Workshops 2014


I invite you to check out the following link to read about my workshop at the Crow Timberframe Barn this fall: Design Boot Camp I. To read Student Recommendations click HERE.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Fading Fabric

A few years ago I made the decision to sort my fabrics by color and value and put them all out on a table in the studio. The table was near a window so I carefully covered the window (I thought) to block the sun but after a couple of months I discovered a tiny beam of light that I had missed and that little beam had caused fading on some of my fabric.

I should have pulled and over-dyed the damaged fabrics right then but I kept thinking I would be able to use the unfaded parts. Ha! Those pieces of fabric just keep popping up and disappointing me because the usable parts are never large enough.

Of course I took the fabric off the table and now have it stored in crates away from the sun. This week I began constructing a new piece using a somewhat different color palette and I have found a number of fabrics that are faded on all folds. This seems strange to me. I don't think these are victims of my display experiment. If not, what's going on?

I have not as yet taken all my fabric out of the crates to inspect everything but I do have a feeling it is only certain colors.

  • So here are my questions and if you have had experience with this issue I'd love to hear from you.

  • Is it normal for specific colors to fade even when not exposed to bright light?

  • Are you aware of dye colors that are more fugitive than others?

  • Is there any relationship to the fading and the fold other than possible exterior exposure?

I did over-dye a couple of the problem pieces and I can see from that attempt that I will need to dye the fabrics a deeper shade than they were before the fading in order to get good coverage. The good news is that some of the most beautiful fabrics I've ever made were over-dyed so I'm trying to look at this as an opportunity.

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  1. One of the reasons I re-designed my space is because I found that I had really terrible fading issues on two fabrics –one a commercial black cotton and the other a beautiful hand painted black/blue orange swath that I purchased at a stall purporting to sell fabric made by artisans in West Africa. I had middling damage on some commercially dyed rust and orange silks and some negligible damage on few other fabrics both commercial and hand dyed - mostly in dark tones.

    My space is in a basement room with one window and the fabric was on the opposite side of the window folded on shelves, so I thought it would be fine (I mean basement for goodness sakes!) As far as I could tell the fabric wasn’t getting any direct light at all! Anyway, I’ve moved the fabric to the other side of the room now, and have put it in fabric boxes on the shelves so that it couldn’t possibly be exposed anymore. I’ll let you know in a year or so if that helps!

    1. Thank you Kit. I really appreciate your sharing your personal experience. Interesting that you mehtion browns and oranges. I've noticed damage on some of my browns and also on my dusty purples and greens. Most of these I think are some of my own mixed colors.

      I now have a cabinet for some of my fabric but I need to "enclose" the crates I am using for the remainder, perhaps some sort of lining.

      I'm headed over to your site to see your set-up!

  2. I have coverings on all my fabric storage room windows and my hand dyes can't get any direct sunlight, but I found that my greens were faded at the fold lines. I thought it was strange. So far that is the only color I have had an issue with.

    1. That sounds like some of what may be happening here. I am familiar with the fact that all pigments are not equally stable but haven't heard much about a problem with the procion mx dye. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Historically, greens and purples were often fugitive, and perhaps some of our hand dyes are following suit.

    One comment though, although we tend to think of Ultra-violet light as being the ultra-violent light (which is is) coming from sunlight and flourescent lights, ALL parts of the light spectrum are damaging to fabrics....just at different rates.

    Lisa (who sometimes still dons her curatorical cap even though some people really don't understand stability/conservation/curatorial issues...)

    1. Thank you for the info Lisa. This actually makes me feel better because the greens and purples are the colors that I'm finding faded. I have very strong fluorescent lighting in my studio so I will have to be very careful.

      I think you look great in your curatorial cap

  4. I am glad that Lisa wrote about flourescent lighting and its role in damaging ultraviolet. My work in museums led me to use sleeves that slip over the flourescent tube and mitigate a great percentage of the damaging UV. You can get them in the stores, I think. And of course, it makes you painfully aware of how these textiles are exhibited with various light sources and intensity. Ah, the troubles never cease!

    1. That is very interesting. I've never heard about this type of sleeve. Would you please tell us the name of this item? Thanks for sharing this info.

  5. Oh - good to know what Lisa says because yes, I too have mega fluorescents in my space - it's more likely the damage was caused by that than the sunlight!

    I'll have to look into enclosing the fabric completely...

  6. Me too Kit. Amazing isn't it! and sort of unsettling. Great hearing form you.