How to Decorate & Embellish Your Fabrics
Hints and tips
For best results, use natural fibre fabrics such as cotton, linen, rayon and silk.
Pre-wash your fabric to remove any sizing or dirt.
Experiment with different colours and unusual textures of fabric. Use thicker lines in your artwork for heavily textured fabrics.
If it’s the wrong time of year for sunny days, you can also expose cyanotype prints with a UV lamp.
Add a small amount of white vinegar to your first rinse water to increase the depth of the blue tones.
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Before you begin cyanotype printing, you need to create a digital negative of your artwork. To do this, open your digital artwork file and do the following: convert to greyscale, invert the colours and flip the image from left-to-right. Your file is now ready to print on to the ink-jet transparency film to create your digital negative. Alternatively, you can prepare artwork by drawing directly on a sheet of acetate
with an opaque black marker. Or, you can use objects like leaves and lace to create shadowgrams.
Next, gather your supplies and find a workspace that has no sunlight (ordinary indoor lights are fine). Wear gloves and protect yourself and your workspace from the cyanotype solution, which can leave dark blue stains. Following the instructions in the cyanotype kit, mix the two stock solutions in the provided bottles. Then, using the measuring cup, mix equal parts of stock solution A and solution B together to create the active cyanotype sensitiser. Mix only as much as needed to coat fabric for this session, as the active sensitiser will only last about thirty minutes. A good starting estimate is to mix a total of 30ml (2tbsp) of sensitiser per square metre/foot of fabric.
Using a clean foam brush, carefully coat your dry pre-washed fabric with the cyanotype sensitiser. You only need to coat the area where you want to print. Alternatively, you can immerse the piece of fabric in a tray of sensitiser to completely saturate it, but this can be difficult for larger pieces. If you have over-saturated the fabric, use a scrap piece of muslin cloth to blot away the excess. Avoid wringing it as this can warp the fabric. Ideally you want the fabric to be evenly coated, but not so saturated that it will drip.
Hang the sensitised fabric to dry in a completely dark area, such as a closet. Use plastic clips and protect the floor from any drips, which could stain. When the fabric is completely dry, place it in a lightproof black bag for storage until you are ready to print. For best results, use the fabric within two weeks.
When you have a clear, sunny day and are ready to print, assemble the contact printing frame as follows: place the coated fabric flat on top of the backing board, arrange the digital negative on top with the ink side down, and place the sheet of glass on top. You can
use tape or binder clips to keep the negative and fabric from shifting out of alignment. Assemble the printing frame indoors and away from strong sunlight.
Carry the assembled printing frame outside and place in full sunlight, with the surface tilted towards the sun. Exposure times vary depending on the intensity of the sunlight and will range from five to twenty minutes. You will know the print is fully exposed when the fabric under the clear areas of the negative has turned dark blue and then progressed to a silvery-grey colour. Practice with a test piece of fabric to determine the exact time needed.
After exposing, bring the printing frame back indoors before disassembling. Fill the washtub with cold tap water and submerge the exposed fabric in the water. Agitate gently and watch as the dark blue tones develop and the yellow sensitiser washes away. Keep rinsing until most of the yellow has rinsed out.
With the fabric still in the tub of water, add a splash of ordinary hydrogen peroxide to instantly darken the blues and bring out the contrast. This optional step speeds up the oxidation process that would happen naturally as the print aged. Change the water and continue rinsing in running water for ten minutes. Proper rinsing is critical to ensure a long-lasting print. Dry and iron according to the fabric instructions.