TSG Chapter VI. Treatment of Textiles - Section J. Compensation for Loss

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Contributors: Originally drafted by Susan Anne Mathisen. Contributions from: Alicia Bjornson, Annabelle Camp, Kate Clive-Powell, Kris Cnossen, Lucy Commoner, Jennifer Cruise, Patricia Ewer, Martha Winslow Grimm, Jessica Hack, Robin Hanson, Heather Hodge, Jane Hutchins, Marlene Jaffe, Rebecca Johnson Dibb, Mary Kaldany, Theresa Knutson, Obie Linn, Susan Mathieson, Jane Merritt, Denise Migdail, Meredith Montague, Rachael Parr, Zoe Perkins, Jackie Peterson-Grace, Nancy Pollak, LoErna Simpson, Johanna Tower, Deborah Trupin, Jan Vuori. Editors: Kathy Francis, Jane Lynn Merritt, Nancy Pollak, Deborah Trupin.
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Copyright: 2024. The Textile Wiki pages are a publication of the Textile Specialty Group of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works.
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Compensation for Loss: Comparing the Options[edit | edit source]

Each visual compensation technique used in textile conservation poses unique challenges and advantages. Often the use of more than one technique may be necessary to achieve successful visual compensation. Factors to consider when choosing a compensation method include material compatibility, workability, time and budget constraints, health and safety, and final appearance and hand.[1]

Dyeing of Repair Fabrics and Yarns[edit | edit source]

Introduction[edit | edit source]

Fabrics and yarns used in repair or mounting are often custom-dyed to a specific shade to compliment the present condition of the textile or to achieve an overall impression of the original intent of the fabric. Dyes are never applied directly to the surface of the treated object.

Dyeing fabric for loss compensation is most useful when a medium-to-large amount of fabric is needed, when a specific color of thread is needed, or for toning a sheer overlay fabric, such as nylon net. Some negatives of dyeing are that is takes substantial time (1-2 days), color matching can be difficult and time consuming, and there are health hazards associated with the dyes. Dyeing also requires specific equipment, such as a scale, heat source, and pipettes. [2]

Factors to consider when dyeing for conservation[edit | edit source]

Lightfastness[edit | edit source]

Lightfastness is the extent to which a dye withstands exposure to light, which depends on the kind of chromophore in the dye and its reaction with the energy emitted from the light source. Dyes used for conservation purposes should have maximum fastness to light. The aim is to match the existing color of the faded textile using synthetic dyes which, themselves will not change rapidly with exposure to light. The lightfastness of individual dyes are listed in the Colour Index, (A comprehensive reference on dyes and coloring materials first published by the Society of Dyers and Colorists of England in 1924 and later published jointly with the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists. Detailed information is given on tens of thousands of dyes, pigments and other coloring materials as well as various dyeing assistants.) This system uses a scale between 1 and 8, with 8 as the highest degree of fastness. Dyes used for conservation purposes should have a rating of at least 5-6.

Wetfastness[edit | edit source]

Wetfastness is the extent to which a dye withstands a variety of aqueous solutions, which depends on its chemical and physical bonds with the fiber and how well those bonds can withstand wet treatments. Dyed fabrics exhibit different levels of stability in contact with a variety of aqueous solutions. A dye that is fast in water may not be fast in other aqueous solutions. A dye should withstand exposure to or immersion in water or other aqueous solvents without color loss or bleeding. It is possible for a fabric to retain its original color intensity, but still "bleed" into a wet bath and thus cause staining.

Washfastness[edit | edit source]

Washfastness is the extent to which a dye withstands a variety of cleaning solutions, which depends on its chemical and physical bonds with the fiber and how well those bonds can withstand cleaning treatments, including drycleaning and spot removal. Dyes used for conservation purposes should also have maximum fastness to washing in common wet cleaning agents such as Orvus WA paste and Igepal. The washfastness of individual dyes is also listed in the Colour Index, on a scale of 1 5, with 5 rated the highest degree of fastness.

Crockfastness[edit | edit source]

Crockfastness is the extent to which a dye resists color transfer from the surface of a textile to other surfaces by rubbing (crocking).

Note: The above conditions are dependent on completing the dyeing cycle. If a substrate is pulled too early (i.e. judging the appropriate depth of shade visually) fastness properties may be compromised.

Color range and color mixing[edit | edit source]

This refers to the production of a wide range of colors by the combination of dyes from a basic inventory. When mixing dyes, it is important that the individual dyes have similar (i.e. good) lightfast properties. When dyes of different lightfastness are used, the color will eventually alter towards the hue with the greater lightfastness. Primary colors are preferred when mixing colors, because other available colors are already a mixture, and their base colors and percentages are unknown, making reproducible results harder to achieve. No more than 3-4 dyes should be mixed together to produce a desired color. Retain samples of the dyed fabric with exact dye recipes for future reference.

Note: Manufacturers may modify dyestuff chemistries, as indicated by a name change, or a color may be discontinued. New colors must be re-dyed and compared to the original color sample to identify discernible color differences.

Metamerism[edit | edit source]

Metamerism refers to the condition in which two different colors or color mixtures appear to be the same under one type of illumination, but differ when viewed under a different type of illumination. To insure a satisfactory color match, compare the compensating fabric to the artifact under the light source with which it will be displayed.

Effects on the fiber[edit | edit source]

The proper selection of dye and dyeing conditions, including pH, temperature, dyeing time, and agitation can limit harm to the fiber.

Ease of application and safety[edit | edit source]

The dyeing process should be reproducible, and be able to be carried out safely using equipment and facilities commonly available in conservation labs.

Dyeing small samples[edit | edit source]

To achieve a desired color, potential dye formulas are selected based on known samples or formulas. Using these formulas, a series of working recipes are made in which the proportions of the component dye colors are varied slightly. Small samples based on the weight of the required fabric or yarn are dyed with each of the working formulas and the color sample is compared to the target color. The procedure is repeated, adjusting the formula until the target color is achieved on the sample.

Dye Record[edit | edit source]

All dye formulas, as well as samples of undyed and dyed materials, should be retained for future reference. It is very important that the formulas include all chemicals, concentrations, type of water, and dye bath temperatures and durations. Accurate measurements and recording of the recipes are critical for achieving reproducible results. Dye recipes and additives as described below can be calculated and captured in a variety of formats. The following are examples of dye sheets for calculation and record keeping purposes:

Winterthur Dye Sheet

Dye selection[edit | edit source]

One dye cannot be used for all fiber types because of the physical and molecular differences in the fibers. The fact that different fibers do not react the same way to a dyestuff can sometimes be an advantage. For example, when a wool/polyester blend is dyed, the two fibers take the dye up differently creating an uneven color. Very often this matches the rather uneven appearance of old, worn fabrics better than a solid color.

