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Aug 29

ClothRoads Tips & Techniques: Hanging Textiles

“What’s the best way to hang this?” This is one of the most frequently asked questions when ClothRoads is hosting a show of textiles. It also seems daunting, or intimidating, if you’ve never hung any art before, especially textiles. What’s better than being surrounded by exquisite artisan beauty all the time?  But, by the very nature of this art being constructed of fiber, there are inherent characteristics requiring specific ways to mount and display textiles in order to preserve them. Allow me to guide you with some tips and techniques.

A few weeks ago, the exhibit “Weaving Lives, Transforming Textile Traditions in the Peruvian Highlands” was de-installed from the Avenir Museum in Fort Collins. My scaffold-weaving manta from Pitumarca, which had been on display, came home to me. Now it was time to figure out how to display it.

Peruvian textile properly mounted and displayed.

Peruvian textile properly mounted and displayed.

Ways to Mount a Textile
So what are some of the considerations for displaying a textile? Do you want it framed on a background cloth, hung on a decorative hanger, or mounted so just the piece shows? Each of these requires a different preparation. A proper mount needs to account for any weakness in the cloth, be aesthetically compatible with the work, and constructed of materials that doesn’t harm the cloth, such as adhesive tapes, nails, or tacks. Your home is not a museum (although it may be your personal one), and while the display standards don’t have to be on par with one, you can still take adequate care all the same.

The Mounting Process
So let’s go through the steps for mounting a  textile that can support its own weight, using a wall mount and  Velcro fastener. (This manta is 28” wide by 34″ long.)

Basic supplies needed for mounting a textile.

Basic supplies needed for mounting a textile.

The materials you’ll need on hand are: washed twill tape; a Velcro strip about ½” short of the width of the piece (Twill tape and Velcro come in various widths so get one at least 1”. If your textile is large, you’ll want some that is wider and stronger.); 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; a wood slat about ½’ short of the width of the piece; staples; hammer and nails.

Cut the twill tape about 1/4” short of the width of the piece on each edge. Pin the soft looped side of the Velcro to the twill tape. Sew the Velcro to the twill tape using small running stitches or by machine stitching.

Next, pin the tape to the piece along the top edge leaving about ¼” at the top and sides. This textile has an attached border so the twill fits right to the edge of the border. Again, using a running stitch with a backstitch every 3 to 4 stitches, attach the tape to the textile. Make sure you are adequately stitching into the piece but not forming large stitches on the front side. The Peruvian textiles are warp-faced so there are more-than-adequate threads to secure the piece to the tape.

Ready for the Wall
Take the hooked side of the Velcro and attach it to the wooden slat using staples. Measure your wall space and secure the slat on the wall using enough nails in relation to the weight of the piece. I center artwork  at 60” on the wall measured from the floor, a good viewing height. TIP: Avoid hanging your textiles in areas where the light is too intense and there is a high degree of ultraviolet rays. Light damage is irreversible.

Now attach the textile to the fixed slat, adjusting it across the slat to keep it horizontal. And since many textiles are not perfectly rectangular, you may have to position one side slightly higher (or lower) than the other. That’s why this mounting technique works well for many pieces.

I’m now sitting on the couch, writing this blog, and looking directly at my new Peruvian manta. This type of mounting works perfectly for all table runners, scarves and more. Try it on a textile that’s been tucked away in a drawer. It’ll save you from paying a framer and it will save the textile for years of enjoyment.

Note: There are online resources for museum conservation techniques. Visit the Textile Museum’s here.

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