Mechanical properties of wool and cotton yarns used in twenty-first century tapestry: preparing for the future by understanding the present

Smith, M. J. , Flowers, T. H. and Lennard, F. J. (2015) Mechanical properties of wool and cotton yarns used in twenty-first century tapestry: preparing for the future by understanding the present. Studies in Conservation, 60(6), pp. 375-383. (doi:10.1179/2047058414Y.0000000144)

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Abstract

The conservation of historic tapestries is a complex and highly skilled task. Tapestries now being woven will need conservation in years to come. Can we, by understanding the properties of these contemporary works, assist the conservators of the future? The recreation of the Hunt of the Unicorn tapestries being undertaken by the West Dean Tapestry Studio offers a unique opportunity to access the materials being used and to create a body of data on their initial properties. This study uses tensile testing of the warp and weft materials to determine their maximum load at break, extension at maximum load, and specific stress (tenacity). Wool weft yarns from two different sources and of two thicknesses were examined. These wools were dyed ‘in house’ and the effect of the different dyes used was also assessed. These parameters all showed some significant (P < 0.05) differences. Cotton warp yarns of differing thickness and a gold thread were also tested. The comparison of how cotton and wool break demonstrates that when a tapestry is put under sufficient stress the cotton will snap but the wool may only stretch. However, this could often be beyond its recovery range resulting in a failure to return to shape.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Smith, Dr Margaret and Lennard, Professor Frances and Flowers, Dr Thomas
Authors: Smith, M. J., Flowers, T. H., and Lennard, F. J.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Culture and Creative Arts > History of Art
College of Science and Engineering > School of Chemistry
Journal Name:Studies in Conservation
Publisher:Maney Publishing
ISSN:0039-3630
ISSN (Online):2047-0584

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