Preparation of substrate[edit | edit source]

Scouring[edit | edit source]

Before dyeing, the substrate must be scoured to remove any impurities, finishes, or soil. These impurities can provide additional bonding surfaces for the dyes or they can prevent the dye from bonding to the fiber. A typical scouring procedure is:

1. Heat water to 50˚C
2. Add a non-ionic surfactant and stir to dissolve.
3. Add substrate and let sit for 10 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Rinse thoroughly.
5. Let dry.
Note: different fabrics will require different scouring times, temperatures, and detergents, due to fiber characteristics and the extent of processing.
Hair silk loosely braided for dyeing, ends secured with undyed polyester thread. The bottom braid is undyed, the top braid has been dyed.

Weighing the substrate[edit | edit source]

Determine the total weight of the dry substrate.

Prepare the substrate for dyeing[edit | edit source]

  • Yarns should be skeined to avoid tangling and knotting. The skein is tied loosely at both ends and secured with a figure eight. Tied too tightly, uneven dye penetration may result. For tying, use a yarn of a different fiber that will not react with the dye and can be easily found. Hair silk should be braided before dyeing.
  • To expose maximum surface area, fabric to be dyed should not be twisted or bunched in the dyebath. Fold lines and stitches in fabric can result in uneven dye penetration.
  • Crepeline or net can be folded and stitched, or encased in a net bag.

The dyebath[edit | edit source]

The dyebath formulation[edit | edit source]

The composition of the dyebath is based on the dry weight of fabric (on weight of fabric, owf), and each component is expressed as a percentage of this weight. The dyebath consists of:

Water, which is the application medium.
Dye, which has been pre dissolved in water to create a stock solution.
Additives, which are dye specific, help to maintain pH or assist in leveling.
Note: leveling is the even penetration of dyestuffs into the substrate achieved through additives and agitation.

Equipment[edit | edit source]

Dyepot (glass, enamel, or stainless steel); this should be reserved for dye use.
Heat source (hot plate, stove, dye machine)
Glassware (pipettes and cylinders) for measuring. Use glassware with the smallest gradations. Volumetric flasks should be used for making up dye stock solutions. Pipettes with white markings are easier to read when measuring out dark dye solutions.
Fume extraction
Safety apparel (mask, gloves, goggles, apron or lab coat)

Water[edit | edit source]

Volume of water: To insure even distribution of dye as it exhausts, a volume of water sufficient to completely immerse the substrate and allow it to move freely is necessary. Too much water will slow the exhaustion rate and result in a less saturated depth of shade. Each dye will have a specific water volume, calculated from the owf , listed with each recipe.
Water quality: Deionized, distilled, or purified water is recommended. Tap water should not be used because of its impurities and ions, which may affect the dyeing process. Impurities may be overcome with the addition of a sequestering agent. A commonly used agent is hetamexaphosphate, the main ingredient in Calgon water softener.

Dye liquor ratio[edit | edit source]

The dye liquor ratio is a ratio of the weight of the water to the weight of the fiber. For example, a 20:1 ratio would mean that for every one gram of fiber, there would be 20 grams (or ml) of water. For results to be reproducible, these ratios must remain constant. The evaporation of water during the dye process affects the liquor ratio. Cover the pot to limit evaporation. Add water that is the same temperature as the dye bath. Mark the original depth of the dye bath with a rubber band on a glass rod. Periodically check the depth and replenish the water as necessary. Where heat is needed during the process, maintaining the liquor ratio is less important. With reactive dyes the liquor ratio is very important.

The dye[edit | edit source]

Stock solutions: A specific weight of dye powder is dissolved in a specific volume of water. The ratio of dye powder to volume of water is expressed as a percentage, and this percentage is the stock solution concentration. A stock solution ensures that the dye powder is completely and evenly dissolved. Typical concentrations for stock solutions are 0.5% or 1%. They are measured as follows:

1 gram of dye in 100 ml of water = 1%
0.5 gram of dye in 100 ml of water = 0.5%


  • Measuring dye powders: For maximum reproducibility, dye powders should be measured as accurately as possible. Because dye molecules are different weights, 1 gram of one dye may not be the same volume as 1 gram of another dye. The consistency of the weight is important, not the volume.
  • Humidity will affect the weighing procedure. At low relative humidity levels, the dye particles become charged and scatter, making both accuracy and safe handling problematic.
  • Care must be taken in using heat to facilitate dissolving powders, because heat can degrade some dye molecules in certain classes.
  • Prepare solution a day before dyeing to allow the dye powder to dissolve completely.
  • Check the stock solution before using, to make sure that there is no powder deposit on the bottom of the flask. Any powder that remains undissolved will alter the stock solution concentration.
  • While stock solutions can be stored (in the dark) for a few days to a few months, be aware that color reproducibility can be affected. Reactive dyes that are stored for too long become ineffective. Solutions should be used within the manufacturer's shelf-life recommendations.

A common method for mixing stock solutions:

1. Wear a mask and gloves.
2. Use a plastic cup to weigh the dye powder.
3. Wipe cup with a damp towel to reduce the static charge, place on scale and tare.
4. Weigh the dye powder in the cup.
5. Slowly add a premeasured volume of water from the volumetric flask to the powder and stir with a glass rod.
6. Carefully pour the dye solution into a volumetric flask.
7. To insure that all the dye powder goes into the flask, rinse the cup with a small stream of water or with several rinses of water.
8. Add water up to the total calculated volume.
9. Wet-wipe work area to clean up scattered dye powder.

Depth of shade (DOS): the color saturation of the dyestock For example:

0.1% DOS: very pale
0.2% DOS: pale
0.5% DOS: light
1.0% DOS: medium
2.0% DOS: dark
4.0% DOS: deep

With most dyes, 4% DOS is the darkest color intensity that can be achieved. The fibers reach their dyeing threshold and cannot absorb more dye.

Percent of color: Dye baths consist of one to four colors. Each color is expressed as a percentage that adds up to the total depth of shade percentage (ie., 0.8% blue, 0.4% red, 0.3% yellow is a 1.5% DOS). These percentages are used to calculate the amount of dyestuff for the bath.

Calculations: The weight of substrate determines the amount of dyes, additives and water. Additives are usually a set percentage, the dyes are not. Additives can also be from stock solutions: in which case their volumes must be accounted for in the total bath volume.
FORMULA: Use the following formula to calculate the amount of dye in the bath.

[math]\displaystyle{ \frac{WxP}{C} }[/math] Where W is the weight ( in grams) of the substrate, P is the percentage of dye color or assist to be used, and C is the concentration of the stock solution

The result is the number of milliliters of stock solution of each color needed for the dyebath.

EXAMPLE: 5 grams of fabric to be dyed to 2.75%DOS. A 0.5% conc. stock solution is used for each color


1.8% blue
0.2% red
0.75% black

The dye:liquor ratio is 20g :1ml


[math]\displaystyle{ \frac{5 x 1.8}{0.5} = 18 ml }[/math] blue dyestock


[math]\displaystyle{ \frac{5 x 0.2}{0.5} = 2 ml }[/math] red dyestock


[math]\displaystyle{ \frac{5 x 0.75}{0.5} = 7.5 ml }[/math] black dyestock

Total dyestock to be used: [math]\displaystyle{ 18 ml +2 ml + 7.5 ml = 27.5 ml }[/math]

Total volume of dyebath:

[math]\displaystyle{ \frac{20g [water]}{1g [fabric]} = \frac{X ml [water]}{5g [fabric]}, X = 100 ml }[/math]
Amount water to be added= total volume dyebath - total volume dyestock - total volume of additives

[math]\displaystyle{ 100 ml [Dyebath] - 27.5 ml [dyestock] - 0 ml [additives] = 72.5 ml[Water] }[/math]

Exhaustion:[edit | edit source]

Exhaustion refers to the proportion of the dye taken up by the substrate in relation to the original concentration of the dye. The general principle is to exhaust as much of the dye as possible onto the substrate through control of physical factors such as temperature, agitation, and addition of exhausting agents (e.g. sodium sulfate, sodium chloride). Achieving full exhaustion ensures better reproduction of color. Allowing the substrate to cool in the bath may increase dye exhaustion with some dye classes.

