Posts Tagged 'CA1-P2-P5-S3'

Project 5 Stage 3 Part 3

Printing and painting on fabric.

I posted about my first group of work here. I was pretty happy with my results – some experimentation, some development of my chosen designs, lots of room for further work. The second round of work is here and I was super excited. I’d had an idea, worked towards it, and got results that exceeded my expectations with a strong development of the design and lots of future potential.

Most of the work to this stage used textile printing ink. For my final experiment I wanted to use dyes on silk – using a fibre I love and trying to keep the hand and sheen. I’ve done some silk painting in the past, so was looking for something different. Some internet searching on monoprinting led me to Linda Germain’s blog printing without a press. She prints using gelatine – it’s definitely worth watching her video here to see the amazing results she gets.

My plan was to make a gelatin plate. Instead of a commercial printing ink I would thicken some Lanaset dyes with DR33 (a modified guar gum I got a few weeks ago from Batik Oetoro). Lanaset dyes work at a pH of 4.5 – 5.0. I decided to soak the silk in an acidic solution, then dry and iron the pieces ready for printing, in the hope that steamed after printing and drying the conditions would be roughly the right pH.

It all went horribly wrong. For some bizarre reason I decided to use a rusty old baking pan to hold the gelatin while it set in the fridge. I had trouble getting the set gelatine out of the the pan, so held it “briefly” in a larger pan of hot water to loosen it – which actually melted a large amount of it.

To go with my lumpy, bumpy, sticky gelatin plate I made up some DR33. I’d found a variety of “recipes” on the internet and actually came up with something that looked roughly the consistency of the textile printing ink. Very roughly – the big problem being it was gloopy. It stuck to itself. If it deigned to attach to my foam paint roller, it attached in a big blob all in one spot. Somehow the roller couldn’t get any traction, so skidded over the gloop instead of spreading it nicely. I tried lots of ways to spread dye gloop onto melting gelatin gloop. Occasionally something would end up on the fabric – blobs that ran down the fabric as it hung to dry.

I attempted printing with my bird polystyrene stamp. It wouldn’t be accurate to call it a total failure, but only just.

On the plus side, when dried and steamed the dye fixed and very little came out in the wash. Unfortunately some of the gloop also didn’t come out and the silk has completely lost its drape. With the wonders of hindsight, I’d set myself up for failure. Too many new techniques at once, too many approximations and make-dos on ingredients and equipment.

This all happened almost three weekends ago. Mulling it over I decided the two main problems were: 1) experimenting with both the gelatin plate and the dye thickener at once; 2) the surface tension of the thickened dye was too great, so it clung to itself and wouldn’t spread out or stick to other things (like stamps) nicely.

Last weekend I tried again, experimenting with adding albegal set and orvus paste to help with the surface tension problem. Albegal set is a surfactant used as an auxiliary with Lanaset dyes. Orvus is a detergent, sodium lauryl sulphate, that is good for washing silk. I learnt about both of these from Karren Brito’s book Shibori: Creating color & texture on silk (my go-to place on dyeing silk), but this use was definitely off script. I thought both had properties that could reduce the surface tension and help the paste to spread nicely.

The learning curve continued – for instance adding a little albegal set can make the DR33 paste a bit thinner, adding rather more can turn the paste to liquid. Also take time about stirring the DR33 into a small volume of liquid and make a nice smooth paste. Trying to stir out lumps later is …(pause to find nice words)… unpleasant and time-consuming.

Ultimately my printing paste was much better, but I still couldn’t get decent, even coverage on a stamp. I bought a small silkscreen and squeegee a month or two ago – still in the shop’s bag because I realised I was trying to do too many new things at once. Out that came, and I was able to squeeze the paste through with a paper doily underneath. It worked! This was my absolute first-ever time screen printing and it got pretty messy – but I was getting imagery onto fabric.

I tried the paper jug cutout (used in the orange/black squiggle), and after the print picked off the paper, put the screen on some more fabric and used a brayer to get off the remaining colour.

Next was some grasses and (weed) flowers under the screen and got an image. I used a brayer to get the remaining colour, but this time put an acetate sheet between it and the screen so I didn’t cause paint movement and smudging. This left some paste on the acetate, so I tried to print that off.

