t think anyone noticed!

Next post, yarn infill!

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May be reposted if our url + copyright is used as reference.
**NOTE:  William Randolph Hearst’s Sofa was treated as a joint project.
MPF Conservation treated the upholstery/passementerie and Stan DeRelian rewove the inside back tapestry, the latter of which is far outside our area of expertise.
Thanks to ®Hearst Castle for allowing us to tell these stories.

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Planter’s Chair: 5, Buildup, Seat

We are properly conserving a French-made Planter’s Chair, circa 1860.
(You can begin here, if you like.)
We’ll follow the chair through excavation to the new show-cover.
We left off in the last posting with frame and finish conservation.

Mitchell began with the chair turned over.

Upholstery conservation on the conserved frame begins underneath.
Mitchell intends to web the frame in the original basket-weave pattern,
same placement, using similar webbing to the original.

Mitchell’s note:  If you remember the oddly placed webbing (last image above),
the more I considered it, the more I realized this was likely NOT the original webbing.  Tack hole patterns suggest a tightly woven webbing of greater width, also European.
In this, the oldest generation found, note it is likely numerous courses are missing.
The webbing was a high quality herringbone jute, modest in width, metric, of European origin.  The upholsterer chose to overlap the edges of the spring instead of supporting
the spring at center (the spring could fall through, see third image).  It may have been rewebbed from underneath, as the springs were also not lashed to the webbing.

Mitchell placed his webbing in a tightly placed basket-weave with very little space
between courses of webbing, in keeping with the French style of upholstering.
We chose to rewebb and place the webbing in what appears to be the historic position.  The historic position/patterning corroborates our supposition that the chair
was made in France or was created in the French style.

We keep samples of original show covers, burlaps, muslins, and webbings for our clients.

Webbing completed; Chair turned right-side up!

Cleaned springs were placed, still tied, into position.
Mitchell realized that to preserve the decorative arms a second, additional prosthetic
block was needed underneath the block placed in earlier (see previous post).
A double blocking system was the totality of the addition on both sides.

Mitchell noted the direction of the springs during excavation,
and places them properly into position.

Tying shown at the start.  We show these ties and knots in
other reports online, and will be teaching them
in online classes in the near future.

The four-way double tie completed.

Mitchell’s note: The wear-points found on the old iron springs indicated the piece was
originally a four-way tie.  Clearly the maker crafted it with the intent of the
user dropping deeply into the seat with a low center of gravity, ergo, the four-way tie.
So much can be learned by paying close attention to details during excavation!

The springs were covered with a tight jute hessian,
creating the Spring Deck.

The hessian was tied to the springs in a four-point pattern.
Mitchell sees an unintended homage to the Holbein stitch and wonders about the connection.  The Holbein is shown in the buildup, and will be taught in our online classes.

The historic seat deck pod was cleaned, hand-blocked,
and selectively teased and made ready for installation.

Additional coir was secured to the conserved pod,
and the pod was placed onto the Spring Deck.

A beautiful polished hemp open weave burlap
covered the original hessian, and was tacked into place.
Both the historical pod and the new topper were used.

The fiber pod was marked, readied for lashing into place using 12 ply waxed linen twine.
Three rows of lashing established a firm front edge and edgeroll,
while two courses of twine transited the seat contour keeping stuffings in place,
establishing a center of gravity for a comfortable sit.
The third front row of stitching performs double duty in this instance.

From Mitchell: It never ceases to amaze me, even after decades of performing work
on fiber pods, their ingenious design!  While it is easy to comprehend how fiber
stuffed into a casing performs relative to compression and return during a sit or recline,
it is the lashing twines (simple thins strand of tightly twisted fiber) which become
the building blocks for the fiber pod’s ultimate structure and longevity.
These strings strategically placed, patterned and knotted, act like sub-floors and
stud walls in a building. They make  for a cohesive structure which can flex yet remain
firm and shapely, and allows the fiber pod to last decades under consistent use.

The Seat Deck is conserved
(in this image the inside back
is revealed completely excavated).
We move to the inside back excavation next post!

If you would be interested in notification of online classes coming next year, comment and we will save your email address.  It will be used by no one else for any other purpose.

An overview of the process, from one vantage point, below.

©MPF Conservation.  May be printed for your own use.
May be reposted if our url + copyright is used as reference.

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