Additives:[edit | edit source]

Additives are auxiliary agents that are used at various stages in the dyeing process. Each has a concentration independent of DOS. Amounts used for some are determined by weight of fiber and for others by volume of dye bath. They can be grouped according to function: leveling agents, which ensure even distribution of the dye; exhausting agents, which assist dye uptake by the substrate; wetting agents, which assist in saturation of the substrate; and agents which control pH.

General dyeing procedure:[edit | edit source]

Dyeing a batch of fabric samples.
1. Scour the substrate and let dry.
2. Weigh the substrate.
3. Calculate the amount of dye, additives, and water required.
4. Measure and combine water, dye, and additives according to the specific procedure.
5. Wet out substrate in a separate water container for at least 20 minutes to facilitate even dyeing.
6. Add substrate to dyebath. It is important to keep stirring the substrate for even dye penetration, especially during the fixation or exhaustion phases.
7. Slowly raise the bath temperature.
8. Add any assists at the correct points during the dye procedure. Remove substrate to a second container while adding assists. Stir to distribute evenly in the bath. It is important to keep the substrate wet while it is away from the dye bath.
9. Return substrate to dyebath until exhaustion.
10. When dye cycle is finished, let substrate cool in bath until it reaches room temperature. Do not change temperature too fast, especially with wool, as this will produce felting. To speed cooling down rate, the substrate may be transferred to a succession of cooler water baths.
11. Some dyes require fixation with heat or additives.
12. Rinse substrate, or wash if necessary, to insure removal of unfixed dye.
13. Block as necessary. Let dry.

Individual dyestuffs frequently used in textile conservation[edit | edit source]

Direct dyes[edit | edit source]

This is a large class of dyes, most with inherent affinities for cellulosic fibers, allowing them to bind to fibers without a mordant.

Fiber types: cellulosics (cotton, viscose rayon)

Trade names

  • Diazol, available from Pro™ Chemical and Dye
  • Solophenyl®, available from Huntsman Corp.


  • Lightfastness: varies greatly depending on the manufacturer. After-treatments exist to improve lightfastness but are inappropriate for conservation. Consult the Colour Index, for notation of fastness.
  • Wetfastness: soluble in water. After-treatments exist to improve wetfastness but are inappropriate for conservation. Consult the Colour Index, for notation of fastness.
  • Colors: muted relative to the colors of reactive dyes.

Additives: The addition of an electrolyte (sodium chloride or sodium sulfate) is necessary for exhaustion. Albatex® PON is added to promote good penetration and leveling. Recommended amount is 0.1g/liter.

Reactive dyes[edit | edit source]

These dyes form covalent bonds with substrate fibers, becoming a permanent part of the substrate. Dyeing is a two-step process: exhaustion and fixation. During the exhaustion phase, which is facilitated by the addition of salt, the cellulose and the dye have a negative charge and the salt a positive charge. The covalent bond between fiber and dye does not occur until an alkaline fixative is added, in the fixation phase. During this phase the dye on the surface is no longer able to bond with the fiber, but remains soluble. It is the surface dye that bleeds, requiring through washing to remove the unfixed dye.

Fiber types: Cellulosics, sometimes wool

Trade names

  • Procion (MX, cold type; H or HE, hot type) available from Pro™Chemical and Dye.
  • Cibacron® F


"HOT TYPES" are a slower reacting dye, needing higher temperatures to react. These dyes are not meant to exhaust, and as a result repeated soapings and rinses are necessary to ensure complete removal so that no bleeding will occur in washing.
"COLD TYPES" are not fast enough for use in conservation.


  • Lightfastness: excellent.
  • Wetfastness: good, as long as all unfixed dye is removed during post-dyeing processing.
  • Colors: shade range consists of bright colors.

Note: Following exhaustion, reactive dyes require the additional steps of fixation and washing off.


  • Sodium sulfate (Glauber's salt): to improve exhaustion and reduce the solubility of the dye.
  • Sodium carbonate (soda ash): to improve bonding by raising pH to the alkaline range

Metal complex dyes (pre-metallized acid)[edit | edit source]

These combine acid dyes with metal ions, to form larger complexes that are more washfast than acid dyes alone.

Fiber types: wool, silk, nylon

Trade names

  • Irgalan, manufactured by Ciba Geigy.


  • Lightfastness: excellent.
  • Washfastness: excellent but poor leveling.
  • Colors: relatively dull in color.
  • Very level dyeing on silk can be obtained with careful control of pH and temperature rise. Poor leveling is the result of a too rapid "strike" of the dye which can happen at certain temperatures. Temperature control as well as even distribution of heat in the dye bath are important.


  • Albegal A: To improve leveling, patented surface-active leveling agents, such as Albegal and Albegal A are added to the dyebath to slow down the rate at which the dye bonds with the fiber. Recommended quantity: 0.3-1.5% owf.
  • Ammonium Sulfate (NH4)2SO4: To improve exhaustion, ammonium sulfate increases the amount of dye-bonding sites on the substrate. Recommended quantity: wool, 1-4% owf; silk, medium/dark shades 0, pale shades 1-4% owf.
  • Sodium sulfate (Glauber's Salt) Na2SO4: To improve leveling, sodium sulfate is added to the dyebath to slow down the rate at which the dye is taken up by the fiber. Recommended quantity: wool, 5-10% owf; silk, med./dark shades 5%, pale shades 0.
  • Acetic Acid CH3 COOH: To improve exhaustion, acetic acid is used.
Note: Wool should be worked in the additives for 10-15 minutes before adding the dye to the bath. Wool should also be dyed at the boil (100˚C). Working below the boil compromises fastness properties.

Combination: wool-reactive and 1:2 pre-metallized dyes[edit | edit source]

Introduced in 1985, Lanaset dyes, manufactured by Ciba Geigy, are a combination of wool reactive and 1:2 pre metallized dyes.

Fiber Type: wool, silk, nylon

Trade names: These dyes are usually sold to the home dyer under the distributor's name.

  • Lightfastness: excellent
  • Wetfastness: excellent
  • Colors: a wide color range with both bright and dull colors is possible.


