Analysis of Weave Structures in Museum Textiles: Simple Weaves and Complex Structures

April 8 – 10, 2019
The George Washington University and The Textile Museum
Ashburn, VA
Instructor: Elena Phipps
Organizer: Maria Fusco

MMA 46 156 43 IMG_7302
Detail: Textile with Birds, Leaves and Arabesques. 14th century, Spanish or Italian. Lampas, silk, metal thread.
Metropolitan Museum of Art Fletcher Fund, 1946. (46.156.43)

Documenting the weave structures of ancient, historic and ethnographic textiles, is one of the most important contributions textile conservators can make to the body of knowledge about works of art in the museum context. It is a skill that is difficult to acquire, requiring focus and practice and is a constant learning experience even for those who have the basic understanding about how textiles have been made throughout history. Region to region, and period to period, textile traditions retain specific technical traits whose documentation can help in the identification of their cultural associations and context, authenticity and conservation needs. Understanding the structure of the weave, along with their material components is also critical to conservators' approach for research and preservation planning.

This workshop will focus on the basic weave structures of plainweave, twill, satin and gauze and their variants, forming a basis for understanding textile traditions. This will be followed with the examination of the complex weaves that utilize these basic structures incorporated into structures composed of multiple sets of warps and wefts, such as doublecloth, triplecloth, compound weaves, and those formed through the combinations of two structures (including samites and lampas). Participants will look at these structures in the context of examples from various cultures, including Precolumbian Peru, China, the Late Antique period in Egypt, and Western Asia.

The workshop will combine lectures on history and development of textiles and their analysis, practical exercises in the analysis of weave structures and the production of sample structures, as well as the first-hand examination of selected textiles in the museum collection.


This workshop is now full. To be added to the wait list, contact

The fee for this course is $399 AIC members; $549 non-AIC members. Limited to 12 participants.

FAIC's registration policies for professional development programs can be found here.

About the Instructor

Dr. Elena Phipps is former Senior Museum Conservator in the Textile Conservation Department, Metropolitan Museum of Art (MMA), where she worked for over 34 years. She is an independent textile scholar and curator, and currently teaches technical and cultural history of textiles in the Department of World Arts and Culture, University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). She has a doctorate in Precolumbian Art History and Archaeology from Columbia University (1989), and was President of the Textile Society of America from 2011-2014. During her time at the MMA Elena worked on conservation and technical analysis of the museum collection, and developed a strong interest in the nature of material and technical issues in the context of culture history.  She was a major participant in the development of the Antonio Ratti Textile Center, the Museum’s textile study, storage and conservation facility which opened in 1995. In addition, she was a special curator of several  textile exhibitions, including The Colonial Andes: Tapestries and Silverwork 1430-1830, (awarded the Alfred Barr Jr. Award for best exhibition catalogue 2004-2005 from the College Art Association, and the Mitchell Prize, in 2006) and The Interwoven Globe: worldwide textile trade 1500-1800 (MMA, 2013). In 2013, she was Guest Curator for the exhibition The Peruvian Four-Selvaged Cloth: ancient threads/new directions at the Fowler Museum (UCLA) and was a curatorial consultant for the Museum of International Folk Art, Santa Fe’s 2015 exhibition The Red that Colored the World, inspired in part by her publication Cochineal Red: the art history of a color (MMA 2010). Elena has numerous publications on textiles focusing on the relationship between materials and techniques, and culture history.

Travel & Accommodations

The workshop will take place at the Avenir Foundation Conservation and Collections Resource Center, located at The George Washington University's Virginia Science & Technology Campus in Ashburn, VA. Below are two hotels located nearby the campus. Please note that AIC/FAIC, The George Washington University and The Textile Museum in no way endorse these businesses.

Scholarship Funding

FAIC/NEH Individual Professional Development Scholarships
With funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, FAIC offers scholarships up to $1,000 to help defray professional development costs for individual members of AIC who are U.S. residents. Applications for funding are due February 15, May 15, September 15.


Donate to FAIC

  Without support, the registration fee for this workshop would be $1,050. FAIC relies on your contributions to support these and its many other programs.

Funding for this program comes from  a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Additional funding comes from the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works Endowment for Professional Development, which was created by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and is supported by donations from members of the American Institute for Conservation and its friends. Courses are made possible with the assistance of many AIC members, but no AIC membership dues were used to create or present this course.

Contact: Sarah Saetren
Education Coordinator
(202) 661-8071

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