Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Pattern Cleaning & Repair, Part 2

Part 2 - Archival Repair Methods
(For Part 1, which covers paper cleaning, please click here.)

Oh dear!  What do you do when that perfect, rare pattern you just found has a big, horrible tear?

Is all hope lost?  I'm here to tell you that hope is NOT lost, and many patterns can be repaired to nearly as good as new.  (Even really ratty ones!)

What should you use?

I recommend Filmoplast P professional archival tape.

This pattern can be repaired!!

**Please practice on junk patterns first and get the hang of it before you go sticking tape on that $200 pattern! **

Okay, now that I've got that out of the way... moving on!

This tape is amazing!  It won't ever turn brittle, turn yellow, crack, or become hard.  You can even IRON it (on a lower setting) if you use it to repair a torn pattern piece.  It is really a miracle product and I would never, EVER use anything else!  Also, please, NEVER EVER use regular Scotch Tape, it will RUIN YOUR PATTERN.  I cannot stress that enough!!

Let me show you a little about how to repair patterns the archival way!

First, there are a couple of products besides the Filmoplast P that you should have on hand.  I recommend keeping a variety of sizes and shapes of tweezers around for putting small pieces of paper back in place.  

Bone Folder and tweezers shown on the right.

I also recommend something called a BONE FOLDER which will help you to rub the tape and stick it down really well, as well as crease or uncrease things with more precision than you can with your fingers.  It is basically like a little stick with a round end and a pointy end.  While you can use any old plastic or metal pointy thing (such as your favorite point-turner), I strongly suggest you use a folder made of bone or Teflon as it is less likely to stretch or damage delicate paper fibers.

Plus, the folder also makes a great point-turner for sewing! :)  I keep one in my craft box and one in my sewing box, too.  You'll find more uses for them than you can imagine.  They're inexpensive and very handy.

OH, and make sure your HANDS ARE CLEAN.  Fingerprints can show up on the tape or the tape can pull the dirt off your hands, and the last thing you want is dirty fingerprints on your new repaired pattern. 

Adjust difficult tears with a good pair of tweezers, keep several kinds on hand.

When working on old paper, try to repair on the back if at all possible.  Sometimes, it's impossible and you must put tape on the front of an envelope.  But if you can, keep your repairs to the back side.  
First, carefully examine the tear and see if you can tell which parts of the paper need to be "on top" and which parts need to be on the bottom.  Place them back as well as you can, and use tweezers, toothpicks, or even straight pins to get stuff going the right way if necessary.  How precise you are is up to you, we aren't repairing the Constitution of The United States here, it's not an exact science. So, in my opinion anyway, a good repair is better than no repair at all when it comes to these vintage patterns.

Rub the tape with the bone folder to help it show less, and also to adhere the tape to the paper better.

After you have everything lined up the best you can, place the Filmoplast, and "burnish" with your bone folder.  Sometimes the tape will almost entirely disappear!  Sometimes, it will still show.  It depends on the type of paper.  Shiny pattern envelopes are much more difficult to repair than matte ones.  Pattern tissue accepts Filmoplast very well and it almost always disappears completely and then I can't tell where I even made the repair!

Welp, that's unfortunate. :(

This unfortunate pattern envelope was torn when I was getting it out of the drawer.  Let's repair it together!

Tape the smaller tears first and move onto the big ones later.  You can tear or cut  Filmoplast to any size you want.
First, I repaired the small tears in the detatched piece.  Like I said above, tape on the back if you possibly can.  After that was all repaired, I moved on to the next part.

Always tape on the back unless you really have no other option.

Then, I put tape on the back facing up.  This part can be a little tricky.  You can do it in sections which is usually a little easier.  I did it this way to have more clarity in showing you how it works.

Better already!

CAREFULLY line up the pieces and stick down!  Rub with your bone folder, and your pattern is repaired!

Much better!

How about that?  Almost as good as new!

A few more notes..

Envelope with Split Side or Top: if you have an envelope with a split side, you can just fold the Filmoplast about in half around the edge of the envelope, and burnish well with the bone folder.  Sometimes it shows, and sometimes it doesn't, but either way it's better than having pieces falling out of the envelope.  I can add pictures of this process if anyone would find it helpful.

Envelope with Unglued Side: If you have an envelope that has come unglued, I generally just repair it with an acid-free glue stick that is marked as being photo safe or archival.  You can get those at your favorite craft store.

I recommend Gaylord Archival and Hollinger Metal Edge for purchasing your archival repair supplies.

Just a note:  I have used other, cheaper brands of archival repair tape and have found it unsatisfactory.  I can only comfortably recommend FILMOPLAST.  Filmoplast P is not cheap, but it goes a very long way (there is a lot in a package), and is the best product on the market, in my novice opinion.  

Stay tuned for Part 3, where I'll give a few tips about getting yucky smells out of old patterns.

If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments, and I'll try to help you the best I can. :)

Also, be sure to visit all the wonderful shops of the Pattern Patter Team!


  1. Another super informative post! I learned a lot and will put it to good use on some the tatty envelopes in my personal collection. thank you.

  2. Wonderfully helpful! I've just placed an order for tape and paper cleaners and have some summer projects in line. Thanks so much!

  3. Great article! This was so informative. I love the Filmoplast tape. Will work great on some of my old documents too!

  4. So helpful, I've never heard of Filmoplast until now!

  5. Wonderful! I've always had a horror of putting tape on old pattern envelopes but I think I would actually do this with my personal collection. Thanks!

  6. Wonderful! I've always had a horror of putting tape on old pattern envelopes but I think I would actually do this with my personal collection. Thanks!

  7. Great how-to post! Thanks for sharing.

  8. Gotta get me some Filmoplast!!
    Great article!!