A Disheveled Beauty is Reborn

This grand end-of-the Belle Epoque collar, a machine lace masterpiece, emerged from the darkness like Grizabella The Glamour Cat In the musical “Cats”. 

Once a stunner, but lately a “disheveled beauty”  Grizabella passed to the "Heavyside Layer” to be reborn.

Mach GP CLR OVER BACK



More like a visit to a Hollywood plastic surgeon, this beauty more simply was given a nice refreshing bath, and with the benefit of a few thoughtful needle-and-thread stitches, emerged ready to rejoin the preening and partying Jellicle Cats.

As always, any attempt to “put right” some antique lace begins with a careful look at what is really wrong. Yes, I realize a “before” picture would have been appropriate, but dirt and discoloration simply does not photograph well.  Unlike people-pictures, lace almost never looks as disheveled in the picture as it does unreal life.  

The lace collar was first washed to see what color it really was.  When lace is very yellowed and dirty with age, it often is necessary to wash it before selecting thread for the mending.  If it washes out white and clean, and a yellow or beige thread was selected for mending, that can stand out in the clean collar.

The first close look shows how the collar was originally made.  Antique machine made lace most always was a combination of highly skilled lace workers using machines as their carefully controlled tools, along with a significant amount of hand finishing. (See My Favorite Thing article.)  

There were an assortment of problems:  (Click on photo for larger image).  Thinking about the repair often is harder than the actual work of fixing.

MACH GP MESH  broke bar GREEN HIGHLIGHT


Simple breaks in connecting bars are always to be expected in any antique lace, and usually are an easy, quick needle and thread fix.

Using a thread finer than that used to make the lace (it will make the mend less visible, and offer the chance to work over the space a few times.





MACH GP MESH  broke barBUILD BRIDGE GREENMACH GP MESH  broke bar WRAPBRIDGE GREEN

The simple fix-it process is to 

1.  secure the mending thread at the base of the break with a few running stitches, and a looping knot.  

2.  Build a bridge across the break by making a loop around the space, and adjusting the distance.

3. Wrap the bridge, or cover it with a few buttonhole stitches.

That’s all there is to it!



Perhaps a surprising problem, unique to this collar,  is simply a seam coming loose.

Kate GP Clr Seam loose FRONT Green ARROWSKate GP Clr seam loose BACK

A couple of little holes are visible on the front side (right).   When viewed from the back , it is apparent it actually is one little seam coming apart (left) 

The collar is hand assembled from several smaller pie-shaped wedges.

All what was needed here was a few whip-stitches taken on the back side to reconnect the seam.




The most complex issues to repair: little tears in the patterned areas.

MACH GP MESH small break GREEN CIRCLEMACH GP MESH  in process COLOR CODE GRID

First is a small tear in a decorative mesh area (circled in green.)

Remember the basic premise of maintaining the lines and spaces of the original lace design.  

What are the lines to observe here?

The red lines in the picture at the right show major and minor lines.

Again, the bridge-and-wrap technique rejoins the broken area.


The second damaged area is in a more complex decorative area.

The process of fixing it, however, is essentially the same as any other mend.  

Mach Gros Pt Hole BEFORE big view GREENKate GP Mach hole befCOLOR CODED FIX

Maintain the lines and spaces.

The key lines are the broad diamond-shaped bands around the spider-like designs, and the little legs of the spiders.


A logical working order here is to first rebuild the broad diamond shaped bands (red) then stabilize the damaged edge of the center of the spider (blue) and finally rebuild all the legs, carefully counting out the number and location to match the other spiders (green).


Kate GP Mach 1st stitchCROPPED


Side leg across

The first step was to reconnect the broad band that forms the diamond shape with several stitches that bridge the missing area. (goto left)  It is better to use a fine thread.  The repair will be less visible.  After the initial bridge is established, darn across to build up an appearance of cloth.


Next, the broken and frayed legs were rebuilt.  


LEGS MENDED



Finally: the finished repair.  Though imperfect when viewed from very close, the lines and spaces look just fine from a bit of a distance.  Also, because the flaw is on the shoulder, and not directly in the front or back, it will not be noticed.


Mend AFTER on shoulder










One other bit of damage:  a break in a fancy mesh-like ares.


To summarize: thinking and planning the repair is as important — maybe more important — than the actual stitching.



lacecurator@gmail.com  www.lacemerchant.com      219-659-1124    Elizabeth Kurella 2014