Sometimes changing or updating a frame on framed piece just doesn’t work. That original frame can add context to the piece that a new frame just can’t do. That means, as a framer, I can update the glass, mounting method and matting and still keep the original frame. A recent job that was brought into the studio had this situation.

One of Nancy’s relatives had framed some family heirlooms years ago. Even though it had a store bought frame on it, the rest of the framing components were not conservation grade when it was done by the original framer or “good ole’ Dad”. The items framed were a lace Christening cap worn by Phidelia in 1823 and a fine linen Christening gown worn by Henry in 1829. The couple married in 1858. The cap and dress were stuffed with old fabric scraps and both were sewn down with care to a royal blue felt.

The walnut stained pine cove frame had a metal-leaf patterned liner and both were in good shape for their age. Since the glue that held them together had long dried out, it was easy to “break” them apart and re-glue them. Originally this picture frame was designed to house either a canvas or a print, so there was no depth to it to hold the dress without flattening it out.

My next task was to extend the rabbet of the frame to accommodate the depth of the dress. This was accomplished by using a 2″ deep walnut extender frame and attaching that to the back of the frame. I lined the inside sides of the new box with navy linen and made a new mounting board for the dress and cap. I replaced all of the old fabric stuffing and replaced it with white archival batting and sewed the dress and cap in place. I did not add any batting to the cap because I would loose the fine detail work on the cap if I did so. I loved the transparency of the fabric and wanted the delicate nature of it to be seen.

I replaced the old glass with TruVue’s Museum glass. Some people really love the wave and bubbles found in old glass. I like the look of it, but it has no UV protection what so ever. If we were framing a replaceable item like a poster or mass produced print, I would keep it. But we only have one pair of these and I wanted them to be around for another 200 years. Museum Glass gave us the UV protection we needed (99%) and it virtually disappears visually so you can focus on the dress and cap.

I did the regular installation and was able to attach a wire to shadowbox extender. Originally there was an old sticker glued to the front of the glass with the details of who had worn these pieces. I took this information and had made a brass plate and mounted it to the bottom of the frame. Now we didn’t have to worry about the details getting lost or falling off. The original documentation was place in a Mylar encapsulated pocket on the dust cover. Since I used archival paper for the dust cover, the documents will be protected.

I loved the way the dress finally hung in the box once it was on the wall. In the original frame, you can see how the dress was pressed to the glass. Because of the depth of the extender, we don’t have that issue. There is a natural drape to the fabric and you can feel how it would hang on a baby. We were all pleased with presentation of this gem.