Conservation Methods for Lace – Winterthur Museum – 2004 IOLI tour

Joy Gardiner—Textile Conservator at Winterthur shared her findings in developing and researching a method to conserve a recent lace collection donated to Winterthur.

Ms. Gardiner shared a listing of vendors for materials for conserving our laces (See attached list 2004). The first listing is "Archivart", which supplies acid-free boxes with trays inside the boxes. They come in multiple sizes. The box that Joy showed us allowed for laying larger pieces of lace flat with acid-free paper in-between, while they had the upper tray filled with rolled tape laces.

She stated that all of our materials for lace making should never be stored in plastic shopping bags or zip lock bags due to gases emitted from the plastic which impacts the thread negatively and causes the thread to break down. She suggested that we place our lace threads and fabrics (handkerchief materials, etc) in archival paper and then place them in an archival box inside an older wood dresser. NO cedar chests or closets. She stated that a dresser that is not "tightly" fitted but has drawers or wood backing not tightly fitted with air holes was good. She stated that a dresser that has some air circulating in it at room temperature is the best for storage of fabric and materials. The reason for acid free paper and a box inside a dresser drawer was to ensure that all threads or fabrics would not touch the wood sides that may have been treated with some product that could impact the materials or threads.

Acid-Free Paper is not all the same!

Ms. Gardiner shared her chemistry expertise when speaking how to best conserve our lace.

She spoke of "buffered" and "non-buffered" acid-free paper. Buffered acid-free paper is probably what most of us have in our boxes. "Buffered" acid-free paper visually is opaque—you cannot see your hand outline underneath the paper. "Non-Buffered" acid-free paper is more transparent and you can see your hand outline through the paper. "Buffered" acid-free paper has calcium carbonate within the paper fibers. You cannot see your hand through the paper. Joy explained that silk thread has a molecular structure that has a free-standing hydrogen molecule. Silks’ molecular structure will react to the calcium carbonate in the "buffered" acid-free paper thereby causing the lace or items with silk thread to break down very quickly over time—destroying the item.

Ms. Gardiner suggested that we switch to all

"non-buffered" acid free paper, which will not react to any fiber type—cotton, silk, linen or wools. Using only the non-buffered acid free paper will allow us to store all types of items even when we may not know all of the fiber types used in the item. Everyone needs to know that all laces should never be folded. If you have a large piece, roll it or create acid free paper rolls in-between so the lace is not folded.

Joy shared an excellent method to conserve our tape laces.

Take a sheet of Mylar plastic (it is denser plastic and does not emit gases) and cut it to a specific width (she had all of hers the same size about 5 inches). Roll the Mylar into a roll. Cut surgical stocking, cover the Mylar plastic with the surgical stocking—sticking the ends of the stocking into both ends. Roll the tape lace on top of the surgical

Conservation Methods for Lace – Winterthur Museum – 2004 IOLI tour

stocking/Mylar. Now, cover the lace with another sheet of Mylar plastic and tie shut with a piece of ribbon. Place your roll into the tray. This method allows you to see your laces in the tray.

She also stated that if anyone has a lace tablecloth that we can order the Mylar plastic the width plus a couple of inches of your lace. Roll it into a roll. Cover the roll with cotton unbleached muslin over the Mylar, tie with a ribbon. Then place your lace table cloth with another layer of cotton muslin over the top of it. Now, roll the lace with the muslin onto the cotton muslin covered Mylar plastic until it is completely rolled up. You should order more length of the Mylar to ensure that the Mylar covers the entire piece of lace plus a few extra inches to ensure you can close it with ribbon at several sections. Cover the ends with surgical stockings (toe sections) Now you can place the lace tablecloth vertical in the back of an interior closet knowing that the lace is completely protected and safe. She stated this method works for quilts as well. (I have stored my grandmother's hand stitch quilts this way and I can see which one I want to pull out for a special occasion).

I thought this was a great idea for those of us who have made a great deal of lace for a special occasion but needs to be stored until the occasion or for those of us who like to bring a piece of lace to workshops or convention for show and tell. This method is also great for the lace collector who enjoys looking at their lace collection or to find a specific piece of lace to show at an exhibit without pulling everything out.

For anyone traveling to Winterthur, you can make an appointment to view their lace collection. They do ask that you give as much notice. There is no guarantee that they can fit your appointment into their schedule, but they will try with enough notice. There are only two employees in the department. Call Winterthur at 800-448-3883 or 302-888-4612 and ask for the Conservatory

PDF file provided by Chris Brill-Packard


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