Textile Conservation: Victorian Tea Cosy, 5, Beading

Continuing from our earlier post on searching for beads…

This post, harder repairs.
Side “A” had many more difficult repairs.

Below is an example of what I shared with our client regarding the worst of her issues on the tea cosy:  rips, missing beads, melted beads, melted beads that melded with
the cotton and linen grid and created a hard “plastic” ridge, especially across the top.

Beginning with that damaged area above:

One of the first things I did is stabilize the areas around the worst problematic repairs.  This gave me a ground of stability from which I can then tackle the worst rips!

In this case, it was developing a protocol and infilling the tassel
(shown upside down above.)  Because of the many missing beads,
I chose a grey bead with a silver lining to add a bit of sparkle that might have been
present in the original beading (we don’t know).  This protocol of tassel will be used throughout the other beaded tassels to add unity to the cosy.  Whenever possible, I tried to use at least one line of the original metallic beads if I had enough to create a row.
These original beads had to have enough gold left on them, and no rust whatsoever.

The toughest repair on Side “A” is just
above the tassel, and involves melted beads,
rips, stabilizing, reweaving, and infill.

Images are labeled, above.  The metal beading that “melted” is so bad it fused,
a phenomena I have seen before with these type beads.
In this case they “melted” into one continuous bar of metal, grabbing onto both
the linen and in this case, some of the cotton batting from the quilting below.

The entire bar of melted beads had to be removed, along with the
linen grid and some of the embroidered “x” embellishment.

I have a good guess as to how these beads “melted” on the cosy:
Tea was made, and a steaming tea kettle of boiling water was mostly emptied but set next to the cosy — or even the extremely hot teapot was set with the spout facing the cosy.  Years of hot steam finally melted the beads, rusting them into the linen weave and breaking them in two or melting them into the bar across the top of the tassel motif.

Oddly, the metal beads are also magnetized!

Warp and Weft and Fill!

In some needlepoint/beaded repairs, a full linen warp and weft would be rebuilt.
Unfortunately, the tea cosy is badly damaged, and so a hemp backing was placed behind the entire piece.  Especially as it is not going under a frame, but back into the tea cosy shape, all repairs are going through the added stability of the hemp backing.  Still I needed to lift a warp and weft up, and fill it so there is no dip in the infill.

Using Gutermann thread, I wove a loose grid.
I used matching embroidery thread to fill the warp and weft, giving it the lift it needed — the “fill” — so that the beads would be sitting atop a solid ground.
The area is ready for beading and embroidery, but…

There are many areas surrounding
the damage that need attention.

There were issues all around the one huge melted repair — small rips where other melted beads existed, and along with them, crystal and white bead losses.

Before I started beading, I decided to stabilize and repair all the smaller rips,
choosing Gutermann threads and/or the embroidery threads, depending.
Ultimately these are holding the piece in stasis until the beading is completed,
because the beading through the hemp backing fill be the final stabilizing repair.

Remember that this tea cosy is not going back into service.
It is a collector’s item, rarely to be used if ever.

I walk you through each step, above, from the stabilizing to the beading.

There are problems associated with these extremely damaged beads and the linen grid beneath.  The first is that it distorts the linen in ways that can make it difficult to bead using the linen as a guide.  Sometimes they distort it so much that it is impossible to even get the linen to lay flat, so there is a bit of a lumpy underlayer and getting a smooth grid of beads over the top can be difficult.

Also, surprisingly, there were different sized original beads.

On a side note, from time to time a bead is melted in place and cannot be removed,
above, without causing more damage to the piece.

The metal beads were not the only beads lost, as we discussed earlier.
I scavenged all the loose crystal beads from both sides of the cosy in order to create one complete side, which was side “A”.  It is interesting to note how different both sides actually were, and I believe they were so from the beginning.  Below, note the
differences even in colored embroidery threads from “A” to “B”.

Note the green embroidery thread in “B”, in the place of the black threads on side “A”?
There were design issues too — they generally appeared the same
but not when you looked closely.  I am not surprised.  This was a hand-made cosy!

Tassel Repair.

I have two more difficult areas where decisions were made.
Some of the warp and weft around the tassel edgings were disintegrating.
You can tell where they were stable or not because my beading might be
a little wonky in the areas where I had no grid!
I was able to save some of the original metal beads in this tassel.

Edging and floral repair.

Here, the edging becomes stable, but as I reach the corners the motif is missing parts.
I decided to save some of the crystal beads for other places and go with the white floral motif, much like what is seen within the body  of the piece.
We have flowers, leaves, and stems.  I chose to go with the gnarled look of the stems, which is what it appeared to do in the body of the piece as well.

There as no clue as to the actual design of the chevron-shaped area at the
bottom of the cosy, above.  I turned them into one of the flowers.

And another oddly difficult area to bead, showing from one side to the next.
I was surprised, but there were intentionally three rows of crystal beads on these dropped motifs.  At first I thought it was my mistake, but the area warranted many more beads.

Side “A” of the Cosy is complete.
Below, I show before and after
conservation and restoration.

Below, some details in a slide show.


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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
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3 Responses to Textile Conservation: Victorian Tea Cosy, 5, Beading

  1. Dan Antion says:

    You do such amazing work, Kate. This is a beautiful restoration.

  2. Pingback: Textile Conservation: Victorian Tea Cosy | MPF Conservation

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