  • Acetic Acid (56%) to improve exhaustion with minimal fiber damage. 1-4% owf is used to adjust the pH of the dyebath to 4.5-5.0.
  • Sodium acetate to improve exhaustion. 2-4% owf, depending on the initial pH, is used to produce a pH of 4.5-5.0. Note: Together acetic acid and sodium acetate produce a buffer solution which maintains the desired pH range throughout the dyeing
  • Glauber's Salt(Na2SO4) to improve leveling. The percent used varies with the depth of shade (DOS). With a DOS of less than 0.5%, use 10% owf. With a DOS of 0.5-1% , use 5% owf. A DOS of 1-2% requires 2.5% Glauber's Salt. Above 2% DOS, no Glauber's Salt is added
  • Albegal SET to improve level dyeing by slowing reaction rate, but can also reduce exhaustion. 1% owf is used.

Commonly encountered problems in dyeing[edit | edit source]

Uneven application of the dye to the substrate, failure of dyes to exhaust, and failure to obtain desired color may result from:

  • Failure to scour substrate properly.
  • Substrate not completely wetted before dyeing.
  • Improper preparation of the stock solution.
  • Too rapid rise in temperature.
  • Failure to control pH.
  • Substrate not stirred during exhaustion or fixation phases. Gentle movement of the fiber insures even penetration of the dye.
  • Assists added at wrong stage or in wrong proportions.. They must be evenly distributed throughout the dyebath before the fiber is placed in the dyepot.

Safety in the dye lab[edit | edit source]

Toxicity[edit | edit source]

All dyes and auxiliary chemicals should be handled with caution. Material Safety Data sheets or product information should be consulted for information on specific dye ingredients, handling, and disposal concerns. Health effects of dyeing materials can be both acute (such as immediate irritation to eyes or skin) or chronic (taking years to develop, such as lung disease or cancer).

Powders[edit | edit source]

Dye powders are highly divided particulates which spread easily and should be handled in a glovebox or fumehood. To protect against inhalation dangers, an appropriate dust mask should be worn. Avoid skin contact with dyes and chemical assists by wearing latex gloves, an apron, and safety goggles. Procion dyes in particular are sensitizers when inhaled or through skin contact, and can lead to the development of allergies.

Disposal[edit | edit source]

After dyeing, the dyebath can usually be flushed down the drain with a large volume of water. Follow all applicable federal, state and local regulations regarding the disposal of dyes containing heavy metals or other toxic materials.

Other safety tips[edit | edit source]

  • Work in a well-ventilated area.
  • Keep artifacts away from dyeing areas.
  • Use a glass rod to stir solutions, not a thermometer.
  • Do not use a mouth pipette to measure dyes.
  • Do not leave a dyepot unattended on a heat source.
  • Do not eat or smoke in the dyeing area.
  • Label and cover all containers of dye.

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

AATCC and Society of Dyers and Colourists (Great Britain). The Colour Index. Available by subscription from https://www.colour-index.com

Further Reading[edit | edit source]

American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists, pub. 1981. Dyeing Primer, reprint from Textile Chemist and Colorist. Research Triangle Park, NC.

AATCC. AATCC Technical Manual. Published by AATCC.

AATCC. Buying Guide to Products and Services for the Textile Wet Processing Industry. Published as the July issue of Textile Chemist and Colorists by the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists.

Aspland, J.R. 1991, 1993. A Series on Dyeing. Textile Chemist and Colorist, 23 (11), and 25 (11).

Billmeyer, Fred W. Jr. and Max Saltzman.1966. Principles of Color Technology. New York: Interscience Publishers.

Camp, Annabelle, and Kris Cnossen. 2021. “Dyes, paints, and inks: an overview of visual compensation techniques in textile conservation. RECH6 – 6th International Meeting on Retouching of Cultural Heritage. Accessed March 10, 2023. [1]

Celikiz, Gultekin and Rolf G. Kuehni, eds. 1983. Color Technology in the Textile Industry. Research Triangle Park, NC: AATCC.

Crowder, Jennie and Sally Vinroot. 1981. The New Dyer. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press, Inc.

Duff, David G. and Roy S. Sinclair. 1989. Gile's Laboratory Course in Dyeing. Fourth Edition. Bradford, England: Society of Dyers and Colourists.

Finch, Karen and Greta Putnam. 1985. The Care and Preservation of Textiles. London: B.T. Batsford.

Flury Lemberg, Mechthild. 1988. Textile Conservation and Research. Bern: Schriften der Abegg Stiftung.

Giles, Charles Hugh. 1974. A Laboratory Course in Dyeing. Bradford, Yorkshire: The Society of Dyers and Colourists.

HunterLab. 1987. The Science and Technology of Appearance Measurement. Reston, VA: Hunter Associates Laboratory, Inc.

Knutson, Linda. 1983. Shades of Wool for Lanaset Dyes. Yakima, WA: Linda Knutson.

Knutson, Linda. 1986. Synthetic Dyes for Natural Fibers. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press.

Landi, Sheila. 1985. The Textile Conservator's Manual. London, Butterworths.

McCann, Michael. 1993. Dyeing Safely, Art Hazard News, 16 (5): 3-6.

Munsell Color. 1976. Munsell Book of Color. Baltimore, MD: Macbeth, a Division of Kollmorgen Corporation.

Rivlin, Joseph. 1992. The Dyeing of Textile Fibers, Theory and Practice. Philadelphia, PA: Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science.

Rossol, Monona. 1990. The Artist's Complete Health and Safety Guide. New York: Adworth Press.

Rossol, Monona. 1985. Protecting Yourself: Fiber Art Hazards and Precautions, Fiberarts12(6): 42-45.

TSG Postprints Subject Index: Compensation for Loss

Various. 1980,1987. A Basic Course in Dyeing for Conservation as Carried out at the Textile Conservation Centre. (handout). Based on a paper by Coleen Wilson, 1980. (Also listed as Revised 1987 by Rosanna Zubiata.)

Vuori, J. and S. Tse. 1997. Light Fastness of Irgalan and Lanaset Dyed Silk: Immersion vs Direct Application, Results of a Preliminary Study. ICOM Textile Working Group Newsletter13(1): 12-14. Also reprinted in Textile Conservation Newsletter (33) Fall:14-18.

Painting of Repair Fabrics and Yarns[edit | edit source]

Introduction[edit | edit source]

The use of paints to tone loss compensation materials may be used in conjunction with or instead of dyeing in conservation treatments, as dyeing can be time consuming and is limited to creating loss compensation fabrics that are uniform in color.

