Altar Cloth Braid

Heritage & Restoration / Reproduction, 12th February 2013

Conservation is one of the main reasons I am involved in projects, for Ickworth Church I helped restore an altar cloth to its former glory

A telephone call from my friend Melanie Leach always means something exciting to look at. Melanie is a textile conservator and she works on a huge variety of jobs.  Mostly it’s about cleaning and safeguarding the original textiles – but sometimes the gaps need “filling in”.

The original altar cloth trim

The original altar cloth trim

As you can see in the above photo this was very definitely the case with the red silk and gold altar cloth for Ickworth Church in Suffolk.  The fabric was mainly intact but there were large gaps in the braid and places where there was no fringe  or it was broken off into very short tufts.

One of the biggest problems in filling in the gaps on an old textile like this is that the colour tends to vary quite dramatically depending on how much light damage there has been.  Whilst I could make lots of tiny pieces, all in different colours, the cost would be huge – so we worked on finding the colour which looked best across all the gaps where the new fringe would be placed.

 Working with real gold thread is always a “interesting” because it acts just like a cheese wire cutting through things like looms and fingers… In this case the gold was very much on the surface of the braid so it wasn’t too bad. 

The altar cloth was first used at a special service of blessing in June.

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