Decoding Braids

Braids & Heritage & Restoration / Reproduction, 11th September 2013

One of the more challenging aspects of my job is when I am asked to recreate a complex antique trimming

When I am asked to recreate an old piece of braid it usually involves a bit of “detective” work.  I have never yet been able to refer to any documentation of how a particular antique braid was made.  Although historic properties usually have very good inventories of their contents they never contain any details of the trimmings. They might document that there are trimmings present, but they won’t contain any information which could be used to recreate them.

So, what do I do? Well, hopefully, there will be at least a photograph.  If I am very lucky there will be a tiny piece of the original.  If I’m working from a photo I will go straight to my old pattern books and see it I can find anything similar. Then, working from the book, or the original “scrap” I will look at it under a magnifying mirror to work out how many threads there are and, if at all possible, the way they were woven. Usually that gives me a very good start, and enough information to set up the loom and “have a go”.

Then it is a case of trial and error. If I’m still struggling the last resort, assuming that I have a piece of the original braid, is to take that braid apart – which will destroy it.  When you have been told that it is the only piece in existence it certainly concentrates the mind!

These photos show – in a very much shortened sequence – the recreation of a silk wall braid.

Some points to note when recreating the braid are that the groups of threads are twisted in opposite directions to give the chevron effect, and the velvet shapes are cut by hand – to leave an uncut border around each shape.

My first effort didn’t have enough silk thread in each group so the overall effect was patchy.

I’m getting closer with this effort – but it still doesn’t have enough ends of silk.

Finally, I’m getting close.

After a whole day of experimenting I am pretty close to being able to recreate this silk wall braid with hand cut velvet panels.

One Comment

Michael Deman

Wonderful: I know from personal experience that creating hand cut velvet on a narrow braid is very challenging and time-consuming. The illustrated story above is great – well done!