Dear illustrious colleagues,
I have a curator here that is set on a particular fabric for wrapping the inserts and build ups in some inclosed peds for an upcoming exhibit. The fabric in question contains 80% rayon and 20% linen. I know the linen is safe, but haven't found anything in my books about rayon.
My heart tells me that rayon is evil and hell bent on global domination and crotchal discomfort, but I thought a more scientific approach would look better to my coworkers. That said, what is the consensus on Rayon?
James A. Gielow Senior Mount Maker / Associate Registrar Exhibitions and Collections Department
The San Diego Museum of Art 1450 El Prado, Balboa Park Mailing Address: PO Box 122107, San Diego, CA 92112-2107
T 619.696.1926 F 619.232.9367
Field, George RBCM:EX
So in talking this over with my colleague Lisa Bengston (objects/textile conservator), I share with you the following
-Rayon is a regenerated cellulose, it is made from short cotton fibers that were leftovers of the cotton prep process. She referred to it as the poor man’s silk. Two things you should watch,
1) is that Rayon usually has high amounts of sizing added to it, these should be washed out before using it with collections,
2) that Rayon because of the short fiber and sizing used is usually susceptible to noticeable shrinking after washing, so buy more than you need. You should Oddy test it before using it anyway.
Hope this helps,
james gielow 11/6/13
Thanks so much George, this will help fuel my argument!
Hi: I agree with the info below - at CCI we have not heard of any problems in using rayon, it is stable and can be used for mountmaking just like cotton (with the same provisos concerning checking the dyes' fastness and washing to remove surface finishes). Carole Dignard Objects Laboratory | Laboratoire d'objets Canadian Conservation Institute | Institut canadien de conservation 1030 Innes Road | 1030, chemin Innes Ottawa, Canada K1B 4S7 Phone | Téléphone : 613-998-3721 ext./poste 151 Phone (toll-free in Canada) | Téléphone (sans frais au Canada): 1-866-998-3721 Facsimile (Fax) | Télécopieur : 613-998-4721 Teletypewriter (toll-free) | Téléimprimeur (sans frais) : 1-888-997-3123 Government of Canada | Gouvernement du Canada
Suzi McG 11/15/13
Thanks for the information! On the topic of washing fabrics to remove sizing, does anyone have any recommendations on the best method for doing that? Clearly I wouldn't want any sort of residue from washing to be left on the fabric. I seem to be doing a lot of fabric wrapped risers these days and would like to have some handy tips in my back pocket.
Suzanne, All fabric sizing I've come across is water soluble so I usually run the fabric through the washing machine using cold water and the delicate cycle. Follow up with the dryer, also on delicate and iron smooth using a setting approved for the type of fabric in question. Its a little labor intensive but there really isn't a better way that I know of.
Chris Harrison Senior Exhibits Specialist Dumbarton Oaks Museum 1703 32nd Street, NW Washington, DC 20007
Suzanne, I neglected to mention that I use no fabric detergent or softeners in this process. Just cold tap water! Chris
Hi again: you can also use a bit of Anionic detergent such as Orvus WA Paste, which is also used in conservation treatments - as per the CCI Note Don't put too much! The washing efficiency declines if there is too much detergent in the water.
There is also a CCI Note on Testing for Colourfastness: Carole Dignard Objects Laboratory | Laboratoire d'objets Canadian Conservation Institute | Institut canadien de conservation 1030 Innes Road | 1030, chemin Innes Ottawa, Canada K1B 4S7 Phone | Téléphone : 613-998-3721 ext./poste 151 Phone (toll-free in Canada) | Téléphone (sans frais au Canada): 1-866-998-3721 Facsimile (Fax) | Télécopieur : 613-998-4721 Teletypewriter (toll-free) | Téléimprimeur (sans frais) : 1-888-997-3123 Government of Canada | Gouvernement du Canada
I spoke with our textile conservator about a detergent I use, Synthrapol. It is great for washing out the sizing of fabrics. Synthrapol is ph neutral and great for scouring. As a textile artist I use it to remove sizing and to keep dyes from staining and backwashing onto the fabric. It does not contain brighteners or fragrances but it has isopropanol so you would not want to use in on fragile or old textiles. It is fine for mount use. Our conservator recommends trying Orvus as well.
Exhibit Preparator II Autry National Center of the American West Office: 323.667.2000, ext. 218 Direct: 323.495.4344 Fax: 323.660.5721TheAutry.org
Field, George RBCM:EX
Hi Joanne and all,
In forwarding this to one of our textile conservators she wrote the following on size removal-
In my experience sizing is either starch (old fashioned stuff) or a resin applied by the manufacturer. I understand that frequently the latter contains formaldehyde – in any case it’s not there for preservation , but for cheap body and some stain resistance.
Although removing every bit of starch can be difficult, hot washing will remove most of it – if traces are a real problem, there are enzymes (amylase) that will digest starch.
I think that synthetic sizing comes out in washing – that’s why your new clothes feel limp after they’ve been in the laundry. It comes out in dry cleaning; dry cleaners put fresh sizing in the final rinse so things feel as-good-as-new. It may be that, like the starch, most-but-not-all is removed in a hot wash. If removal of every last trace is desired it might be better to start with unsized fabric. Test-fabrics sells such fabrics for dyeing and testing.
There shouldn’t be any residues from washing if lots of rinsing happens – if the machine used only does a single rinse, it might be worthwhile doing a second wash with no soap or detergent.
We scour (that’s what removing sizing is called) in almost-boiling water with soap powder (not detergent) in a machine that does four rinses.