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Best way to darken fabric pattern (reader question)

Image via Wikimedia Commons

I received the following question recently, and I thought I'd share it with you along with my answer.  I am unfamiliar with textiles from Uzbekistan, so I did a little searching around before answering.  I don't know if my answer was "correct" or not, but it was my best guess.  Anyone have a better idea? 

[Note - before doing anything to ethnic fabric, you should really read Caroline's comment below]

Dear Cyndi,

I purchased an antique suzani from Uzbekistan on ebay. When it arrived, some large areas of the design are grey, not black. I need the grey to be black. I am willing to take the time to make the grey black. The design is intricate so I will need some kind of brush. I am going to have this framed when I finish. So no worry about it being washed and used over time. My only concern is appearance. I am thinking that I will probably have to do the black areas too for evenness of color. I believe the thread and is cotton and the backing muslin. I think it will take color fast.

Please give me your suggestions about paint to use and tools and do I need to wet the areas as I go.

I thank you for your time.


Hi Sandy,
I've thought about this a bit, and I think the first thing I would try would be fabric markers rather than either paint or dye.  Marvy makes pretty juicy markers in a variety of sizes so that you could touch up the intricate parts and also draw over larger areas to get that even color.  I have not had any problems with these markers bleeding on muslin, but it's always best to do a small test area first. 

Best wishes with your project!

Best ~

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I hate to disagree with you and the person posing the question, but its better not to touch the item at all unless it is a modern reproduction. There are ethical reasons I will not go into, as well as any "improvements" altering the value of the item, but the beauty of such a thing is in its imperfections. It would be far better for your correspondant to use the original as a template and make a new item, which can be done exactly as she wants.
There are a lot of "antiques" coming out of Uzbekistan, some more modern than others of course, but basically they are selling their heritage. If the fading is all that is wrong with this piece and it is vintage, which the fading suggests, I would be very uneasy about "improving" it.
Cyndi L said…
Caroline, I never mind someone disagreeing with me! You raise issues that I hadn't considered, and I do believe that you are in a more educated position to inform us than I am. Thank you for all your thoughts and for taking the time to share them. I have my own set of "I would nevers" as I believe we all probably do, and this was not on my radar.