I’m taking a little break from the Slamseys Sketchbook Challenge this week as I’ve been having too much fun with fabric printing. I’m putting the finishing touches to my lesson plans for the new Fabric Printing 5 Week Course that will be running at Slamseys next year. This of course means that I need to get experimenting, playing with a range of inks, printing techniques and fabrics – and what fun I’ve been having!
Yesterday I packed up my various thermofax screens, lino plates, embroidery hoop screens and jelly plates and took them all over to Granny’s house. My Granny is an expert quilter and has experimented with basically every kind of fabric paint, pens, crayons & more. She also has a wonderful collection of Indian woodblocks from her recent trip to India. I wanted to pick her brain about fabric designs and play with all her stuff!
Earlier in the week I’d created some backgrounds on my fabric scraps – using a mixture of natural inks made from raspberries (although this smelt great, it wasn’t very effective and I’m not sure how it’s going to hold out in the wash), and a watercolour technique with textile inks.
At Granny’s I overprinted these with my thermofax screens, layering the colours on top of each other. I love thermofax screen printing – and on fabric the results are even better than on paper. Basically using a thermal copier, designs are burnt onto the screen which allows the ink to be pushed through the screen and onto the fabric waiting below. The best designs are thin, detailed ones as this process isn’t very effective for big blocks of colour.
I used a mixture of waterbased block printing textile inks and screen printing textile inks. Some fabric inks can feel quite crunchy when they are printed, so I played around with diluting with just a little water and mixing the two different types together. As both were waterbased they mix well together and print nicely on a variety of fabrics. They also have a strong opaque quality, which allowed me to print over the background, keeping clear designs.
The main aim of this session was experimentation and unfortunately I’m firmly in the more is more camp so I think I may have overdone it on my layering. If I was doing it properly I would make some changes – starting with the larger screens and lighter colours, and then building up the strength of the colour at each stage.
Finally, I used some of the woodblocks to add some final embellishments, printing with the block printing ink, which you simply sponge onto the surface of the block.
When printing on fabric you need to check that you have set up your space before you get started. We started by rolling out an old yoga mat to act as a base for our printing – the yoga mat had a slight give underneath the fabric we were printing on, which really improves the quality of the print. Over the top of this it’s a good idea to lay down some newspaper or a pieces of scrap material as some of the prints you make may seep through the fabric onto the surface below.