The Museum Conservation Institute- Taking Care
Textile Suspension System
The velcro® suspension system is a method used by many museums and private collectors to hang sturdy antique and modern textiles of substantial size in a vertical manner against an interior wall. Velcro® affords a means of consistent horizontal support for a hanging that cannot be achieved by rings. It involves less distortion (thereby reducing the potential for future damage) than rings or drapery hooks. Because velcro® complements attach directly to each other, the manipulation required by "sleeve" suspension systems with rods or dowels is avoided.
Please read the following notes on preparation and the subsequent directions carefully. Casual or ill-prepared work can damage the object, if not the person, handling a cumbersome, delicate textile. This method is straightforward, but requires quiet and concentration. Other projects should be put away beforehand, and a large block of undisturbed time should be planned. The preparation is as important as the actual sewing!
Proper preparation of the object will result in the flat, undistorted suspension of the textile against the wall. It is particularly important to allign the textile properly against the verticals of the textile's composition, usually directly perpendicular to the vertical warp yarns. Rarely will the velcro® webbing be directly parallel to the horizontal wefts all the way along the top edge.
Oftentimes the vertical sides are longer than the center of the textile, so the velcro® webbing may well be lower from the top at the selvages; in this case the reverse will be true: that is, the velcro® webbing will be closer to the top edge at the sides than at the center.
Whatever the character of the textile, do not try to push or block it into a shape in which it does not want to lie flat. Once the textile is alligned flat with the floor or table surface, simply work with the existing verticals.
A textile with an irregular top edge will look surprisingly rectilinear if suspended perpendicular to the existing verticals, but a textile with an irregular top edge velcroed along that top edge (disregarding the verticals) will wave at the bottom and make the viewer sea-sick!
Suitable for: tapestries, wallhangings, rugs and certain other large sized textiles. Objects must be in good condition prior to work. Future wet cleaning, drycleaning, or other conservation treatment may necessitate the removal of the velcro® system prior to treatment.
Time required: two-three hours for initial preparation, i.e. one full afternoon. Additional hours (up to 36) for actual sewing.
Equipment needed: One inch wide or two inch wide velcro® (hook and loop complements) 12" wider than width of object.
- Cotton webbing tape
- Tapestry needles, size 24 or 26 or as appropriate
- T-squares up to 72" long
- Clean, firm flat surface larger than the dimensions of object (if table not available then floor area)
- Sheet or kraft paper to cover clean surface
- 100% cotton quilting thread
- 100% cotton carpet thread
- straight pins with ball-heads
- masking tape
- sewing machine
- measuring tape
Preparation: Measure off 1/2" from top and bottom of cotton webbing. Using zig-zag stitch if possible, machine stitch soft loop velcro® to cotton webbing along top. Return to beginning of webbing (do not simply turn the webbing around) and machine stitch lower edge. Check to make sure tension of machine stitching is proper.
- Read handling instructions (separate sheet) and prepare clean area and self for work.
- Assemble equipment and supplies.
- Lay out sheet or kraft paper. Assure taut, flat work surface by securing edges only with masking tape.
- Lay object face down. Object should lie flat on flat surface.
- Determine effective verticals of object by laying T-square parallel to vertical lines or warps of object.
- Allign webbing perpendicular to major verticals, but at least 1/4" below top edge of object. Top edge of hand woven or hand-constructed textiles may not be consistently parallel to webbing.
- Pin webbing in place starting at center and working to sides.
- Count number of pins used.
- Webbing and velcro® should extend a few inches beyond the width of the width of the textile on either side.
- Baste webbing with quilt thread through to front surface of textile.
- Start from top center and work to edge.
- Use back stitch.
- After completing top edge, repeat basting along lower edge:
- again from center out,
- again using back stitch.
- Avoid sewing inside a warp or weft thread of textile object.
- Remove all pins. Pack pin box away.
- Roll up textile to 1' short of velcro®.
- If object is to be left some time more that 1/2 hour before final stitching, cover the object as is with clean sheeting or acid free tissue paper.
- Sew velcro® to object using herringbone stitch.
- For heavy textiles (rugs, tapestries) use 100% cotton bottonhole/carpet thread, doubled.
- For lighter textiles use appropriately lighter thread.
- Use blunt, 24 or 26 tapestry needle if possible.
- Begin at center top edge:
- Secure thread to cotton webbing only.
- Backstitch accross two warps of the front of the textile.
- Use herringbone stitch.
- Backstitch as necessary.
- Stagger stitching to same wefts (running horizontally) are not the only ones adjacent to the herringbone front of the stitches.
- Stitches must go through to the front of the object to secure the textile to the velcro® mounting system and to prevent future damage to the yarns of the textile.
- Stop 1" before outer edge of object.
- Secure needle in paper tab and wrap excess thread to holder-tab.
- Repeat until all four sections (left top; right top; left lower; right lower) are done.
- Place the needle-and-thread tabs towards the center of the textile.
- Place a larger translucent sheet of paper between the back of the webbing and textile.
- Cut the webbing and velcro® 1/4-1/2" short of the edge of the textile.
- Secure the end of the webbing and velcro® to the textile by hem-stitching the two with the remaining thread from the tabs: sew through the front of the textile.
- Remember to bind off the sewing thread to the webbing rather than to the textile.
- Remove original basting threads from cotton webbing side.
Slat Directions: After the velcro® webbing has been completed stitched to the textile, the edges of the velcro webbing cut and hemmed, the complement can be prepared for the wall.
Supplies & Equipment:
- poplar board 1"x4 1/2"x(length of velcro® webbing-3/4")
- polyurethane varnish & brush
- aluminum tacks, monel staples, or cadmium coated flat head nails
- small wood block
- hammer or stapler
- drill and "molly" bolts or nails
- nails and closed-eye screws
- Measure length of velcro® on back of textile exactly
- Subtract 3/4"; measure the average height of the textile
- Put textile away
- Cut board to that exactly length less 3/4"
- Coat with 2 coats of polyurethane varnish
- all sides, edges, ends of board
- allow varnish to cure and dry thoroughly
- Using hook-side of the velcro, secure the velcro on the 1" edge of the board at the top of the 4 1/2"
- Once this edge is secure, turn the corner and secure the corner using the small wood block to pull, stretch the velcro® and secure along the entire length
- Turn the corner and secure the side edge
- Put away tools except those needed to secure board to wall
Prepared by: Mary Ballard, Senior Textile Conservator, MCI
Museum Conservation Institute, 2003. Smithsonian Institution