Three images showing the same area of damage on a copperplate printed handkerchief. The top image shows extensive darning over a loss, the middle image is the area of damage after the darning was removed, and the bottom image shows a visually whole area of the printed text on the handkerchief.
Before (top image), during (middle image) and after (bottom image) treatment images of a printed handkerchief, illustrating the use of PROfab textile paints for loss compensation. Image credit: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

Toning fabrics with paints may save time and offer artistic flexibility to mimic patterns, an option not afforded by dyeing alone. Paints and other loss compensation media have been evaluated and used in textile conservation. The following is a summary of selected publications that evaluated textile paints and techniques:  

  • In 1997, Britton investigated paint and binder systems used in the textile industry and evaluated their applications for use in textile conservation. Versatex A.B.I., an airbrush ink, was used to create an infill for a missing tapestry panel. Significant findings included:
    • Textile paint binders require heat to cross-link and completely adhere to textile substrates, crocking can occur if paints are not fully heat-set
    • Thinning textile paints with water disrupts the ratio of pigment to binder/thickener, consequently it is advisable to use manufacturer-produced extenders or thinners
    • Manufacturer literature reports good lightfastness, but paint binders may yellow over time and cause color shifts
    • The shelf-life of paints may be limited and manufacturer instructions for use may be unreliable
  • Kaldany, Sigurdardottir and Berman published their testing protocol and evaluations of many different loss compensation media for textile conservation treatments (1997). This study provided detailed procedures for testing physical characteristics, bleed resistance, off-gassing, crocking, and lightfastness.
  • In 1998, Schmalz used Golden Artist’s Colors acrylic paint to selectively tone a silk crepeline overlay that was used to stabilize the deteriorated border of a quilt. The paints were selected for their opacity and ability to form a non-tacky film when dry and because they maintained flexibility, did not crock, and were unaffected by high temperature and humidity conditions.
  • Blum, Reiter and Whelan employed PROfab Textile Ink in the treatment of the Ormerod bedcover, a large block-printed textile with significant losses in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2000). The textile was stabilized between nylon bobbinet on the front and a full cotton lining that had been painted to mimic the printed design on the back. The paints were applied using a Mylar® template created from the object. PROfab Textile Ink was selected for its working properties and because it can be set with an iron rather than with steam or by washing, which may cause dimensional changes in the prepared lining fabric.
  • In 2017 Britton, Stjernlöf and Stephens utilized the katagami stencil technique to create infills for original upholstery with a complex weave structure and surface. Jacquard textile paints Lumiere, Dye-na-flow, and Neopaque were used in varying combinations to replicate the complex surface. The paints were selected for their working properties and visual appearance and performed well when evaluated for lightfastness, but some paints performed poorly when subjected to Oddy testing.
  • PROfab textile paints were evaluated by Peterson-Grace in 2019. Oddy testing indicated that the paints are suitable for permanent use. The ease of use and physical characteristics of the paints were evaluated. The author concluded that the paints are washfast and lightfast but have problematic crocking tendencies unless a proprietary “Lo Crock Binder” is used in conjunction with the paints.    

Paints frequently used in textile conservation[edit | edit source]

Golden Acrylics

Golden Acrylics come in various formulations and have been used used and tested by conservators for decades.

They are lightfast, low-viscosity paints with a high pigment load. They are used widely by conservators in many specialties in the United States. They are water-based and can be used on all fiber types. They dry quickly and do not require heat-setting to make them washfast and colorfast. They are easy to work with, come in a wide range of colors, and can be layered. However, they can produce a sheen, especially when trying to obtain a saturated color, and will result in the textile having a stiffer hand.[3]

Lascaux Sirius Primary System Watercolors

Acrylic based paints. Requires heat setting.

PROfab Textile Paints

Acrylic based paints. Will retain hand/drape of the textile they are used on, depending on the thickness of the application. Requires heat setting.

Select opaque colors were tested and approved for conservation use (Peterson-Grace, 2019). Select transparent and pearlescent colors were tested and approved for conservation use by Heather Hodge in 2020, details of which follow.

The wash, crock or rub, and light fastness of two Transparent Textile paints (Colonial Gold 15, Dark Brown 54) and two Pearlescent paints (Pewter BRT64, and Yellow Gold BRT7), was tested following the protocols used by Peterson-Grace (2019) as closely as was possible. Each paint was applied to undyed, bleached, combed cotton from Testfabrics, and were heat set and washed following the manufacturer’s instructions.

  • All samples proved wash fast, as no migration of the paint was observed in the rinse water and no transfer of the paint occurred after drying.
  • All samples were tested for crocking by rubbing each with an unpainted piece of fabric ten times; each sample showed no migration of paint.
  • Light aging of samples was carried out according to ASTM D4303 standards (see details below). Several circumstances made comparison of the samples and the Blue Wool standards fraught. The ASTM D4303 standard would typically run to 411 hours to reach a total radiant exposure of 1330 kJ/m2, however, this testing was cut short to 353 hours due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Blue Wool standard was placed in the chamber approximately 72 hours after the samples, time that had planned to be made up before the testing period was cut short. Not factoring in the different light exposure times between the samples and the Blue Wool standards, the Transparent Colonial Gold 15 and Pearlescent Yellow Gold BRT7 faded to the equivalent of Blue Wool 6 while Transparent Dark Brown 54 and Pearlescent Pewter BRT64 faded to the equivalent of Blue Wool 7. For both pearlescent paints, Pewter BRT64 and Yellow gold BRT7, only the color producing components faded by light aging, while the "pearlescent"/reflective components appeared unchanged. Taking into consideration the samples were aged 58 hours less than the standard requires and the Blue Wool standards were aged 130 hours less than standard requires, it is probable all four paints would have continued to fade, though it was speculatively estimated none would have faded beyond Blue Wool 4. Based on the fugitive equivalencies for Blue Wool standards (BW 1 very fugitive; BW 1-2 fugitive; BW 3 moderately fast; BW 4-5 fast; BW 5-7 very fast) (Hagan et al. 2022), the four tested paints were deemed light fast for use.
    • Light aging of samples was carried out using a Q-Sun Xenon Xe-1 Test Chamber with a daylight filter and settings adjusted according to ASTM D4303 standards. Samples were held in place between an open metal holder and a metal plate, tightly secured underneath with pressure from a spring clip. The irradiance of the chamber was set at the control point to 0.35 ± 0.02 at 420 nm and the samples were exposed to 100% light for 353 hours to reach a total radiant exposure of 1145.4 kJ/m2. The uninsulated black panel temperature was programmed to 63 ± 2 °C. Sample holders were rotated every 24 hours to ensure equal radiant exposure of all samples.  The ASTM D4303 standard would typically run to 411 hours to reach a total radiant exposure of 1330 kJ/m2, however, this testing was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Pébéo Setasilk Paint (Setasilk) is a water-based paint manufactured for use on silk and intended to mimic the appearance of dyeing. The paint needs to be heat-set with an iron for four minutes to obtain washfastness and colorfastness (with a 48-hour rest after heat-setting). In the authors' experience, Setasilk paints yield bright colors with little to no effect on the textile’s hand. They are not suitable for recreating details.[4]

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

Blum, Dilys, Sara Lynn Reiter, Virginia J. Whelan. 2000. “The Ormerod Bedcover: Research and Treatment.” In North American Textile Conservation Conference preprints. 2nd Biannual Meeting, Asheville, NC. NATCC. 23-39.

Britton, Nancy. 1997. “The Use of Textile Pigments in Conservation Applications.” In AIC Textile Specialty Group postprints. 25th Annual Meeting, San Diego. Washington: AIC. 40-47.

Britton, Nancy, Ann-Sofie-Stjernlöf, Catherine Stephens. 2017. “Digitally Recreated Katagami Stencils for Printing Textile Infills.” In North American Textile Conservation Conference preprints. 11th Biannual Meeting, Mexico City, Mexico. NATCC. 181-194.

