ABRASIVENESS OF CERTAIN BACKING FABRICS FOR SUPPORTING HISTORIC TEXTILES
LoERNA PALMER SIMPSON
IN THE conservation, display, or storage of historic textile items, decisions are often made to mount the historic textile object to another fabric surface. This other fabric may function simply as a backing material for mounting, or it may support a fragile item, sometimes even bridging an open area where original yarns and structure may have been lost.
The mount design and the backing fabric itself need certain characteristics in order to function well. These characteristics include:
- adequate support for the historic textile;
- a visually satisfying surface appearance compatible with the historic item;
- necessary strength over time for the weight of the historic textile fastened to it; and
- a surface that does not introduce any hazards to the historic item.
Hazards that should be avoided include the presence of objectionable chemicals and finishes, such as starches, sizings, bleaches, spinning oils, and other impurities from fabric manufacturing processes, as well as accumulated surface dirt.
An additional hazard to be avoided is the placing of any abrasive, rough surface next to the historic textile. Sometimes a small degree of friction is helpful in holding the two textile items together so that they do not slide apart easily. However, too rough a surface in a backing fabric may also cut away at adjacent delicate fibers and fabric surfaces. This condition may result particularly if the item is displayed or stored in a vertical manner with gravitational force exerting pull on one surface against the other. In other circumstances, changes in environment such as humidity fluctuations may cause movement of the historic textile against its backing fabric. Even general handling of the item such as lifting and repositioning may cause movement of the two fabric surfaces against each other.
This experimental research project was designed to investigate the abrasive nature of certain textile backing fabric surfaces and to develop and refine a test procedure for measuring this abrasiveness. A review of literature revealed that no such textile test method existed. One related study was found in which surgical fabrics were tested for generation of lint (Buras and Harris 1983), but no previous studies on abrasiveness of backing fabrics used in conservation were discovered.