Displaying textiles, especially narrow, long ones such as bands and braids, can be a challenge. Dangling them over a rod is an easy solution, but not very attractive. Plus, there are visual and conservation considerations: A proper mount needs to account for any inherent weakness in the textile, be aesthetically compatible with the work, and be constructed of materials that isn’t harmful to the cloth such as adhesive tapes, nails, or tacks.
After reading my last blog on Two Simple Ways to Display and Hang Textiles, textile collector Judy Murray gave me a challenge: How can she display her eight Peruvian woven belts (chumpis) which she has collected during her various trips. The chumpis vary in length from 46-80″ and widths of 1 3/4 – 5″. She would like to hang them rather than displaying them flat, and would like to see all or most of the belt. Another challenge she has is protecting them from sunlight fading. This requires her to rotate them frequently, displaying only two or three at one time.
Ideas and Techniques
What follows are suggestions for displaying the chumpis according to Judy’s need, but these same techniques can work for other narrow bands or braids. Keep in mind whether the piece is reversible or not before deciding on display option; my chumpis used in this blog are reversible and are from the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco.
Disclaimer: I am not a conservator, just a clothmonger who wants to show off and use my textiles without damaging them. Plus, I get to offer you tips and techniques while doing so.
The materials you’ll need on hand are: display hangers; twill tape or ribbon, measuring tape; pins; scissor; sewing thread to match the color of the piece, preferably cotton but polyester can work on non-fine cloth; a sharp sewing needle that can easily penetrate the cloth where the threads intersect; (optional) unbleached, washed cotton muslin; cotton quilt padding.
Choosing a Display Hanger
There are many alternatives for a hanging device. You can use rounded dowels or flat wood, ornate hangers, or even a shuttle! You can also consider metal, painted, plastic, or varnished hangers but make sure the textile doesn’t directly touch the hanger, as over time toxins could damage the piece. Make a full sleeve to protect it vs a partial one (see below.) Personally, I prefer using natural woods.
Make a Hanger Sleeve
The belt or band needs to have a sleeve sewn on to the back side of the top. The chumpis have a braid at one end so it’s your decision as to which end is top.
If you make the sleeve wide enough, it will allow for various types of hangers. The twill tape I used is about 2” wide, so any of the pictured hangers above will work. Cut the sleeve just a tad shorter than the width of the band. Pin it in place making sure to align it following the weft pattern straight across. Using an invisible stitch and matching sewing thread, secure the tape in place using small stitches about 1/8” apart, and going under a few warp threads being careful not to split them. Sew both the top and bottom of the sleeve except if your hanger has a decorative end. If it does, you’ll need to sew the bottom of the sleeve after you’ve wrapped it around the rod.
If your hanger is made from a material that could be harmful to the textile, you’ll need to make a full sleeve protecting the textile from the device. Make a tube from the twill tape, and attached the tube as above.
Now with sleeves sewn on a number of chumpis, you can slide multiple ones through a rod–I used a walnut shuttle. This allows easy rotation, the length and widths can be mixed up, and they can dangle down the wall. I like them twisting but if you want them to lay flat, sew a lightweight dress weight to the bottom.
Other options would be to zigzag a chumpi between rods or to let it drape over a rod, one end caught by the sleeve and the other by the braid. If you are planning to keep the chumpi (or other textile) suspended between rods for more than a few months, then consider whether the weight of the rod will stress the fabric. If so, instead of using a rod at the bottom, make a small pad to place along the bottom edging of the textile. Use unbleached, washed cotton muslin wrapped around cotton quilt batting. It’s not terribly attractive but it will preserve the piece and add some weight to the bottom.
Since Judy’s chumpis are varying lengths, she can also hang multiple ones catching the ends through a rod and letting them form multiple “U”s.
Now It’s Your Turn
The ClothRoads store has any number of narrow pieces such as the Peruvian belts, sling braids, golones (the tapestry woven bands from edges of skirts.) You can use the same process for sewing a sleeve onto wide textiles too. If you want other display and mounting ideas, refer to this blog on Tips and Techniques.
Do you have a challenging textile to display? Ask me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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