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!

11 comments:

The Pinko Bitch said...

I have to say (as someone who knows zilch about printing anything on fabric) that this whole series of posts has been very interesting and informative to me. Block-printing, I can do. Block-printing on cloth? Might have to try.

Freshly Found said...

Hi Jesse
I have so enjoyed your series, I have mentioned in my blog today. I hope that is ok.

Heather Moore said...

I have no suggestions because this is all new to me. Thanks for the brilliant set of tutorials - what an incredible resource!

Mrs. Benitez said...

Easily the best lino tutorial I've seen on the web - and the results are gorgeous.

(If anyone is inspired enough by Jesse's instructions to tackle their own prints, I hope you'll come back and post a link to your efforts here - I'm sure I'm not the only one who'd love to see them.)

Heloise Bottomley said...

I've admired your work on Skinny Laminx and today I found this post via Freshly Found. WOW and thanks for the tutorials. With Christmas coming up I'm diving into my scraps box with new gusto.

Heloise Bottomley said...

Oops! I forgot to say I put a mention & a link on mine. I hope you don't mind. But I was really inspired.

Jesse said...

Thank you!

Heloise, and Denise, I don't mind at all - thanks for the mentions!

Sonya said...

Thank you for the tips and tricks, save me from making many, many mistakes. Too steep and learning curve and the project gets chucked.

Laura Bucci said...

Hi Jesse, found you through Skinny laMinx. I love your tutorial. I've been wanting to do some fabric printing, so I'm planning to try this. Your designs are beautiful.

julie said...

i have a few questions!
i am using flour sack towel material (sooo charming, right?) & regular silkscreen ink. i have a brayer, glass, and both linoleum & speedycarve cuts. my results were awful! i wasn't getting a flat, covered ink surface to work with, and then most of the ink stuck to a weird top layer of the material instead of seeping in. i know this is partially because i am not using a foam roller (noted and buying tomorrow), but what sort of fabric ink would you recommend? maybe that is my dilemma. thank you!

Jesse said...

Hi Julie - I'm guessing the foam roller would be the solution. I've used both regular fabric paint and fabric silkscreen ink (pretty much the same thing), and the main thing seems to be that the ink is thinner than normal blockprinting ink, so it doesn't stick to the block the same way. Good luck!