Camp, Annabelle, and Kris Cnossen. 2021. “Dyes, paints, and inks: an overview of visual compensation techniques in textile conservation. RECH6 – 6th International Meeting on Retouching of Cultural Heritage. Accessed March 10, 2023. [2]

Giacomantonio, Nicole. 2020. “Painted In-Fills: An Artistic Approach.” University of Glasgow. Accessed February 3, 2023. http://textileconservation.academicblogs.co.uk/painted-in-fills-an-artistic-approach/

Hagan, Eric, et al. 2022. “The lightfastness of early synthetic organic dyes.” Heritage Science. 10:50.

Kaldany, Mary, Sigurros Sigurdardottir, Maria Berman. 1997. “Compensation For Loss In Textiles Using Commercially Available And Easy To Use Artists’ Coloring Materials: Evaluating Their Stability, Fiber Compatibility, And Aesthetics.” In AIC Textile Specialty Group postprints 25th Annual Meeting, San Diego. Washington: AIC. 63-78.

Peterson-Grace, Jacquelyn. 2019. “PROfab Textile Paints: A Fabulous Alternative to Dyeing?Poster Session, American Institute for Conservation 47th Annual Meeting, Mohegan Sun, CT.

Schmalz, Susan. 1998. “When Patching is Impractical: Nontraditional compensation for loss in a quilt.” In AIC Textile Specialty Group postprints 26th Annual Meeting, Washington DC. Washington: AIC. 1-7.

Needle Felted Infills[edit | edit source]

Detail of area of loss before and after treatment, on Ojibwa hood, (13/5898), from the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution. Image from “Hole-istic Compensation: Needle Felted Infill for Losses in Fulled Wool” (Hodson, Heald & Maile-Moskowitz 2009).

Introduction[edit | edit source]

Needle-felting has been used as a method to in-fill holes in fulled wool. This technique is explored extensively in “Hole-istic Compensation: Needle Felted Infill for Losses in Fulled Wool”[5]. The information in the subsequent paragraphs has been taken from this text. The authors advocate the use of felt as it has a similar structure and appearance to fulled wool. The thickness of the felt can be adjusted to accommodate the depth of the hole, so the support is in plain with the textile, and the appearance of the felt can also be tweaked to mimic the texture and color of the surrounding wool.

Technique[edit | edit source]

Top: felt created on support within the loss. Bottom: Wool fiber pushed through to the support’s reverse. Image from “Hole-istic Compensation: Needle Felted Infill for Losses in Fulled Wool” (Hodson, Heald & Maile-Moskowitz 2009).

The infill is needle felted onto a secondary support, which can be attached to the object, to provide structural support, or attached to a mount or lining as a passive in-fill. The support fabric is first pinned to a foam block, wool is placed on the support and then a barbed felting needle is prodded up and down through the fibers and support. The barbs on the needle cause the fibers to entangle and become matted together forming felt and some of the fibers go through to the reverse of the support patch which holds the felt in place.

The technique can be varied. The density of the wool can be increased by prolonging the amount of time the wool is needled. The depth of the felt can be increased by adding more wool. The color and shade can be changed by blending different colored wools together before needling. Pre-dyed wools can be bought, but should be checked for dye bleeding, or can be custom dyed using conservation grade dye, such as Lanaset. The appearance of the felt’s surface can also be altered after needling, but before the patch is in place. For example, brushing raises the pile on the surface, giving a fuzzy appearance, whereas ironing gives the felt a smoother, glossy surface.

Materials[edit | edit source]

Materials required for this technique are: 2inch foam, felting needles, wool fibers and a support fabric. All wool fibers can be felted but different types can be selected to achieved different textures. For example, finer fibers will create a more even, smooth surface, whereas coarser fibers will provide a harrier felt. The needles used are thin and sharp pieces of hardened steel that have barbs. The location of the barbs on the needles varies. The authors found that needles with barbs closest to the tip were the best as they facilitated more delicate and controlled needling. Smaller sized needles are recommended for conservation (sizes 40-42). Typically a block of Polyurethane foam or Ethafoam 220 can be used. A support fabric should be chosen which will be strong enough to hold the needle-felted ‘plug’ in place and will be able to withstand the needle puncturing action.

Two sizes of felting needles; the barbs on the right needle are closer to the tip. Image from “Hole-istic Compensation: Needle Felted Infill for Losses in Fulled Wool” (Hodson, Heald & Maile-Moskowitz 2009).

Further Reading[edit | edit source]

  • Hodson, A., S. Heald, and R. Maile-Moskowitz. 2007. “Hole-istic Compensation: Needle Felted Infills for Losses in Wool.” In North American Textile Conservation Conference Preprints. 2007 Fall Meeting, Washington DC. NATCC. 151-155.  
  • Hodson, A., S. Heald, and R. Maile-Moskowitz. 2009. "Hole-istic Compensation: Needle Felted Infills for Losses in Fulled Wool." Journal of the American Institute for Conservation vol. 48 (issue 1) Spring: 25 – 36.
  • Martin, Kathleen. 2021. “Needlefelting as a Solution to Loss in Textiles with Wool Yarn Fringe.” in North American Textile Conservation Conference preprints. 13th Biannual Meeting, held virtually. NATCC. 276-283.

Digitally Printed Fabrics[edit | edit source]

Introduction[edit | edit source]

Digital printing for loss compensation allows the conservator to match complicated patterns that might not be reproduceable otherwise. It has been used to imitate irreplaceable textures as well as graphic designs. The technique usually involves printing a digitally-manipulated image onto fabric which is then used as patching and infill material.

Considerations for Digital Printing[edit | edit source]

Source material: The first step of digital printing is usually preparing the source material. Digital photographs or scans must be precisely taken so that they can be manipulated and reproduced. For some projects, this may require accessing sufficient, flat yardage to accurately record a pattern or texture to be reproduced. If the printer is not in-house, accurate color meters or even original samples (when available) can help fine tune the scale and color-matching process.

Digital manipulation: Next, the digital files are usually manipulated with a photo-editing computer program such as Photoshop or similar. These programs can sample from one area of a digital photograph to fill in another area, allowing the conservator to make “digital patches,” transplanting and reproducing areas of a photo to be used elsewhere on the same or another photo. The use of channels and layers within such programs allows individual parts of a photo to be manipulated without disturbing others (such as keeping a specific layer of colors together, i.e. the red layer, the blue layer, and so on).

Color matching: One of the biggest challenges of making digital reproductions is accurate color-matching of the printed material to original material. The use of layers in photo-editing software is helpful so that each color can be adjusted individually as the photo is altered to make it print as desired patching material. Often multiple samples or “strike-offs” are produced in order to compare how a particular photo and printing process looks next to the original object. When using external contractors for the digital-printing process, difficult or complex color-matching can greatly increase the final cost.

Mode of production: Manipulating digital photos and printing them on fabric are actually two processes that require specialized skills and equipment (especially for printing). The conservator must keep in mind how these two aspects are to be carried out and coordinated. Many digital printing companies offer in-house photo-editing to help streamline the process (and some may even require you use their in-house designers). While digital printers carry out a wide range of projects and are becoming more attuned to conservation as a market, they may not be aware of the unique needs of conservation if they have never worked with conservators before.

