Textile Conservation: Victorian Beaded Angel Needlepoint


One of the sweetest pieces we ever treated.

A widow had several items conserved for the children in the family.
This lovely beaded needlepoint had many condition issues: dozens of
moth-eaten areas, ripped or broken canvas, a good deal of lost bead work,
and also an unusual condition Kate had not seen before.
Some of the faceted metal beads had “melted” from heat exposure or eroded from a caustic situation, shown best in the last two images above.  These beads not only eroded, but many had fused together and into the warp and weft of the needlepoint canvas.

The piece was surprisingly clean, however, and only needed spot cleaning:
in this case Kate treated (repaired) the piece before cleaning,
as there was too much to lose during a cleaning process.


A search did not yield matching beads for the metallic beads nor the
milky-pink beads of the skin, but we were successful with many other beads.

Kate is taking you through one of the most dramatic repairs, where the metallic beads “burned” a hole into the mesh, showing remaining “melted” beads.


The rips and missing mesh from the disintegrated beads.
It is almost as if a caustic substance was released from the beads and burned the mesh.  This is where institutional conservators have a bit more leeway and
funding to test and discover chemical interactions; private clients are more
interested in a proper restorative experience than research.


The first step was to gently hold the mesh into place during reweaving of the grid.


Counting the grid, the mesh is rewoven all over the back before Kate begins on the front.


Having repaired the mesh, Kate could now gently remove, sort and salvage,
then clean the metallic beads for reuse where possible. Our client left it to Kate’s discretion to reuse the beads or substitute beads, depending upon their condition.

Beaded needlework is a slow process and requires design skills when parts are missing.
A tiny needle picks up one bead at a time and weaves them in a tent stitch pattern.
This is important as this is the original design of the piece:
the beads once lined up like needlepoint stitches.
Over the years some have twisted, but this was not the way they were originally stitched.

The next problem was the moth eaten field.
Kate was able to steal a few bits of original yarn less than one inch long, and with a tiny crochet hook (her grandmother’s) was able to weave these tiny bits into larger holes.

But what to do with the many single missing stitches?
Kate proposed to dot the field with a clear bead, almost like stars around the angel.


The piece is completed, and spot cleaned.
The back tells the story of the many repairs.


Adding beads in the areas where a small moth hole was a good idea;
they appear like tiny stars in the sky. and clearly differentiates
the original from the conservation treatment.
Our client had the piece properly framed for a lovely family heirloom.

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

About dkatiepowellart

hollywood baby turned beach gurl turned steel&glass city gurl turned cowgurl turned herb gurl turned green city gurl. . . artist writer photographer. . . cat lover but misses our big dogs, gone to heaven. . . buddhist and interested in the study of spiritual traditions. . . foodie, organic, lover of all things mik, partner in conservation business mpfconservation, consummate blogger, making a dream happen, insomniac who is either reading buddhist teachings or not-so-bloody mysteries or autobio journal thangs early in the morning when i can't sleep
This entry was posted in antiques, art, conservation techniques, decorative motifs, Interim Report, preservation, reparation, restoration techniques, textiles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.