Fading of course occurs naturally to any fabric by direct sunlight, and to vegetal fibres by wear. We need to decide as early as the fabric select process whether to accept fading, to welcome it, or to stave it off.
* In accepting it we choose to embrace the process of aging, allowing our fabrics to fade beautifully, and hopefully as elegantly as full blown roses. In which case we just choose the fabrics we like, we position furnishings wherever we wish and don’t worry about anti-fading measures. It certainly makes housekeeping much easier. It is though, sensible to choose fabrics that promise to look better with age.
* Vegetal fibres such as linen and hemp can’t accept dye at the core, so the colour of any printed or dyed linen, hemp, jute etc. will disappear gradually with time and usage, gently fading back to the natural or off white inner. Floral printed linen loose covers are a prime example where we see clearly how this sort of fading starts – from the top of the arms and the edge of the seats….
* Vegetal dyes always fade unevenly and therein is their beauty and universal appeal.
* The reason vintage fabrics are available is that in their time they were the best – if you want something to last, and look good throughout it’s life, just choose the best.
* Find vintage materials and use these….
* Just as leaving white cloths out in direct sunlight causes colours to bleach, so leaving printed cloth out in direct sunlight causes natural fading.
* Constant washing – especially with high levels of heat, detergent, and perhaps other chemical help – is guaranteed to fade most fabrics.
* Stone washing- literally from the act of using river stones to wash, abrase, cloth as it is being washed in the river – both softens the cloth and rubs away the colour.
*Washing cloth with sand, gravel or small stones at home will do the trick.
* Commercially, new fabrics that have been artificially aged or faded have been put through several hard washes effectively knocking the intensity out of new colours.
To avoid fading:
* Be aware of your location and avoid using any fabric that fades easily on the east or south facing windows where the sun is at it’s strongest.
* Follow the sun: know the times of day for each window – when the sun is likely to do most damage.
* Anything in front of, or close to, an east or south facing window will fade unless the light is totally blocked. That goes for furniture, floorboards, textiles, piano, chests, consoles, upholstered armchairs, blinds and curtains.
* Use sheer curtains or soft blinds to filter light – these can be permanently fixed or fully drawn at certain times of the day, then opened as the sun moves away.
* Avoid especially sensitive materials such as silk which, in front of a bright window, will fade and tear in an instant.
* Fit white slip covers to any upholstered furniture that sits close to the window.
* Avoid the more delicate colours – blues tend to be the last stable in direct light.
* If you want the look of silk curtains or silk undercurtains, choose from the very convincing man-made options that are offered by some of the top fabric houses – such as Etro who have great colours at reasonable cost.
* Make curtains with some provision: make so that sides can be turned to middle later on; have enough excess in the width to make a new leading edge at some stage; have enough spare fabric to be able to replace the leading edge with a border; use replaceable braids and fringing at the edges; bring the sun -proofed curtain lining right to the edge.
* Make all – white curtains that will stay white or even bleach in sunlight. Use fabrics that remain strong in light conditions – namely cotton or linen.
* Be careful with laundering, that the fabrics are rinsed thoroughly. Most fabrics are made with some ability to resist sunlight damage, so more often tun not, when unexpected fading does happen it’s because there is detergent residue reacting with sunlight.