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Padded Insert for Pre-Columbian Tunic



Wari: Lords of the Ancient Andes, an exhibition organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA), opened in Cleveland in October 2013 and then traveled to two additional US venues. Before the Inca – between 600 and 1000 AD – the Wari forged a complex society widely regarded today as ancient Peru’s first empire. The first exhibition of this culture in North America, Wari included more than 100 artworks from more than 45 lenders in all major Wari media, including ceramics, ornaments made of inlays of gold and silver, and sculpture, in addition to tunics and other garments from one of the world’s most distinguished textile traditions. Because the exhibition included so many similar textiles – tunics – that Cleveland was responsible for mounting for display, a flexible, easy-to-install mounting system that also satisfied the requirements of the museum’s design department had to be created. Both the exhibition curator and designer wanted the neck slit in the tunics to be visible. An added challenge was that not all of the tunics were displayed at all venues. CMA’s textile conservator traveled with the exhibition to install the tunics at the additional venues. Lender requirements determined the angle at which each tunic could be displayed. One component of the mount was the custom fitted, padded insert fabricated by the textile conservator. These inserts had a dual function: they provided some three-dimensionality for the tunics while on display, and once inside the tunic they remained in the object for the duration of the exhibition tour, thereby providing padding during their transport. The insert had a gusset at the neck to facilitate viewing the neck slit. If the color of the neck edge differed from the rest of the tunic, an overlay of cotton that matched the neck edge color was added (fig. 1). The following details the design and construction of this padded insert.


Robin M. Hanson
Textile Conservator
Cleveland Museum of Art
11150 East Boulevard
Cleveland, OH 44106

Christine Giuntini
Textile Conservator
Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10028

Photo Credits: Robin Hanson

Publication: 2015

Fig. 1

Figure 1. Completed padded insert with neck overlay in contrasting color.


The custom-sized padded insert for Pre-Columbian tunics described in this paper consists of a cotton broadcloth cover over two layers of cut-to-shape high loft polyester batting and is modeled on a padded insert developed by Christine Giuntini, textile conservator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Shoulder straps of silk crepeline ribbon prevent the batting from slumping. Each padded insert is custom sized to fit a specific tunic and constructed of cotton in a sympathetic color. The padded insert is constructed of Philips-Boyne 1/50’s Superba cotton broadcloth and Museum Services Musetex 2.5 cm (1 inch) high loft batting. A single piece of cotton broadcloth that is washed twice, dried, and ironed prior to use provides the cover for the padded insert. The first wash is done in hot water using Orvus WA paste, the second wash is done in hot water with no detergent.

Materials, Tools & Supplies

  • 2.5 cm (1 inch) thick high loft polyester batting
  • cotton broadcloth
  • 3.1 cm (1-1/4 inch) diameter blueboard tube
  • 2.5 cm (1 inch) wide silk crepeline ribbon (or other ribbon if crepeline not available)
  • cotton sewing thread
  • Orvus WA paste (non-ionic detergent)
  • sewing machine spray bottle for water
  • iron
  • scissors
  • straight edge
  • tape measure
  • pencil
  • tailor’s chalk
  • rotary cutter
  • scalpel
  • hand sewing needle


1. Measure the tunic while it is lying flat on a table. The narrowest width and length of the artifact provide the dimensions for the padded insert. As well, the length of the neck slit on the tunic is determined and recorded.

2. With these measurements in hand, lay the cotton broadcloth flat on a work table and mark the center (in both directions) with tailor’s chalk across the width of the fabric and down the length of the fabric. The horizontal line establishes the shoulder line and the vertical line the center front or back.

a. Using these lines, draw the neck edge with chalk as follows: from the center point, mark the shoulder line 1.9 cm (¾ inch) from each side of the center line. Lines are drawn from these points tapering to a point 2.5 cm (1 inch) below the length of the neck slit. Because this chalk line will be machine stitched with a line of stay stitching, rather than coming to a “V”, the bottom of the neck slit is actually a “U”.

b. The chalk line is machine stitched with thread the color of the cotton broadcloth using very small length stitches, to act as stay stitching, particularly at the point of the “V”.

c. The neck slit is cut down the center from the point of the “V” in front to the point of the “V” in back (fig. 2).

Figure 2. Neck slit after stay stitching and being slit down the center.

