Sketching to Communicate with Clients

Does anyone create lovely sketches for their clients anymore?
We often create amazing decorative pillows to accompany a conserved item.

Kate created design sketches from images and samples,
so that we could better talk with our client about ideas for her sofa pillows.
These are fancy pillows for a pair of loveseats, and the colors are
lovely rusty jewel tones with touches of green and amethyst.
We like the idea of cream silks to set off the deep jewel tones.


The page, altogether, ideas wandering on their own.


More design sketches for our client, the owner of the Louis XVI Settee.
Silk bolsters for the arms, with flirty tassel-dangly-bobs.
French knotted India silk creating scrunchy pillows for the back.


Kate also caught the LouisXVI in another sketch…
Mitchell laying down on the job!

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not for use on blogs without permission.

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Throwback Thursday: Child’s Rocker

This week may be children’s week, as I am posting a throwback to a child’s rocker as well.

The mother grew up with this rocker, but had made a new needlepoint for the seat.
She wanted the old needlepoint cleaned.
She did not want it repaired in any way, just cleaned so that it could be
put under glass as her grandmother had made it for her…
Wel worn = well-loved.  A new family tradition?

Among her provenance were ads from the Spokane Furniture Company where the chair was purchased, and the labels we found under the upholstery.

The chair ready for delivery and
another century of child use!

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

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Heirloom Child’s Chair

The chair came to us through the heiress (hereafter called LB)
to the Frank Crowe Mason Monterey Collection.
The sweet chair was made by her grandfather…
Someone had recovered it, but thankfully the original stuffings were intact!
She wanted it conserved, arms and back repaired, then covered in a showcover reminiscent of Mason Monterey furniture.  It would be making a trek to its
new home in Australia and into the hands of her granddaughter.

The chair is excavated, above.


In the process we found the original fabric, which our client remembers, above.
The fabric from the backside (where we often find good original fabric)
will become a lumbar pillow in memory of the chair’s original showcover.

Frame damage was repaired prior to conserving and rebuilding
of the seat and back for reupholstery.  We removed the two struts which were no longer viable.  They had twisted, causing damage to the seat apron rails.
The hardwood frame was peppered with tack holes, which were repaired by
filling with picks and hide glue.  Other areas of the frame were repaired with hide glue.

Both arms were split with loss, so new pieces were created, secured, and shaped.

Finish was cleaned, infill color and traditional shellac was used
to match the new repaired arms, and the entire frame had
an encaustic wax treatment to brighten and unify the original finish.
(Sadly, my very bad Apple computer, a lemon, lost images.)

Buildup and Upholstery

Buildup commenced, paying attention to how the old materials sat on the frame,
cleaning and reusing original materials and adding new to augment the old.
New webbing, new ties on the original springs, and a mix of original and new stuffings.
The mouse-eaten hole was filled in the original back.
We detailed the piece as it would have been originally with a slightly thicker
(the material was quite thick) welt cord band separating the seat from the apron.

Touches… handmade buttons for the inside back!

And a pocket to secret away pictures of family
and the report on the piece, with other provenance!

The chair ready for delivery and
another century of child use!

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

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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.

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Repairing Trigger

Whether you are a fan or not, a unique look at repairing Trigger.

Part 1

Part 2

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Washington State Flag 9, First Drafts, Paper

Beginning with the test sheets,
I created test paintings of oil on paper.
The paper was primed with shellac to prevent oil seepage.

New tracings from our master tracing are created each time so the marks are fresh.


My first draft was a portrait of George on plain shellacked paper.

The lovely background is not noticed much in our original because the original bright green silk has faded to the colors of the background.
The background was created so that it appears a light is coming from behind George.

The draft on shellacked paper helped to fine tune the paint formulas.


Okay, I had a bit of fun at the end of the day giving him cat’s whiskers!


The original paint mixes when painted in the portrait draft were changed slightly.


Pasty face also taught me not to let the paint dry, but to mix shadings in the moment…
I painted the draft slowly, using a 50/50 galkyd/linseed mix to thin when needed.

The next four images were done in one day, so the shadings were created properly.


Building up the face.


The hair and lacy shirt…


Adding the green that matched the silk…

A few final tweaks, and the first draft was completed, shown here against the original.

A second test was on green painted paper to work the colors again, over green.

Painting over a base of green changes methods just a bit;
the green tint bleeds through the paint.  Green George gave us laughs as his eyes followed us everywhere; I was a bit sorry to have to finish him!

Working green George I became much more comfortable with the paint colors
and the techniques to create his likeness.  His face needs to be a bit thinner and
his hair is a bit wildly curly still.  Painting George has prompted me to review other
images of Washington, because really, while I am creating a likeness of the flag,
I am not a forger and have come to realize the painting will have my hand and strokes
no matter how I attempt to reproduce it.  What I want is his eyes to look at you in the manner of the flag and his smile (which has degraded) to be accurate to his personality.

We tried to find the image the original makers used as a model but no luck so far…
We thought that they may have copied a famous painting.
Our research is leading us to believe the historic flag’s image was
an amalgamation of two or three images we’ve found.
If anyone has any further history we’ll be happy to share that in this post..

This has been an honor and adventure so far;
really nothing I’ve done to date has been quite like it.

I am not quite finished with this test
(hair, costume) but not sure that I will finish him; I’ve learned a good bit from
the paper tests and am now ready for the silk, next post!

To begin at the beginning, visit Washington State Flag, 1.

©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 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.

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

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