At some stage I had the idea of screen printing onto stamps to get a spread of colour on them, so I was finally able to do some stamping too. There was a flurry of activity while I tried the two versions of the Tutankhamen stamps, getting images off the stamps and the screen. In the first photo below, top right are the original two stamps. Top left is the image taken from the paste remaining on the screen. That led me to create the bottom two rows of stamping, trying to apply the paste to the stamp through a different area of the screen each time. The second photo below is the print resulting from the screen – fabric on a printing pad of old newspaper, then the inky silkscreen, then a sheet of acetate, then roll a brayer over the acetate to get off as much colour as possible. Some paste gets onto the acetate in the process, and the third photo below is the print from that.

I also put a stencil under the screen, and did the same idea of a series to use up all the colour.

One thing that didn’t work so well was using the perspex squares. The idea was to get colour on them through the screen, then play around removing colour with a stamp and using both the stamp and the perspex to print. The paste went onto the perspex nicely, and dragging through the paint with a brush left an indistinct pattern, but it was very difficult to use a stamp – it kept sliding around on the pasted-up perspex, messing up the image, plus I wasn’t able to get enough colour onto the stamp.

Another disappointment was screen printing onto the thick loose-woven raw silk, using a stencil developed earlier in the course from a Tutankhamen design. The result is just uninteresting, with no interesting variation in the colour and losing the character of the fabric. I was hoping this would be the basis of the larger work required in the final stage of the project, but it’s not exciting me.

That was last Saturday and on Sunday I couldn’t wait (I usually leave a couple of days between each step when dyeing). I steamed the dried fabric, let it cool, washed it out in orvus paste and ironed it dry. There was virtually no run-off of colour. There is a slight stiffness in some of the thicker fabrics – a bit more patience in the washing could resolve that. The thinner fabrics have hand and sheen unchanged! The colour is grey not black – I could use more dye next time, but in fact I find the variation in tone very attractive.

With some finetuning I think there are possibilities for some very interesting, complex imagery with a nice mix of control vs serendipity. I’ve been thinking about themes of ageing and memory, and some of the partial, combined, changed, overlapping elements could work very well with that. In this final photo I’ve laid the last printoff of the tutankhamen stamp (on a light georgette) over the stamping on a Honan pongee tussah. I find the result complex and intriguing – definitely potential.

I’ve decided to call this “enough” for this stage of the project. The last batch of work was more focused on getting a technique that worked than developing my chosen design ideas, which isn’t ideal. Even so, it’s time to move on to the final stage of the project (and assignment), which is a larger sample.


Brito, K. (2002) Shibori: creating color & texture on silk, New York: Watson-Guptil Publications.


I wish I could bottle this feeling! Hopefully you know the one – when you have an idea that something could work, and there’s some organising needed and you have to wait a while and you think maybe this won’t work out and then you get the bits you need and you give it a go and things start looking interesting and you try a few more things and then you feel like running around the neighbourhood shouting “yes! it worked, and maybe I can try this and this and…” and you feel a bit silly for being so excited, but you are that excited.

It’s a nice feeling.

You don’t have to get as excited as I am. In fact it could be quite a letdown when you see what I’m excited about. I’m excited enough for all of us.

Here it is.
On the left is my source sketch. On the right is my stamped interpretation, on white cotton homespun.

Thrilled doesn’t cover it.

It really doesn’t. I’ll try explaining.

Back here I chose an orange and black scribble as one of the potential design ideas for stage 5. Here in my sketchbook I jotted down some ideas for how I could interpret the source in a design. I needed some perspex squares and rectangles for the idea, so I found a local company who would cut all the small pieces of perspex I wanted. Today I collected the perspex.

This is the full piece I printed this evening. It’s about 53 x 47 cm (say 21 x 18.5 inches). The smallest square is 5 cm (2 inches) each side.

The ideas I jotted down back on March 11 include:

– print with orange and black on white

– paint rolled on perspex to give grid – a contrast to the scribble

– monoprint – direct on plain perspex; stamp with string relief

– mix up sizes and which colour base and line

– leave quiet spots

– work for balance with variety.

Well, I haven’t done all of that. This first sample isn’t particularly balanced.

After all, it’s the first experiment.

But there are a heap of ideas and potential in there, and it really is a wonderful feeling when one idea leads to another and another and it seems endless doors are opening in front of you.

So, calming down, using my words…

I have a set of perspex squares and rectangles, 5 cm, 10 cm and 15 cm sides.

I rolled on textile paints – black and orange.

At first I tried scraping in the paint before making the print. Then I tried laying string and yarn on the cloth to act as a resist to the print, then using the paint left on the perspex as another print. Then I tried using my jug paper snowflake (see sketchbook here) as a resist, then used the messy paper to print from, then used the leftover paint on the perspex, and the other part of the paper snowflake cut-out with the other colour and and and

yes, I’m excited.