Figure 2. Neck slit after stay stitching and being slit down the center.

d. A gusset is cut of the same cotton broadcloth, 6.4 cm (2-1/2 inches) in width and the length of the neck slit. (For a 21.6 cm (8-1/2 inch) neck slit a gusset of 38.7 cm (15-1/4 inches) is required.) The gusset is ironed and folded in half and the center fold ironed to facilitate placement of the gusset relative to the tunic.

e. The gusset fold is placed at the bottom of the “V” and pinned to the tunic; pinning proceeds upwards from this point. The gusset pinned to the tunic is then machine sewn with a 1.3 cm (½ inch) seam allowance; the seam pivots at the bottom of the “V” and stops on each side 4.5 cm (1-3/4 inches) below the shoulder line to allow clearance for the tube to slip through.

f. After one side is stitched to the gusset, the seams are pressed towards the tunic. Then the second side is pinned and stitched the same as the first side.

g. The 1.3 cm (½ inch) seam allowance at the neck/shoulder is folded to the back and hand stitched through both layers around the tube opening to keep it inside and flat (fig. 3).

Hanson Figure 3 (09-22-15-12-51-43)

Figure 3. Neck slit with completed gusset.

h. The tunic is then placed flat on a table and folded in half, right sides together, at the shoulder line. The sides and bottom edges are aligned and pinned. The sides are marked at the appropriate width for the specific tunic, sewn, and trimmed as necessary to about 1.3 cm (½ inch) seam allowance. Side seams should be sewn only to about 5.1 cm (2-1/2 inches) from the shoulder line. The open 5.1 cm (2-1/2 inches) allows the rod/tube to slip through. Sew across the bottom only about 25.4 cm (10 inches) in from each side seam. The remainder of the bottom seam is closed with hand sewing once the batting is inserted (fig. 4).

Figure 4.

Figure 4. Padded insert turned inside out to sew side and bottom seams.

i. Once the side and partial bottom seams are sewn, open the two seam allowances at the corners and stitch a 3.8 cm (1-1/2 inch) box at each corner (fig. 5). Trim the corners and turn the padded insert right side out. Iron seams open and remove wrinkles as necessary (fig. 6).

Figure 5.

Figure 5. Bottom corner of tunic showing stitching to create box.

Figure 6

Figure 6. Padded insert turned right side out.

j. Two pieces of high loft batting are cut the shape of the padded insert. The two pieces of batting can be stitched together with long basting stitches if necessary, so that they function as one.

k. Four pieces of crepeline ribbon are cut to 22.9 cm (9 inch) lengths. Attach each piece of ribbon to the batting at the shoulders, one each at the neck and armholes edges. The ribbon should form a loop that is of sufficient diameter to fit the appropriate archival tube. (In this case 3.2 cm (1-1/4 inch) diameter archival tube is used.) One large cross stitch extending from front to back through both batting layers and the ribbon in front and back, and well tied off, should be sufficient to secure the ribbon loop to the batting (figs. 7, 8).

Figure 7. High loft batting with crepeline ribbon straps.

Figure 7. High loft batting with crepeline ribbon straps.

Figure 8. Detail of crepeline ribbon strap.

Figure 8. Detail of crepeline ribbon strap.

l. The batting is inserted into the cover.

m. At this point the padded insert is fit tested by sliding a tube of the appropriate diameter across the shoulders – through the openings in the padded insert – and making sure to catch the ribbon loops. Slide a smaller diameter metal rod that attaches to telescoping tripod stands through the tube, and set up the two telescoping stands. In this way the tunic insert can hang and the batting shifted around as necessary, properly positioned, and trimmed as necessary (fig. 9).

Figure 9. Completed padded insert; center bottom seam not yet stitched closed.

Figure 9. Completed padded insert; center bottom seam not yet stitched closed.

n. At the shoulder line stitch by hand through the cover and each crepeline ribbon loop, to ensure that when the final rod is inserted and interior access to the padded insert is no longer available because the bottom seam is sewn closed, that all loops are “caught” as the rod is inserted.

o. By hand, sew up the bottom seam. Insert the padded insert into the tunic. Insert the rod/tube/display mount across the shoulders.

Adapted From

Robin Hanson would like to thank Metropolitan Museum of Art conservator Christine Giuntini for her design of this padded insert. All Robin did was codify Christine’s design by writing it down.


Travel, Exhibition, Art, Archaeology/Ethnology

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