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Why Paper Discolours (Part 2)
Why Paper Discolours (Part 2)

Why Paper Discolours (Part 1)
Why Paper Discolours (Part 1)

Mending a Tear in an Aboriginal Drum
Mending a Tear in an Aboriginal Drum

Distortions and Dimensional Changes
in Paper (Part 3)
Distortions and Dimensional Changes
in Paper (Part 3)

Distortions and Dimensional Changes
in Paper (Part 2)

Distortions and Dimensional Changes
in Paper (Part 1)

After treatment
Oscar Cahén: Innovative Conservation
for an Innovative Artist

Rigid Water Gels: New Treatment Options for Paper Conservators

Structural Remedies for Canvas Paintings

Organizing and Preserving Collections - Part 4: Digital-based Material

Organizing and Preserving Collections - Part 3: Photo-based Material

Organizing and Preserving Collections - Part 2: Paper-based Material

First Steps
Organizing and Preserving Collections - Part 1: The First Steps

Natural Dyes
The Use of Natural Dyes in Textile Conservation

A Relocation Project

Challenges of Preserving Contemporary Artwork

Preserve Your Investment through Art Conservation

A Project Completed: Heritage Preserved

Old and New Methods for Cleaning Paintings

I Can See Clearly Now – Or Can I? Part 2

I Can See Clearly Now – Or Can I?

The E.J. Hughes Mural: An Expanded Project

Is She or Is She Not an Emily

Treating Art with Sensitive Media

Malaspina Mural: An Update

For the Artist: Testing Your Materials

Conservator as Art Historian

Alum Sizing and the Art of W.J. Phillips

Treatment of an Elizabeth Keith Wood Block Print

Structural Treatment of an Emily Carr

The Treatment of a Monumental Wall Hanging

Changing Images

Preserving a Rare Record

Gold Leaf: Imitation and Genuine

The Case Against Canvas Backings

Heritage Colours: Research Discovers Original Colours

Lighting Your Art: Balancing Seeing and Protecting

The Double-Sided Emily Carr Painting

Choosing a Period Picture Frame

How to Identify a Picture Frame

Stretching Canvas and Restretching Artwork

Mounting Textiles

Aging Paintings:
Some Causes and Effects

Chine Collé Prints

What's Your Favourite Color?

Backing Removals

Rips, Holes and Tears

Filling in the Gaps

DIY – Preventative Care of Paintings

Frame it Right

Fire, Water and Smoke-Damaged Paintings

Inherent Vice

Saturated Problems:
A Water-Damaged Painting

Moldy Paper

Conserving Time

Conserving Paper: Dos and Don'ts

Repair of Textiles

Conserving Wood

Rescuing Endangered Murals

Repairing Acid-Matte Burn

Art Services & Materials
Exhibition Openings & Events

Conservation Corner Back

Sampler before treatment, showing soiled linen ground

Sampler before treatment, showing soiled linen ground

The Use of Fixatives in the Treatment of Embellished Textiles

by Rebecca Pavitt

Textiles can be decorated and embellished in countless ways. Something many of these embellishments have in common is sensitivity to water. They include water-soluble dyes, threads that were insufficiently rinsed after dyeing and can therefore stain adjoining threads and fabric, degraded silks, metallic threads wrapped around paper cores, gelatin or cellulose nitrate sequins, easily corroded metal components, and matte or loosely bound pigments.

Tests may identify sensitive materials before treatment, but not always. A particular worry surrounds samplers, in which threads of even the same colour might come from different dye lots and sources. Spot tests can easily miss the one area where a colour is not waterfast. Moreover, dyes or colours that tests show are stable can end up solubilizing with prolonged water exposure – as can occur during washing. The large unembellished areas of decorated textiles can also show stains and discolorations on the ground fabric. In the past, these could not be cleaned, either, because of the water-sensitive elements.

Today, new and completely removable fixatives have made their way into the conservator’s toolbox, allowing many of these “unwashables” to be safely cleaned. One example, cyclododecane, is a favourite of mine. This evaporating wax, applied with a kistka (the tool used to decorate Ukrainian Easter eggs), is useful for protecting relatively small detailed areas such as embroidery. It is available as a spray, too, useful for fixing larger areas.

Cyclomethicone is another new fixative. It is a very slow-evaporating organic liquid with virtually no solvency power, and it can be brushed or sprayed over larger areas to make them water resistant.

The linen ground fabric of the sampler pictured here was quite soiled, but the silk embroidery threads were too fragile to subject to water cleaning. I therefore used a kistka to apply cyclodocecane to the front and back. The sampler could then be safely washed with neutral detergents and chelating agents. I then applied a protective alkaline reserve to the linen ground fabric, without touching the silk embroidery threads. (The latter, being protein, are best kept at a neutral to slightly acidic pH range.)

Conservation is an ever-changing discipline that borrows and adapts technologies from far-flung sources. Cyclodocecane is used industrially to produce flame retardants, and cyclomethicone is used in the cosmetics industry. I’m always grateful for the curiosity and imagination of my colleagues who search out solutions for our profession and find them in such disparate materials.

Sampler after treatment, which included cleaning and fixing with cyclododecan

Sampler after treatment, which included cleaning and fixing with cyclododecan

Previously: The Conservation Treatment of Joe Average's Spaceship Go Bye Bye
Next issue: New Methods in Conservation Cleaning


 Sat, Nov 9, 2013