Textile treatment on Mary Queen of Scots bed

This Blog introduces readers to a brief outline of the time-line of a treatment and the structure of a report….the initial survey, of one curtain, was carried out in 2007.

The Treatment of the Upper Bed Valance on the Mary Queen of Scots bed at Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh

Brief

To stabilize / conserve the valance in the same manner as was done with the other hangings adorning this bed. Younger Conservation Ltd has now completed three parts: two curtains and one upper valance. Treatment method continued from Alison Fraser’s work, completed in the 1990s.

Description

An early 18th Century Crewel-work embroidered valance; part of a set of bed hangings displayed on a bed in the Mary Queen of Scots bedchamber, Holyrood House, Edinburgh.
The ‘design’ is incomplete as the crewel-work is a construct of a number of crewel-work embroidered patches. The wool embroidery is stitched onto a cotton/linen union twill ground fabric. There is a simple repertoire of embroidery stitches: split, long & short, satin and French knots. The passementerie braided top and lower borders are in dark green velvet with gold ribbon; they are more recent additions and help to make the bed appear more decorative and complete. The valance is lined in a red cotton sateen lining fabric.

Construction

The valance was composed of eight patches of crewel work. The patches varied in size and were seamed together on the underside using a back stitch with none of the crewel-work patterns or designs correlated with each other. The passementerie borders were applied to the surface of the valance using running stitches. The red lining was slip stitched all around onto the back of the valance.
Condition as illustrated in the images.

Treatment

Once in the workshop a fuller condition assessment was carried out; this included making a tracing, onto polyester film, of the design and the numerous repairs. Once the construction and condition had been recorded the old linings as well as the crude and distorting repair work were removed. The valance, now very weak, was then well supported onto a dyed cotton support fabric, using conservation stitching in fine threads. Laid thread couching was the preferred stabilization stitch. Care was taken to make a comprehensive network of support and outline stitching. On completion the lining and decorative braiding were re-attached and the object prepared for hanging.

Installation

Under the watchful eyes of interested visitors the valance was rehung. It was a rewarding moment, standing back to see many months of painstaking work being appreciated by the public.