Textiles: Dyeing support fabric

August 25, 2011

Currently the furniture and textile conservators are working on the armour, with the textile work estimated at over 250 hours work.

The textile conservation treatment requires a great deal of preparation of support fabrics, including dyeing fine nylon net, silk crepeline and silk, as well as casting adhesives on to various support substrates.I decided to do all of the dyeing together, firstly, to save time and secondly as the stock solutions we use have a short shelf life.

The dye cycle in progess in the studio lab

I used Lanaset dyes to dye all of the support fabric for the iki-ningyo armour, which are a range of 1:2 metal complex and reactive dyes, made by Ciba-Geigy.  A chromium molecule is pre attached to the dye complex making them ‘pre-metallized’. It is the modern equivalent of the old method of mordant dyeing.  They are designed to be used on protein fibres ie; wool and silk but can also be used to dye Nylon. 

Below is one of the dye sheets we use to work out the correct colour.  As you can see it is very accurate so that we can reproduce the colour in the future if necessary.

The stock solutions are made up, the samples weighed and the calculations made.  Small samples are tested first, with slight differences in the colour proportions to match to the area of the object requiring the support. 

The whole dye cycle for Lanaset dyes is about 2 hours.  Paler colours hit the fibres at lower temperatures and so the dye liquid is held a various temperatures to ensure that all of the dyes reach the fibres.  Lanaset requires certain additives to the dye bath in order for the dyeing to be even and to help the progression of the dyes through the fibres, including acetic acid, Albegal SET and sodium sulphate.

Laying the nylon net samples out to dry.

Once an appropriate match is reached, the bulk of the fabric can be dyed.

1 comment so far, view or add yours


Thanks a lot for the article. It is very clear and explains very well the dyeing method of support fabric. The V&A is going to organize seminars about this topic? If yes, please let me know. I’m a textile conservator and I’m very interested to improve my knowledge in this practice.
Thanks very much.

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