Wash Day: Cleaning Tapestries

One of the main aims of the tapestry project at The Bowes Museum is to get a number of tapestries on display (see my previous blog post). During the last two years I have worked on three large tapestries.


I have wet cleaned a tapestry known as ‘Crowned L’s, Clubs & Sceptres’, which will be on display in the Fashion & Textile Gallery in the near future. Here are a few images of the process.

Soaking in a water bath of only 1cm depth
Turning over

I am now working on a tapestry called the ‘Presentation of the Virgin‘ (after a woodcarving by Dürer), to make it strong enough to hang in the gallery.

Before support stitching could start, we had to clean it. Because we could not remove all the dirt with a vacuum cleaner, we wet cleaned it on a washing table in the Textiles Conservation studio. It took a whole day to wash, but seeing the brown, dirty water flowing away, was very satisfying. Now it is undergoing the next stage of the conservation treatment, stitching, which is mainly taking place in the gallery.

Washing the tapestry ‘the Presentation of the Virgin’

Alice de Keijser, Textile Conservator

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