Substrate: Once a digital photo is ready for printing, a substrate on which to print must be selected. Digital printing for conservation has been carried out on paper substrates as well as a variety of textiles including natural and synthetic fibers. The digital printer may have an in-house selection of substrates they are equipped to use or they may allow the conservator to supply their own. As with most materials for loss compensation, “like with like” is a good guideline but some prints may require an alternative in order to produce the best, crispest photographic results. The conservator should check for visibility of sheen and weave structures, depending on desired outcome.  

Aging properties: Digital printed fabrics have produced uneven and inconsistent results in aging property testing such as the Oddy Test. Results are likely to be heavily influenced by the kind of substrate, printer and ink used, finishing processes carried out, and environmental conditions.

Attachment/reversibility: Given the uncertainty of how digital printed materials will age as well as desire for retreatability, how (and if) digitally printed materials are used in contact with original material should be given special consideration. Ways of isolating original surfaces from the printed one include barrier layers, the use of only temporary attachment by means such as basting, magnets, or static alone, and sometimes even objects stored separately from their printed infill material. If a digitally printed material is to be used in contact with original material on a more “permanent” basis (by the use of adhesive or stitching, for example), it should be reversible and easily identified under close examination as non-original material.  

Cost: The cost of producing a digitally printed material for loss compensation can vary widely. It is likely to depend heavily on both how the digital editing is done and how it is to be printed. Commercial firms that offer to “print your own design” (such as Spoonflower) are easily accessible and relatively affordable, but may produce uneven results from one print to the next, and may not offer photo-editing services, finishing services, or other amenities available from a more specialized firm. A more specialized firm with experience working with artists and conservators (such as Dye-namix) is more costly, but offers both photo-editing and printing services under one coordinated and skilled roof, as well as specialized customer service and knowledge.

Examples of Treatments Using Digitally Printed In-Fills[edit | edit source]

Detail of a cluster of shibori-dyed leaves near the hem of the kimono, before treatment (left) and after treatment (right). The treatment used digital printed silk as patching material to support and infill the shibori-dyed areas. The padded hem was treated with a dyed-to-match silk overlay. Images courtesy of the Cincinnati Art Museum.

Treatment of 18th Century Kimono - Kimono, 18th century, Japan, silk with embroidery, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John J. Emery, Cincinnati Art Museum, 1964.783.

This silk kimono had loss and weakness associated with the shibori tie-dye process which had significantly stressed and weakened the silk around the repeated shibori-dyed leaf clusters. The nature of shibori means these areas had a “pimply,” raised texture as a result of the process as well as a tight, repeated pattern. Disturbance to the pattern due to loss was visually disturbing and the damaged areas were very vulnerable. The losses were treated by scanning the shibori pattern and then creating a repeat that matched the same scale and color of the shibori areas. This pattern was printed on silk habotai. Patches were cut from the silk habotai and inserted as underlay behind the damaged areas, orienting the repeated pattern to “fill in” what was lost of the original. Adhesive film was used to lightly attach the patching material by reactivating the adhesive around the margins of loss —with a pointed-tip heated spatula—and along the “ditches” in between the raised shibori “pimples,” thus preserving the bumpy texture while supporting and infilling the loss.

The flag of Poland with before treatment (left) and after treatment (right) views. The flag survived only as the fragments seen on the left. A graphic artist extended the design based on these fragments to produce a new, digitally printed facsimile in the same artistic style and original colors. Images courtesy of the Cincinnati Art Museum.
The flag of Brazil with before treatment (left) and after treatment (right) views. The flag was patched with digitally printed silk across its midline to make the central banner legible again. The rest of the flag was treated with dyed-to-match silk patches. Images courtesy of the Cincinnati Art Museum.

Treatment of Elizabeth Hawes’ Geographic Flags - Geographic (dress), cotton & silk, by (Elizabeth Hawes (American, b.1903, d.1971), designer, Museum Purchase: Fashion Arts Purchase Fund, Cincinnati Art Museum, 2011.31.

Elizabeth Hawes’ cotton canvas dress entitled Geographic is covered with an assortment of dime-store silk flags. Many of the flags were in very poor condition. It was essential that they be readable as flags of their respective countries with their often complex graphical designs intact. Several of the flags were conserved using digitally printed silk patches and a few were completely replaced. Here, the flag of Brazil had significant loss and damage through its midline which disturbed the central banner and made it unreadable. The flag of Poland survived as only a few scraps of fabric (plus its original dimensions as the original stitch holes remained on the dress). These flags were both conserved using digitally printed material.

For the flag of Brazil, a beginner’s Photoshop skills were adequate to “patch” the digital photo of the damaged flag’s central band. This altered photo was printed on silk and used as patching material, adhered to the reverse of the original flag. For the flag of Poland, the rest of the crowned eagle design was extrapolated by graphic designers at Dye-namix, scaled to precisely match the size and colors of the original, and printed on silk. The new, facsimile flag was stitched to the dress and the fragments of the original are retained in storage.

Detail before treatment of stain on Worth skirt (left). Detail after treatment of same area on skirt with overlay of digitally printed fabric (right).

Treatment of Worth Skirt -
silk plain weave (faille) with supplementary warp stripe patterning, trimmed with silk-chenille-embroidered cotton bobbin lace, by Charles Frederick Worth, English (active in France), about 1825–1895, Gift of Lois Adams Goldstone, MFA Boston, 2002.696.1.

A large stain on the front of the skirt was overlaid with digitally printed fabric. The overlay was a white silk faille (which closely matched the original silk faille in weight and weave structure) that was digitally printed with the skirt’s purple lines and then overdyed to an ivory hue. The black lines were hand inked with a Micron Pigma pen. This was done to mimic the irregularity of the original fabric’s worn-out black stripes which are made from extremely friable black silk yarn that had abraded away in many areas, creating a patchy look. The overlay was then stitched to the skirt over the stained area.

Treatment of Kashmir shawlPeabody Essex Museum, 124177.

Hole in Kashmir shawl before and after application of printed patch support

A large hole at the edge of a Kashmir shawl was in-filled using a digitally printed underlay produced by a commercial company. The printed patch was made on a lightweight silk twill fabric. It was then hand-inked with Micron Pigma pens to increase the color saturation of the pattern and received an overall wash with a diluted acrylic paint solution to tone it. The patch was secured in place with stitching. It is not a perfect match but has been provided to illustrate how image quality and fabric substrate play a large role in the success of digitally printed infills.  Due to budget restrictions the conservator was limited to using a commercial printing company which provided little opportunity for color-matching the printed patch to the original fabric, resulting in an in-fill which lacks the same color saturation as the original. It was also not possible to find an in-fill fabric which matched the fineness of the original wool. A silk twill was used instead which also creates a contrast.  

Digitally Recreating Upholstery Fabric[edit | edit source]

Digitally printed textiles may be used to create replacement furnishing textiles or upholstery for historic interiors, as described by Ann Frisina in her 2010 paper “Not Much Left: Digitally Recreating Upholstery is a Group Effort” and summarized here.

