Fabrics and clothing are an important part of cultural-historical work. Conclusions can be drawn from them about the different living conditions. But the material is usually fragile and, depending on its age, can show signs of use.
Keeping it from deteriorating while maintaining its original condition is the task of textile restoration. This challenge requires a specific training in which all the basics of this form of restoration are taught. Both practice and theory should be equally important.
The extensive fields of application of restoration
This field of restoration encompasses several categories and is not limited exclusively to historical clothing. In addition, restorers take care of components of interior decoration such as covers of furniture, curtains or wall hangings. The raw materials, yarns and weaving techniques used in textiles are correspondingly diverse. This results in the need for extensive expertise in textile restoration. Therefore, the entire education amounts to a period of five years. There are a few different educational institutions of this study, from training and continuing education. In this phase, students learn all the basics related to the conservation and restoration of textiles. They study the professional processing of accessories, clothing, as well as interior decoration of all epochs and milieus. In addition, the handling of other materials plays an important role. Metals or leather were often processed in the fabrics and influence the working process.
Procedure of textile restoration
The type of work depends on whether the textiles are to be restored for museums or private households. The main focus is on the historical context and thus the authenticity. Accordingly, damage and flaws are not simply mended and repaired. Instead, conservators process the materials in such a way that they are protected from further damage. In doing so, they must also take into account historical features and special characteristics. Any blemishes are preserved because they are part of the piece's history. Each era has certain characteristics and styles that the conservator must recognize and classify. At the same time, sufficient knowledge is required regarding the materials and techniques used. Various raw materials are used in textiles, which are processed into yarns and finally into fabrics. Based on these fundamentals, textile conservators develop a concept in which they determine the measures to be taken. But not only craft aspects are part of the necessary repertoire. The skills of adequate consultation and supervision of the subsequent processes are also an important part of the profession. All of this requires extensive specialist knowledge.
The individual processes involved in restoration
In the seventies and eighties, it was common to replace and repair the knitted threads. Plastics, which are also subject to an aging process, were often used for this purpose. In general, textiles are subject to rapid deterioration even when renewed. For this reason, other methods are now used to process the objects. For a long time now, the focus has no longer been on repairing flaws. Therefore, restorers first take photos of the pieces as well as the individual damaged areas. In addition, they prepare a description of the entire object and its condition. They also research the historical background of the textile in question. For this purpose, it is not only important to work out which materials were used. The milieu from which the piece originated, the context in which it was used, and the era to which it can be assigned are other important pieces of information. If there is a hole, this is underlaid with a similar material. With the help of a tension or cloister stitch, the restorer fixes this piece in place. In this way, the hole remains visible and further fraying of the fabric can be prevented. Another advantage is that each piece can be viewed and restored individually. In this way, the authenticity is preserved and further deterioration is prevented. Textiles are delicate pieces that must be treated with great care. Original seams and defects should be preserved in order to protect the biography of the respective object.
Typical damage and its causes
- Textile structure is degraded and can only be supported by underlays, because in the course of time the material is damaged
- holes caused by moths eating the necessary protein in wool and other raw materials
- Defects caused by pests that live in the clothing and eat away and damage the fibers
- Colors fade over time due to exposure to strong sunlight
- Irreversible damage caused by washing the textiles
- Vegetable, animal and synthetic fibers
- Different spun yarns
- Different textile surfaces
- Metal threads
- Glass stones
Typical tools and techniques
- Scientific examination methods such as microscopy
- Material determination with solvents, radiation diagnostic methods
- Conservation through proper storage to keep the object in good condition in the long term, protection from light and humidity
- Restoration of the objects by sewing techniques
- Cleaning by low-pressure tables and steam systems, so that the textile is damaged as little as possible
- Documenting the findings from the research regarding the origin, materials and processing
You have a historical textile object and would like a restoration?
In the section textiles and objects made of leather on our site, you as a client will see a selection of references of the members registered with us. You can also find the right expert in your area via our restorer directory and the area search.
If you are interested in the restoration of textiles or objects made of leather and are looking for an internship, training or further education, then we offer a lot of detailed information in our job exchange, as well as in the topic area education and studies. Furthermore, we also provide basic information on the job description and training as a restorer.
Textiles and objects made of leather