43rd Annual Meeting – Textile Session, May 30, "A Turkish Kilim: Analysis, Stabilization, and Loss Compensation” by Cathleen Zaret.

Cathy Zaret presented on the techniques and challenges she encountered during the conservation treatment of a large Kilim. The Kilim was a 6 x 8 ft fragment from a private collection. After the completion of her treatment, the fragment would be returned to the private collector where it would be displayed over the back of their sofa.
Cathy’s introduction to Kilims provided helpful terminology and historical context. Kilims are woven tapestries, hangings, or rugs. They have non vertical panels with slits in the weave, but the design is such that the slits are small. Kilims formed part of the dowry of women in Anatolia and were made for personal use. Women wove many different designs and motifs into their Kilims and the choice of design does not appear to be geographically associated. Cathy searched through the literature to find a Kilim that appeared similar to hers and could only find one other similar example.
The Kilim fragment had a number of distinct manufacturing and condition features. The yarn in the fragment exhibited color variation and the condition of the yarn seemed to relate to the color. For example, the brown weft was most susceptible to loss, possibly because it had been dyed with iron oxide, rendering it vulnerable to additional damage. There had been many previous campaigns of restoration, all of which were documented as part of this treatment.
The goals for this treatment were to stabilize the Kilim and perform loss compensation on the largest areas of loss while being aware of the future use of the item. Since the prior repairs were in good condition and part of the history of the object, they were left intact.

  • Cathy lined the fragment with net for structural support during cleaning and removed it after cleaning.
  • The kilim was cleaned with a surfactant and then rinsed repeatedly before rolling it in towels and laying it out to dry. This successfully removed most of the soiling from the tapestry.
  • The kilim was mounted on a saw horse tensioning frame for treatment.
  • Used a whip stitch to stabilize the lower edge.
  • Repaired or replaced warp with handspun singles. Introduced the new warp into an undamaged area near the loss and wove it through the area of loss and then moved the yard to an adjacent warp and wove it back across the loss.

Cathy overcame many challenges during this treatment related to the size of the object and its context. To keep track of her treatment on a fragment of this size (6 x 8 ft), Cathy divided the kilim into six sections and worked on one section at a time. She also learned how to manage her treatment when the cost of conservation is higher than the perceived value of the textile.
I primarily work on objects but have occasionally had the opportunity to work with a textile conservator on something that crosses the line between textile and object. Cathy’s talk was comprehensible to conservators well versed in textiles and applicable for those of us who work on the fringes of textile conservation. I look forward to using her conservation techniques and well-organized approach in the future.