I’m excited by the results, and that I can look at my sketchbook and look at all the steps and see how one thing led to another.

And I look at what I’ve got, and it’s not everything I wanted, and I can see lots more possibilities to take the idea further.

And while I’m certain the ideas aren’t original and that I’ve probably seen these things in the past and just don’t remember, it feels fresh and new and exciting (!) to me.

And today is my birthday and I’ve had a glass or two (well, 3) of sparkling shiraz, and I think it’s pretty good to be 54 with family and friends who care and be able to get excited about some bits of perspex and paint and cotton. Not everything in my life is good, but an awful lot is, and I know I’m a very lucky woman.

Project 5 stage 3 – printing and painting on fabric. Part 1

It’s funny what you don’t see – until I put these photos together I thought I had pretty much followed the plan (the black and white version created on the computer). I had a printout of it right beside me. Darn! The original is much more dynamic. While working I thought it was my sloppy positioning and some smears that made the difference.
On the positive side, I think it shows that computer-based work is useful – I think it gave a good indication of how the pattern would work, apart from the execution mistakes. It’s also a reference for the effect of background fabric. I used a light to medium weight white stonewash linen, blue and yellow cotton voile, and a mid weight cotton that I hand-dyed a mottled blue some time ago and overall like the white linen best.
Next up is some raw silk in a loose, uneven weave that I bought during the week. The stamps used were based on sketchbook work, culminating here. I used some ezy carve printing block I got from Lynne at Batik Oetoromuch easier to carve than the plastic erasers, and of course you can cut the size you need. Hopefully it’s obvious that the imagery is based on the Tutankhamen work I’ve been doing. So I don’t forget the method: I liked one side of a sketch variation and traced over it – first on one side of the tracing paper, then turned over to get a mirror image for the complete shape. I rubbed charcoal over the back, then put the paper on the ezy carve block and drew over the lines in biro to transfer the image. After cutting out the positive image I stamped it on another piece of ezy carve block and cut out just the stamped areas to create the matching negative image (not sure if an extra step would be needed for a non-symmetrical design). I particularly like the positive/negative counterchange area and I think the colours and texture of the base fabric work well.
Next was trying to combine different types of stamping to form a single image. All of the stamps used have been seen before. The base fabric is a mottled orange/brown/green cotton homespun I dyed some-when. I rather like this, especially the “feathers” of the bird – actually overlaid impressions with different ink levels of the plastic eraser leaf stamp.
I continued with the leaf stamp, looking at ways it could be put into combinations to create overall patterns. I didn’t bother doing lots of repeats, but clearly the cross and star arrangements could be repeated, rotated, combined etc to form trellis and other arrangements. This is a medium weight red cotton.
On the same red I tried combining the leaf and column stamps. It looks rather clumsy here, but this idea could work for the larger piece I’m thinking of for the next stage.
I also tried different colour combinations for the positive/negative column stamps. All use black for the positive image. Top row has blue paint for the background. It looks very dark on the red fabric but has potential – especially with the flashes of red coming through. Middle row is yellow for the negative image – on the left direct on the red, on the right with white stamped on first. In some lights you can just see the yellow on the left, but only just. I need to practice with registration when over-printing for the idea on the right to be used. Plus using the black last instead of first would help. The bottom row has variations of amount of white used.
All of which doesn’t seem a lot to show for a large chunk of yesterday. There was time spent creating a couple more sample pages (like the ones here) for the raw silk and also some stripped polyester/cotton shirting material. I’m very aware of time ticking away – at one stage I hoped to get Assignment 2 finished by the end of January, now it looks like I won’t manage end of March. This is largely due to non-OCA commitments, but I’m also trying to heed my tutor Pat’s advice to take the time to explore. There are a couple more techniques that I want to try – one in particular should help me be a bit less neat and regular, a bit free-er and spontaneous. That’s scheduled for next weekend (yes, I realise I’m scheduling being spontaneous). Of course the balance is that there’s always more to try. I’ve been reading “Fabric dyeing & printing” by Kate Wells, which has reminded me of a heap of things and introduced me to a heap more, most of which I won’t be able to touch this time round. Next time… 🙂

Wells, Kate (1997) Fabric dyeing & printing, London: Conran Octopus. – which will be added to my new list of reading done for the assignment – here.

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