For some reason, it is very difficult to obtain reasonably fine, pure cotton fabrics. There is a lot of something around called ‘polypop’ in a wide variety of plain colours – this has a fairly high polyester content, mixed with cotton. It used to be possible to obtain pure cotton in plain colours in three weights – lawn, poplin and headcloth, and I was after lawn (or voile would have done). I did manage to find something called homespun (pure cotton and slightly heavier than lawn but more open weave than poplin), so bought lengths of this in three colours related to my colour scheme (turquoise/teal and reddish-orange), as in image 1:
Several of my fabrics came from my stash. I’ve got a lot of dupion silks in different colours, so of course these had to go in. I also bought two pieces of polyester lining material (‘Bemsilk’) which are shown, with the dupion, in image 2:
Several of the dupion silks are shot. The appearance in the photograph depends very much on the orientation of the fabric in relation to the camera. The one on the lower right hand side looks more red viewed end-on.
I had some chiffon scarves, ribbon, other bits of chiffon, crystal organza and metallic organza in stash, as well as fine gold tulle, all of which are more or less variations on my colour scheme, so supplemented these with some glitzy red tulle, pale turquoise glass organza and two pieces of hand-painted gauze from The Thread Studio, as shown in image 3:
I also assembled some threads in my colour scheme, as shown in image 4:
Again, these were mostly ex-stash – a selection of rayon and silk threads (on cops) which I bought from the Embroiderers’ Guild shop a while back, some pearl cotton, spools of silk, some soie d’alger, and some metallics. I bought some Danish flower thread and some coton à broder, and two utterly gorgeous hanks of Oliver Twists One-Offs (an indulgence – these are an object of lust!)
For variety, and because I like the shape, I decided to make a second stamp, based upon the new motif I developed for Design Sheet C, Chapter 3, which I said at the time reminded me of a Bogong moth.
Recently, our quality newspaper, the Sydney Morning Herald, moved from broadsheet to tabloid format, and we cursed roundly (we all know how the format of the paper influences the quality of the journalism, don’t we?). It turns out, though, that a section of the SMH fits neatly into a large-size polythene freezer bag, and the whole makes a really good ‘printing table’. The printed fabrics can then be left taped to the surface to dry. Here are some of my fabrics drying in the kitchen window (image 5):
My first attempt at decorating fabrics was not an unqualified success. I did try mixing fabric medium with the acrylic paint. I found that if I mixed the two products in the ratio specified in the medium instructions, the resulting mixture would not adhere to the stamp, so I tried with less medium, and this worked better. Image 6 shows the first batch of printed fabrics mounted on my pinboard:
Some of the colours in this photograph appear a bit weird – the pink-looking fabric is really more coral than this, and the pink-looking print on the turquoise fabric is a bright orangey-red (see image 7). I haven’t used flash for any of these photographs, and think this distortion has occurred because of the way the natural light caught the shiny fabrics and paint. For once, the colours in the scans (below) are (mostly) more reliable.
I found it very difficult to control the amount of paint on the stamp when dipping the stamp into the spread paint. Some of the prints appeared very ‘plasticky’ – please see images 7 and 8:
The paint overspill on image 7 looks like shadow lines – the effect is quite interesting; I’m not sure I like the texture, though. The cotton was very well-behaved during the printing process and the images are mostly reasonably clear, although I haven’t managed to control the paint very well – see images 9 and 10, for example:
The polyester lining material, too, was quite easy to print (image 11):
The dupion was a bit more difficult, because of the surface texture, but this produced some interesting effects, as image 12 shows:
Prints on the chiffon fabrics generally worked well (images 13 and 14):
I made an interesting discovery while scanning these fabrics: where the paint has bled through to the back of the fabric, the pattern is often more interesting (more subtle and ambiguous) than the front – see, for example, the back and front of the fabric in the two parts of image 15 (it really, truly isn’t that calamine lotion colour!).
The one thing that bothered me when selecting fabrics was that I couldn’t find a reddish-orange. Everything was either orange or red. Some of the oranges were reasonably dark, but were still orange. I decided to try printing a random pattern in red on my orange homespun with a sponge to see whether I could come up with something with a print which was subtle enough for the eye to blend to a reddish-orange. I was quite pleased with the result (image 16):
The sponges I used to print this piece got me wondering whether there was a better way to apply paint to the stamps, so I decided a week after the first batch to print another batch of fabrics using the sponges as a sort of stamp pad. I was very happy with the results, shown en masse in image 17:
The prints are generally clearer and less plasticky-looking, as images 18 and 19 show:
This time, I thought I’d be a bit more adventurous about mixing paint, so I introduced some gold paint in addition to the turquoise, teal and coral coloured paints in my colour scheme, and also tried experimenting with mixing colours on the stamps, on the fabrics, and even mixing shapes, as shown in images 20 to 25:
The prints are clearer and more consistent, and I like some of the fainter, partial prints where the paint didn’t quite cover the stamp sufficiently to transfer an entire print to the fabric surface. Image 26 shows an example of the texture of the dupion silk combining with the printed shape to form a more interesting surface:
I think, on the whole, prints in the second set are more subtle and interesting than the first set. Apart from the technical aspects of printing on fabric, a very important thing I have learned from this exercise is that it can be useful to try the same technique in different ways on different occasions, as my brain keeps working on the process between times.