Primary sources must be consulted to identify appearance and features of the textile to be reproduced. Such sources can include the following. 1) Archival photographs and negatives provide a visual record of the design, pattern, and proportion of the original textile to be reproduced. 2) Archival records including personal correspondence which may be able to confirm intent, description, or purchase of yardage or materials for the furniture or object in question. 3) Textile fragments found on the object itself or within the historic interior. Even small fragments found on tacking edges can provide invaluable information about original fiber content and provide a source for color matching the reproduction.

In the case study presented by Frisian, the colors of the textile to be reproduced were selected from fragments of the original upholstery. Each of the colors identified in the fragments were assigned a grey scale value which was then correlated to the values found in the black and white archival images. Digital printing was selected for fabrication over having custom yardage woven as the former method was significantly less expensive. Frisina stresses the importance of finding a company that understands and is sympathetic to the exacting needs of the museum field. In return conservators must be willing to compromise about the use of proprietary information and materials in the printing process and be willing to use barrier layers to protect original components.

As the printing process progressed, several challenges had to be overcome to translate the design created by the textile designer to the fabric substrate in a convincing manner.

  • The most convincing sample was printed on a textured fabric with saturated inks using a “stepped” filter to give curved lines the appearance of a woven design.
  • The design had to be transferred from an RGB color space (continuous tones, like in a photograph) to an indexed image with posterized colors (the colors are reduced to a specific number within specific, defined shapes that separate the colors from one another).
  • The colors within the image had to be on separate channels so they could be adjusted individually rather than globally. This resulted in a more accurate design but was significantly more time-consuming.
  • It was difficult for the printer to differentiate between colors close in value, colors had to be substantially different to show up in the final printed product.
  • Yardage had to be printed in lengths of 7 or 8 yards to ensure even color values, the values and hues could not be guaranteed if more yardage was printed continuously.

The author underscored the importance of building relationships and understanding the textile digital printing industry and concluded that while the digitally printed textile is not an exact replica, it is as close as possible with the information available.

Further Reading[edit | edit source]

Britton, Nancy, Chris Paulocik, Jan Vuori. 2006. “Wide Format Digital Inkjet Printing for Textile Conservation.” In AIC Textile Specialty Group Postprints. American Institute for Conservation 34th Annual Meeting, Providence, RI. Washington, DC: AIC. 75 - 85.

Camp, Annabelle, and Kris Cnossen. 2021. “Dyes, paints, and inks: an overview of visual compensation techniques in textile conservation. RECH6 – 6th International Meeting on Retouching of Cultural Heritage. Accessed March 10, 2023. [3]

Gruchy, Megan. 2009. “From Silk to Crepeline: the use of digital media printed with UV cured inks on silk crepeline for overlays in textile conservation” In Postprints from the Symposium of the ICON Textile Group, 27 April 2009, at The V&A London. UK: ICON. 58-65.

Hartog, Frances. Autumn 2009. “Digital In-fills for a Carpet.” Conservation Journal 58:   http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/journals/conservation-journal/autumn-2009-issue-58/digital-in-fills-for-a-carpet/.

Frisina, Ann. 2010. “Not Much Left: Digitally recreating upholstery is a group effort.” In AIC Textile Specialty Group Postprints. 38th Annual Meeting, Milwaukee. Washington: AIC. 31-40

Lennard, F., Baldursdottir, T. and Loosermore, V. 2008. “Using Digital and Hand Printing Techniques to Compensate for Loss: Re-establishing colour and texture in historic textiles. The Conservator 31 (1): 55-65

Murphy, Miriam. 2012. "The Creation, Implementation, and Safety of Digitally Printed Fabrics in Textile Conservation: Where are we in 2012?." In AIC Textile Specialty Group Postprints. 40th Annual Meeting, Albuquerque. Washington, DC: AIC. 91-98.

  • In this 2012 text Murphy investigates and evaluates recent developments in digital printing for textile conservation. It is a detailed introduction and overview of the topic, but readers should be mindful that it was published over a decade ago so all the information may not be up to date. Murphy discusses the advantages of using digital printing over hand painting, screen-printing and customized woven cloth as a method of in-filling losses. She also describes the digital printing process, image capturing, hardware and software required, fabric options, and the use of contractors. Additionally discussed are the advantages and disadvantages of using ink, pigment or dye to print the image.

Murphy, Miriam. 2016. “The Creation of a Digitally Printed Reproduction Sleeve for an 18th Century Painted Silk Dress.” In AIC Textile Specialty Group Postprints. American Institute for Conservation 44th Annual Meeting, Montreal. Washington, DC: AIC. 26-35.

Roberts, Branwen and Mika Takami. 2011. “Dress to Impress: Reinstating the Patterned Velvet of Large-Scale Bed Hangings with Digitally Printed Nylon Net.” In ICOM Committee for Conservation preprints. 16th Triennial Meeting, Lisbon. Paris: ICOM. 1-9.

Smith, Jane & Nadine Wilson. 2019. “Colour Conundrums and Digital Dilemmas: Printed Photographic Infill Patches for a 17th Century Tapestry” In Postprints from the Symposium of the ICON Textile Group, 8th November 2019, at People’s History Museum Manchester. UK: ICON. 14-23

Tower, Johanna. 2017. “A Worthwhile Endeavor: The Conservation of a Worth and Bobergh Ensemble.” In AIC Textile Specialty Group Postprints. American Institute for Conservation 45th Annual Meeting, Chicago. Washington, DC: AIC. 125-138.

Vuori, Jan and Nancy Britton. 2008. “A preliminary investigation of digital inkjet printing on sheer fabrics for textile conservation.” In ICOM Committee for Conservation preprints. 16th Triennial Meeting, Lisbon. Paris: ICOM. 1-9.

  1. Camp, Annabelle, and Kris Cnossen. 2021. “Dyes, paints, and inks: an overview of visual compensation techniques in textile conservation. RECH6 – 6th International Meeting on Retouching of Cultural Heritage. Accessed March 10, 2023. [4]
  2. Camp, Annabelle, and Kris Cnossen. 2021. “Dyes, paints, and inks: an overview of visual compensation techniques in textile conservation. RECH6 – 6th International Meeting on Retouching of Cultural Heritage. Accessed March 10, 2023. [5]
  3. Camp, Annabelle, and Kris Cnossen. 2021. “Dyes, paints, and inks: an overview of visual compensation techniques in textile conservation. RECH6 – 6th International Meeting on Retouching of Cultural Heritage. Accessed March 10, 2023. [6]
  4. Camp, Annabelle, and Kris Cnossen. 2021. “Dyes, paints, and inks: an overview of visual compensation techniques in textile conservation. RECH6 – 6th International Meeting on Retouching of Cultural Heritage. Accessed March 10, 2023. [7]
  5. Hodson, A., S. Heald, and R. Maile-Moskowitz. 2009. "Hole-istic Compensation: Needle Felted Infills for Losses in Fulled Wool." Journal of the American Institute for Conservation vol. 48 (issue 1) Spring: 25 – 36.