Thursday, 1 November 2007
Printing Fabric - the reason for all this madness
Anyone with a shred of sense might wonder why anyone else would print fabric in such a laborious way. Silkscreening seems a lot more practical; it's quicker, and you can get someone else to do it with very consistent results. The beaten-up old trunk in the picture is part of the reason.
Blockprinting separate motifs makes it easy to use fabric I already have, whatever shape and size it is. I can use my granny's old linen sheets, tablecloths I find at the market, napkins from secondhand shops - anything. Once the blocks are cut, setting up to print is really quick, and cleaning up is quick too. Everything's waterbased, making it even easier. Linoleum is relatively cheap, and bio-degradable. The blocks are generally small (for now), so they're easy to store.
And the best part: I can play around with patterns and colours while I'm printing, trying different combinations without having to set up a whole screen. These prints were all made with the same block.
Convinced? I'm almost out of words, but just a quick note about fabric. With old stuff it's not always easy to know what it's made of. Fabric paint is supposed to work on synthetics, but the fabric might not stand up to heat curing. You can try the burn test to guess fiber content fairly accurately. Here's a chart to help as well.
And one more thing: fabric paint doesn't penetrate fabric the way dye does. The colour particles are suspended in a glue that bonds the paint to the surface of the fibers. Prints will stand up to regular gentle washing, but not scrubbing. Think of the prints as being similar to embroidery in that way, and stick to similar guidelines when you're deciding where to use them. Cushions are great, pillowcases not, except around the edges. Borders on tablecloths are fine, but not on the parts where food is likely to spill. Your own clothes, fine; children's clothes ... maybe not.
Okay, that's it, I'm done. Suggestions, advice, refinements, improvements ... I'm dying to hear them!