Textile Conservation: Victorian Tea Cosy


We have several interesting textile projects in the studio this year,
and one of the most challenging is this Victorian Tea Cosy
for a private client who has generously allowed the process to be shared.

Today I began the excavation (disassembly) of the Cosy.
This tiny project (under 15-inches wide) is a complicated piece,
with issues such as cleaning, burnt beading, missing beading,
brittle linen gridwork, missing needlepoint… and it is beaded on both sides!

Above are details of both sides “A” and “B”.

The colors will change throughout as I choose images based on the best details,
and flashes change the color tremendously.
Already, with just a bit of trim removed,
we see the bright green the Cosy once exhibited!


The braided trim releases easily, though there were a few areas where
someone previously hand-repaired the Cosy; these repairs are quite difficult
to navigate without damaging the beaded areas.
The repairs wrapped several layers of thread tightly wound
and traveled deep into the needlepoint field.  Something to think about if you have to create a temporary repair: Hold it loosely!

Once the trim is removed, the Cosy disassembly begins.
Again, there are areas which were hand-repaired and these stitches are carefully cut.

Many stitches were so brittle that when one was cut several more popped apart,
however, it is best not to ever assume and pull, hoping to save time.
It is equally easy that there will be a repair that might rip,
or a strong stitch that holds and you rip the textile.  Patience is key.


The two sides are finally apart, above:
Side B is top, and Side A bottom.


We also see the inside of the Cosy!
While it is unlikely this Cosy will ever by used again,
it once topped hot teas, and the steam embedded dirt on the inside.
We are replacing the inside.

The textile is removed from the lining!
This is the most nerve-wracking work, as the we know the linen gridwork is brittle,
areas are already ripped, and we don’t know the condition of the small hem.
I prefer a stitch-picker to any other cutting device.
I can move the protected blade outward away from the textile, and clip only
the one stitch I see on the tip of the blade by sliding it back.

And we get our first look at the back of side “A” textile.
It is extremely damaged piece!  Besides tears in the gridwork, the dark brown “stains”
on the back are actually areas where beading was beginning to melt!

The color of the various threads tell a story that I interpret once
enough of the piece is apart… This is guesswork, but educated guesswork.
Kate takes notes throughout as reminders.

Black thread added the braid to the Cosy, and this tells me that it
might be original but might be second generation… because…

A dark brown thread may have been used as a basting stitch to secure the top
of the Cosy prior to final stitching of the entire piece altogether.
it lay just below the faded green thread.

A faded green thread hand-stitched the textile to the lining… it appears a khaki color, but up close you can see that it may have matched the original brilliant green yarn!

Finally, the repairs were created using a thicker tan thread, and appear sporadically.

Kate began to lift the lining from the textile, and ran into a snag.
Beads which melted (first image) had also adhered to the cotton batting.
This will be dealt with during the reparation, so the batting was carefully snipped;
we will discuss melting beadwork in another post.

Side “A” is disassembled, above.

A through assessment, and there are a few surprises,
including the cotton batting melted into the textile, and two areas where the previous repairs went too far and tapped into the gridwork.
None of the rips are a surprise, however.


This textile cannot be cleaned until the entire piece is stabilized and all the beads
are secured.  In just this round of gentle handling six beads dropped.

We will be documenting this treatment over the next year;
you can follow along by requesting updates!

©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, process, reparation, restoration techniques, textiles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Textile Conservation: Victorian Tea Cosy

  1. Dan Antion says:

    I’m sending this to a friend who made a tea cosy a few years ago.

    Like

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