Friday, October 10, 2008

Fits & Starts

Yesterday's malaise was followed by today's going for it, with experiments I'd been gearing up for since earlier in the week, if not longer. The main project was to print on a variety of fabrics, and mostly with the use of a gelatin plate. By the way, I need to stop a moment here and say that I've been very inspired recently by Rayna Gilman, her incredible work and her highly recommended book, "Create Your Own Handprinted Cloth." I love Rayna's spirit and energy, and her gorgeous quilts made with handprinted fabrics.

Anyhow, my work today was to print on cellulose and silk fabrics, which I'd prepared earlier in the week. I tore a bunch of sample sized pieces of different cottons and linen/rayon, and soaked them for about 10 minutes in hot soda ash water. Then air dried them. The silk fabrics, habotai and raw silk, were soaked for a few minutes in a 50% vinegar/water solution, then also air dried.

This was also my trial run with fiber reactive dyes. Although I decided this week to go with the Cibacron F dyes, from ProChem, while I'm awaiting delivery of those I used some Procion MX dyes I purchased a few years ago. First I made 1% stock solutions of the 4 primaries I have on hand, plus black. From the primaries, I mixed 5 colors I wanted to use. Then stirred in some sodium alginate this morning. I should note here that I decided a while ago that, exclusive of metallic paints, I was going to use thickened dyes instead of fabric paints. That's because I want to disturb the hand of the fabric as little as possible. Paints, which coat fibers, tend to stiffen fabrics. Whereas dyes, which penetrate the molecular structure of the fiber, leave the hand of the fabric as is.

Another part of today's experiment was to set the colors with steam, instead of batching. "Batching" is the recommended way to set colors with fiber reactive dyes and what that amounts to is leaving the dyed or painted fabric to sit, covered with plastic, for 24-48 hours ideally at a room temperature of 70 degrees. Well, I'm not the kind of person who is willing to wait for a day or two to see the results of my work, and I don't have any place in my house with a constant ambient temperature of 70 degrees. Nor do I have the room to leave fabric stretched out and covered. Anyhow, today, after each sample piece was finished, I wrapped it up in plastic, put it in my steamer, and steamed the whole bunch for 30 minutes.

I suspect the whole idea of batching might have come about because it seemed as though there might be an unusual amount of technology required to steam fabrics. I know when I painted silk in the early 1990s, it did seem as though the only way to steam fabric was with one of those big and expensive horizontal or vertical steam things. At that time I had neither the money nor the inclination to go that route, so instead I bought some liquid stuff from Jacquard to set the silk dyes I was using. It never occurred to me to simply wrap up the silk in plastic and stick it in the vegetable steamer -- which is precisely what I do today!

Anyway, long story long, here are some of my samples:

Sample 1, above, is a piece of fairly heavy cotton, part of a tablecloth I bought at a rummage sale last weekend; printed with a rubber stamp I cut this week.

Sample 2, above, was an old pillow case, printed with construction fencing and corrugated cardboard on a gelatin plate.

Sample 3, above, another piece of pillow case, printed with a cheap oven rack on a gelatin plate.

Sample 4, above, is a piece of habotai silk that I printed a few weeks ago with thickened acid dyes (the blue and green background), today overprinted with the procion dyes and an egg beater.

Sample 5, above, is a piece of raw silk, printed with a foam grid thing on a gelatin plate.

Sample 6, above, is a piece of that tablecloth cotton, printed with kitchen doodads and a stencil made from the side of a plastic box I bought at the Dollar Store (great place for cheap printing tools).

Sample 7, above, more of that heavy cotton printed with a couple of things on a gelatin plate.

Sample 8, above, is a piece of linen/rayon printed on a gelatin plate, overprinted, and stenciled.

So I had great fun today. I'm really glad to have finally broken the ice with fiber reactive dyes plus tried the steam-setting experiment I've been meaning to try for a while. I always enjoy opportunities to build my arsenal of skills and techniques for producing the results I want.

1 comment:

Margeeth said...

You made lovely fabrics. What a briljant idea to steam them in a vegetable steamer, I don't own one but have added it on my list to look for in the discount store.