1. Ageing – Naturally
We all want to age gracefully and we’d like our furnishings do so as well, becoming softer and more mellow with the rest of the house, perhaps needing to be patched up without actually wearing out.
As with clothing, it so happens that the only way to ensure that worn textiles remain attractive is to buy the best quality and to care for it. Taking the surface dust off every year during the spring clean helps enormously, as once dust and dirt have penetrated the weave they’re very difficult to extract and may well leave stain marks.
* With all textiles, and no less so for interior furnishings, you do get exactly what you pay for. A good quality linen or cotton loose cover with protective arm covers will last at least thirty years.
* Choose something you really like, something that is interesting but not demanding as good quality doesn’t date–it just gets better with age.
* Treat the curtains and furniture covers as if they were a good suit–enjoy them and add great accessories to keep the yourself interested/them interesting and to ring the changes.
* When everything ages together it all [still] works, a few new things, some patching, bits and pieces received and collected are all that’s needed: evidence that life still goes on.
* Of all things, surely roses show us how to do it… Don’t be afraid to choose strong colours when you’re young–really good colours will fade to a beauty that only age can give, and you’ll just enjoy them more each year.
* Choose well and aim to buy your quality pieces just once or perhaps twice in your life-time.
Yoghurt and other agents with natural bacteria can be used to age stone; before the makers cottoned on and produced their own, we all used to bury our new flower trugs and baskets in the garden to make the cane look old.
To take some colour out in a natural looking way, without destroying the fabric, we’ve used a dilute commercial lye (caustic soda) bath. Testing a small piece first is the only way of knowing what quantities and time is needed.
Washing and tumble drying are good for removing the initial newness, and most plain colours, unless sun fast, will drop a tone if you leave them out in the rain and sunshine for a few days–or sometimes weeks. Washing with, or soaking in a bath of hardwood ash (lye) is another option.
5. Premature Ageing
Textiles can be artificially aged through finishing techniques such as stone washing, sand washing, craquelure, or in the weave by choosing a slight softness of colour, or natural jute in the weft, or in the choice of fibre tones for fabrics such as taffeta.
6. Tea dying
Immersing lengths of new fabric, braids, lace, etc., into a hot bath of tea bags – or liquid coffee works just as well – just takes the edge off anything that is too white. Test a small piece first, and adjust the time it needs to be immersed. It’ll be much faster than you think, but it’s not an exact science as the fibre content and porosity of each item will vary. This works best with cotton and linen.
I’ve found that a cafetière is perfect for lengths of gimp–enough for a wing chair or sofa. Make a strong mixture–say 4-5 tea bags to half a glass of boiling water–and remove the tea bags when the colour looks OK to you – you’ll have to test, there’s no hard and fast rule. Drop the gimp in and plunge–this will ensure even coverage; when it looks the right colour take it out, wash it in very hot water and hang to dry.
We subject any fabric that is too shiny or new looking for purpose to some wear by washing it a couple of times, sometimes over/above recommended temperature to force some shrinkage, or by scrunching up and cracking its surface texture.
Pulling curtains backwards and forwards few hundred times will settle them in so that they look comfortable – aged a little.