Textile. Linen. Egyptian, c. 2000 BC – 40 CE, with 18-19th century fake “hieroglyphs”. Cyfarthfa Castle.
Served as project manager, overseeing two other students for the re-supporting and couching of the textile.
The textile is an Egyptian linen burial shroud, likely an interior wrapping. After excavation, the hieroglyphs were added in red iron-based ink, probably to add value. It was displayed folded, with the hieroglyphs up, and was dripped onto by a hydrocarbon substance, causing the matching brittle and stained patches.
The textile has been in Cardiff’s laboratory for many years. Earlier students cleaned the textile and laid it out, and began couching it to a cotton backing fabric using Stabiltex thread. The support was a Plaztazote board to which the textile and backing fabric had been pinned, which did not allow for a moveable working area. While the old support was functional for couching the ends of the textile, it made it difficult to work on more central areas, and the tension could not easily be adjusted.
Before the textile could be removed from the Plastazote support, the pins were replaced using long basting stitches to hold the object to the backing fabric.
The new support was built by hand, consisting of three rollers. The backing fabric is fixed to the two end rollers, while the third roller serves to modify the tension. The rollers allow the tension to be adjusted, the textile to be moved back and forth and rolled up as couching is completed. It provides space beneath the working area so the needle can more easily be manipulated.
The couching is done using Stabiltex thread and small curved needles, which make precise stitching from the front and back of the textile much easier than a straight needle. The dark and brittle sections of the textile are not couched but are held to the backing fabric with whipstitches. Individual threads are also tacked down to the backing fabric.
The primary goal of the project management process was to successfully re-support the textile and prepare it for future work. Having couched the textile before and after the new system was set up, it is certainly much easier to work on it now.