Working From Home Part 2

As physical isolation is still in place I’m continuing with treatments in my ad hoc conservation lab at home. The next artefact up for consideration is a fragment of 18thC chintz, a finely woven cotton fabric from Indian featuring a combination of hand drawn and dyed designs, which will be framed for display in the upcoming exhibition The Great Divide. This beautiful textile is generously on loan to the BSM from Cora Ginsburg LLC, a New York City based company specializing in historic clothing and accessories.

Our Senior Curator & Creative Director, Elizabeth Semmelhack, selected a backing fabric to which the chintz would be attached. Unbleached dressmaker’s muslin was her choice as it has an aesthetic synchronicity in colour and weave to the chintz. The first step was to wash the muslin to remove the sizing which was applied by the manufacturer. This treatment can be applied to the cotton yarns to impart strength during the weaving process or afterwards to make the fabric easier to handle before it reaches the consumer.

The chintz fragment was too long for its designated placement within the exhibition so it was necessary to abbreviate its size. Folding the fabric to shorten it created two folds. When historic textiles are folded, the creases created require support to prevent the fragile fibres from breaking along these lines. The folds were supported with strips of polyester batting.

The white folded strip of polyester batting eases the crease of the folded chintz.

The next stage was attaching the chintz to the support fabric. The washed muslin was draped over a frame made from four stretcher bars, the same as an artist would use to mount their canvas, and stapled along the border edges to keep it secure. The chintz was centred on the muslin and hand stitched in place around it’s perimeter.

Left: The muslin is attached to the stretcher bars to which the chintz is secured around the edges with entomology pins.
Right: Underside of muslin showing the stitches holding the chintz in place.

The final step is attaching the chintz/muslin to an unbuffered acid free mat board which creates an inflexible support for final framing. The mat board is covered with a layer of polyester batting which gives some loft to the chintz, making it look less like a freshly ironed shirt! The centre of the board and the centre of the chintz/muslin is determined and these co-ordinates are matched up. The muslin in clamped in place, then its overlap is trimmed and glued to the back of the support board.

Left: A layer of polyester batting softens the surface of the mat board.
Right: The chintz/muslin is centered on the padded board. The little card stock tabs prevent the clamps from leaving an impression in the cotton. These clips hold everything in place while the adhesive, securing the muslin, dries on the back.

Once we have finished physical distancing and can safely return to work the mounted chintz fragment will be taken to the framer. When displayed in the exhibition the technique described will give the chintz the appearance of floating within its frame. Stay tuned to Bata Shoe Museum social media to find out when the exhibition The Great Divide opens.

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