Throne Canopy – A Project To Dye For!

It has been a time consuming process dyeing the support fabrics, net, ribbons and threads needed in the conservation of the throne canopy – 42 individual materials have been dyed to date! This requires accurate measurement, a steady hand, and above all, a meticulous eye for colour.

Unsurprisingly, most of the materials needed are red, but with differential levels of light fading over three hundred years the shade of red varies depending on where the support fabric is needed.

People are often surprised that we use synthetic rather than natural dyes in textile conservation. There are several reasons for this: they are easy to mix, colour fast and they fade at a much slower rate than natural dyes. Synthetic dyes are supplied as fine powders so they can be very accurately measured: the slightest error will drastically alter the shade we are trying to create!

As conservators, we spend a lot of time and effort making sure that any materials that we add blend in; we need to support and strengthen the original without compromising its appearance.

Pages from our dye recipe book
Pages from our dye recipe book

Over the years, we have compiled a large reference library of dye recipes. Several different shades usually mixed to create the right colour and tone. Achieving this can be a lengthy process, so we start by dyeing a range of small samples to find the perfect match before committing to dyeing a large piece of fabric. To view the process our technician takes to dye samples, see the video below.

Trialling red samples on the throne canopy damask
Trialling red samples on the throne canopy damask

By Eveliina Ojanne, Conservation Technician and Alice Young, Textile Conservator

Learn more about Historic Royal Palaces’ conservation efforts.

In our next post: the progress of the cloth of state conservation will be revealed and we encounter a weighty dilemma……

Acquired with the assistance of the Art Fund. Conserved with assistance from Lord Barnby’s Foundation, Idlewild trust, The Radcliffe Trust and the Worshipful Company of Tin Plate Workers alias Wire Workers. We are grateful for their support.

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