Is my tapestry ruined?
April 6, 2006 12:54 PM   Subscribe

I purchased a brightly-colored, embroidered tapestry from the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. It is certainly not an antique, but it is hand-made, delicate and somewhat old. My well-intentioned (but perhaps lacking in common sense) roomate threw it into the washing machine and, needless to say, the colors ran. Is there any way I can restore the tapestry to its former state or at least to some approximation of such? Would a dry cleaner be able to help?
posted by anonymous78 to Grab Bag (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I doubt that a dry cleaner would help, since it was water that made the colors run (dry cleaning solvent has very different properties from water). I've had similar problems in the past and was able to get a partial fix by careful additional washing in water to remove the excess dye that ran. I've never gotten complete restoration, however.

Often the dye that ran is less firmly attached to the fiber than the dye that stayed put (most dyeing processes involve treating the fiber so it will react chemically with the dye, but there is usually excess dye around and it's the excess unreacted dye that runs). So the dye that ran will probably run again, hopefully right out of the fabric. Try washing it carefully, escalating the hostilities as necessary: start with cold water without soap, then warm water no soap, then cold water plus mild soap, etc. By "wash" I mean put it in a large basin with lots of water and swish gently. You need to have a large enough volume of water that the dye gets well diluted.

Of course, if the fabric is white you're hosed - tiny traces of dye will remain and be glaringly visible. But if it's dark colored you might be able to get out enough of the run to be unnoticeable.

If the soaps you have around the house don't work and you're determined to keep at it, there are some dye removers that might help. Synthrapol worked pretty well the one time I used it, and there's a hand cleaner called ReDuRan that I've never tried but I've heard it's quite effective. This stuff sounds like it might take more that just the "ran" dye out of your fabric, though. Good luck!
posted by Quietgal at 1:33 PM on April 6, 2006

Sounds like you have a central Asian Suzani... the amount of running colors would depend on whether you bought a new one or an older one, and what kind of dye was used.

Amybe these folks could tell you more.
posted by zaelic at 2:41 PM on April 6, 2006

You could try googling for "antique quilt cleaning" or "historical textiles restoration" or "costume collection preservation" or similar keyword combos. People who handle delicate fabrics for a living (or as a serious collector) face similar problems and should be able to help you out.

If you can't find recommendations on-line, you'll at least get some phone numbers to call. Stick to collectors' clubs and smaller museums and you'll probably reach one of those wonderfully obsessed enthusiast who will smother you with suggestions.

On preview: zaelic's excellent suggestion opens up a whole new venue of exploration -- Turkish cultural & historical foundations, etc.
posted by vetiver at 4:10 PM on April 6, 2006

this might work.

I have no personal experience with it, but remember reading about it somewhere or another.
posted by I Love Tacos at 8:34 PM on April 6, 2006

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