Conserving Vulture Peak | Episode 6: Backing fabric

Conserving Vulture Peak | Episode 6: Backing fabric

Welcome back to the next stage of the
treatment. We’ve spent the past few days cleaning the embroidery and
that’s all finished now. We’re very happy with the results.
So the next stage that we need to work out is, if we’re replacing the restoration
fabric with a new fabric, what colour shall that fabric be? The colour that it’s
on at the moment, it kind of blends in with the original lining fabric
and sometimes people have looked at it and find it quite difficult to
distinguish between the original historic lining and the restoration
lining. So perhaps the colour that it is now is all a little bit similar. So we’re
playing around with looking at different coloured backings. And luckily I’ve got a
large collection in our studio of different coloured swatches. And we’re
really looking at the swatches and having a think of how it influences how
the embroidery will look. So we could go, you know, really leftfield
and go for a blue or an orangey colour that would pick up some of the embroidery’s
and have that as a background. But I think maybe that might dominate the embroidery too much.
But then we’re thinking we might go a much paler shade. Hopefully
that might bring out some of the colours, make it look a bit brighter, and also
make it much clearer what is original and what is the backing. So this
is what is original. This is what remains of the embroidery. And you can see very
clearly all the areas of loss. And for example by putting it on a very
pale coloured fabric those areas of loss, they’re going to show up more than
perhaps they currently stand out. I think that might be quite nice I think it
might be a good way of appreciating the embroidery and really understanding
what is original. So we’ve pretty much narrowed down our
choices to these two colours, and what we’ve done here is just placed the
swatches underneath a corner where we’ve unpicked the embroidery so that we can
have a much clearer understanding of what it will look like once it’s
underneath the embroidery. And one of the other things that we have to take
into account is that as part of our treatment that we’re going to be putting a very
fine transparent netting over the surface of the embroidery and over our
new fabric, and because this has got a bit of a colour to it too, that will
affect the colour of the ground fabric. But I think that will look fine. So I’d
be happy with either of these colours. So the next stage is having identified a
colour, so this colour, we’ve got a lovely swatch of it but is now to find the dye
recipe for this particular colour. So this is our dye recipe book, that’s a
collection of all the recipes of the different colours that we’ve dyed in the
studio in the past few years. I’ll be able to find a recipe for our swatch. There it is. So that’s the colour that we would like to dye. And we can see here
that it’s a mixture of a yellow, a grey, and a brown. And here the different
ratios of how much of each of those colours. So the challenge now is to see
how accurate this recipe is and whether we can reproduce this colour again by
following it. Dyeing fabric is quite a common activity
in textile conservation. We usually use it to dye backing fabric, support fabric. So we often want to dye
something a very specific colour and it’s much easier to dye it ourselves. And we
know that our fabric, it won’t run and it won’t be harmful to the object. I’m making samples at the moment, so that I can test different combinations of colours before
I bulk-dye, before I dye our new support fabric. So I’m just going
to cut out a sample now, measure that, and that weight will
dictate how much dye I use because it’s so specific we have to be very precise. So for dyeing cotton we use dye powder called Solophenyl and as it’s in
powder form, I’ll need to wear a dust mask. So what I’ll do is I’ll weigh out my powder
and then add water to make a stock solution and from then I’ll mix that
with the other dye colours to make the specific colour I want. So to make our beige support
fabric I’m going to use three main dyes. So this lovely bright orange is in fact
a yellow, it comes out yellow. And these colours are very hard to
distinguish in their concentrate forms. This one is in fact a grey and this one
is a brown. So I’ll mix those two specific proportions
to get the shade I want. We need to be very precise so we
use these micropipettes to measure out
our dyes to make our mixture. And I’m changing the micropipette
so we don’t get any mixing. And finally the brown. And then I’ll mix
this together. and add it to the fabric in the dye bath. And that should give us
our beige. Here I’ve got my cotton samples in with the dye and water. And I’m just heating them up
over a period of about two hours. And stirring them continuously. And I’ve also added an additive called Glauber’s salts, also known
as anhydrous sodium sulphate. It helps to make sure the colour is consistent
and the dye is evenly absorbed. We don’t want to see any marks or uneven stains on the
fabric when we use it as a support. And this is almost ready to take out and dry.
And when it dries it will be quite a different colour, it will be
much lighter than it is now. So one of the main reasons why we want to choose the colour at this stage is because I want to minimise the amount of times we handle
and turn the embroidery over, so because the next stage is to turn the embroidery
face down so that we can unpick and take off the restoration lining, at that stage
I won’t be able to see the front so I won’t be able to choose my colour fabric.
So this is going to be the last time we see the embroidery on its old backing
and face up before we get to the stage where we need the colour.

10 Replies to “Conserving Vulture Peak | Episode 6: Backing fabric”

  1. @5:57min To accurately measure volumina in these types of pipets the liquid has to naturally (by gravity) flow out of the pipet. The measured liquid in the video seams small enough that this type of error (forcing the last drop out) could make a difference in the measurements. I don't know how accurate these measuremts have to be but perhaps i can save the department some trouble in the future. Just a friendly advice 🙂

  2. Keep 'em coming! I find all this very fascinating!

    It makes me wish that one time art major me would have opted for my interest in conservation–but chickening out over concerns on how well I could do the chemistry (which, ironies, I'm more comfortable with now).

  3. If I was retired and wealthy, I'd work out some way where I could just show up to museum conservation labs and spend the day watching quietly. I can't get enough of this stuff.

  4. We should celebrate what remains, and show it off at it's best, rather than show what we've lost. It's a bit of a negative approach don't you think?

  5. I think going lighter was a mistake. I think that dark blue colour or even a black would have given a much cleaner appearance and allowed the original piece to stand out. The lighter colour looks gaudy and overpowers the lighter colours of embroidery.

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