How to repair a Mexican textile

Reader photo - This textile was submitted by a reader looking to have the smaller panel cut down. The reader thought it was a serape. It is not.

QI have an old wool Mexican serape that has seen better days. I want to cut out the center, repair the moth holes and bind the new edges so that this smaller version can be mounted on the wall. Any suggestions on who might be able to do this type of work?

Annandale

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ALizou Fenyvesi, who specializes in working on ethnographic textiles at her studio in Montgomery County, took a look at the picture you sent and suggests that what you have is not a serape, because that’s a wearable blanket that would have a vertical slit in the center for slipping over a head. Your piece is probably a serape-style wall hanging. “It looks to be well made, not old, not one of a kind and possibly not very valuable,” she wrote in an e-mail. “Normally I would do almost anything not to have to cut into a hand-woven textile, but in this case it may be justifiable to sacrifice the heavily damaged areas in order to save the center.”

For the kind of job you want, one solution would be to contact a conservator like her. But Fenyvesi notes that most textile conservators charge about $100 an hour, and the steps you want would take considerable time. So you might want to try some other options, such as a dry-cleaning company that offers reweaving or tailoring services. Connell’s Valet in Vienna (703-255-9481) does this, as does Parkway Custom Drycleaning in Chevy Chase (301-652-3377; www.parkway
drycleaning.com
), which offers free pickup and delivery in Annandale and nearby communities, including Washington.

Another option is a company that repairs Oriental rugs, such as Oriental Rug Weavers in Vienna (703-349-1225; www.theorientalrug.com). It charges about $50 a linear foot to bind the edges but would need to inspect the piece to estimate the cost of repairing the moth damage.

Or you can search for someone who sews or works with fabrics and would enjoy tackling an unusual project. You might be able to find someone like this through the Potomac Fiber Arts Gallery (formerly Potomac Craftsmen Gallery), a cooperative of 75 fiber artists at the Torpedo Factory in Old Town Alexandria. (703-548-0935; www.potomacfiberartsgallery.com). Have your hanging dry-cleaned before you give it to someone to work on so you don’t spread an infestation to their home or work space.

Luckily, the borders of your wall hanging incorporate the same colors as the part of the piece you want to save. So whoever does the work should be able to make the repairs and even bind the edges with yarn from the parts you want to cut away.

I live in a connected condo complex. I have two floors, and below me, my neighbor has two floors. When the heat in my unit turns on, I can smell her cat’s odors coming through the vents. It sickens me. I’ve changed the air filters in my vents, burned incense and used a number of sprays, with no relief. When I asked my neighbor about her cat (in a nice way), she said it wasn’t her cat because she cleans her box every day (which I do not believe).

My neighbor was gone for a number of months and took the cat with her. The smell dissipated. Now that she’s moved back in, so has the cat smell. I can also smell her food when she’s cooking strange dishes. I don’t want to alienate my neighbor, but this smell is killing me. She said there are other cats in the neighborhood and they mark their territory outside. How would that smell get into my vents unless it was coming from her house? Any suggestions?

Washington

Cats have been known to aim directly at heating vents. When they do, hiring a duct cleaner can be a good solution. But in your case, the odors probably aren’t coming through the vents, even though you notice the cat odor when the heating system kicks on, says Dave Doyle, service manager for Atlantic Duct Cleaning (703-435-4485; www.atlanticduct
cleaning.com
), a Sterling company that works throughout the Washington area.

Your neighbor’s vents aren’t connected to yours, so duct cleaning wouldn’t make any difference, Doyle says. In condo complexes, heating and air conditioning systems are designed so that each unit has its own system of supply and exhaust piping. The possible exception is that kitchen and bathroom exhaust pipes are sometimes shared. That’s allowed because these pipes have negative pressure, meaning they should carry air only up and out. But in some cases, there is a “perfect storm” where air pressure differences are such that the exhaust air can actually be sucked inside one of the units, Doyle says. When your heating system kicks on, it could be drawing in replacement air from a shared vent. Or it could be drawing in air through hidden gaps between your neighbor’s unit and yours. This could be why you often notice cooking smells, too.

To ensure a supply of fresh replacement air, Doyle suggests opening a window slightly when the heating system is on. If that fixes the problem, a heating and air conditioning company can investigate whether there is a more energy-efficient solution.

Also, check your condo documents to see if there are any pet restrictions. If so, the documents should spell out procedures for recourse. A chat with the manager of your complex might also be helpful.

If neither of these approaches works, consider selling and buying a unit in a different complex — one that doesn’t allow pets. Coming home should be a joyful experience, not one that makes you angry every day.

Have a problem in your home? Send questions to localliving@washpost.com. Put “How To” in the subject line, tell us where you live and try to include a photo.

The Checklist Read Jeanne Huber’s roundup of home-improvement tasks you should tackle in June, such as testing outlets, at washingtonpost.com/home.

 
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