A TECHNIQUE DRIVEN Blog dedicated to mastery of surface design techniques. First we dye, overdye, paint, stitch, resist, tie, fold, silk screen, stamp, thermofax, batik, bejewel, stretch, shrink, sprinkle, Smooch, fuse, slice, dice, AND then we set it on fire using a variety of heat tools.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Deconstructing the dried screens

Now make 1 cup of print paste with one Tablespoon of soda ash or double the recipe for 2 cups. This will do two things: 1.) wet and loosen the dried dye so it can be screened onto the fabric and 2.) add the soda ash to the dye so that the dye and attach to the fibers of the fabric and become permanent.

 The dark heavy deposits of dye will act as a resist. The lighter and see through area will be where the color melts (deconstructs) easiest and is then deposited on the cloth. As the screen is pulled over and over, more dye dissolves leaving larger areas with dye on the cloth and  smaller areas of resist. That is due to the break down of the dried dye and it's deposition on the fabric.
                                        Initial wetting with a thick layer of clear print paste with soda ash in it.

                               First few pulls. Lots of white because not much dye has broken down yet. From this picture you can really start to understand how the thickest dye that hasn't dissolved (deconstructed) yet acts as a resist.
                                               After 4 pulls (prints)
One of the cool things that I experimented with was to make 4 prints, then turn the screen up-side-down and print again over the four prints. If you look at the fabric with 2 prints above, that would mean I would turn the screen so that the red part of the screen was now on top and the blue on the bottom. This was my attempt to get rid of all the white.
 These are the four blocks above with one print and one reverse print. Still lots of white but you can see red and blue all over.  One of the things I love about this type of surface design is the wonderful figuring on the cloth. I will point out more after the fabric is batched and washed.

. The next thing I did was to take the squeegee with clear print paste and carefully pass it over the print. It picked up enough color to tint the white spots.
I didn't want to mix the red screen and yellow screens so I used clear print paste directly on the squeegee without a screen and as you can see the white spots are now tinted without losing the definition. This is the power of the first strike. Once those catcher's mitts have balls in them they have a powerful bond. If you are relatively gentle with the clear print paste, you can add tint to the white without disturbing the original prints. This was Judith's idea. My idea was to place a blank screen on the print and just pull tinted print paste on the small area that was white. This also worked and was a bit faster. It also had the safety of having the screen between the printed fabric and the squeegee preventing any smears.

                                                  This another screen in process

 I forgot to get a picture of all the fabric covered. You will see it tomorrow after batching. This picture is after I tore off the last 2 feet of unprinted fabric. I took that last bin bag and placed it over the end of the fabric then folded it so that all wet sections were touching plastic. Four big folds below.

Folded neatly into a small packet to fit on my tray. A room that is at least 70 degrees is perfect for batching. Another method is to use rice bags heated in the microwave oven, placed on plastic covered fabric and covered with a towel. It works beautifully.

Next we will see the finished fabric and a comparison with some deconstructed pieces I did before filling in the white spots.

Here is the entire piece batched, washed and ironed

 Some of these are close-up and some are pictures of two prints. I only made four prints of each screen. Sometimes you can make more but I'd rather have mine rich in color than numerous.

This is a closeup of the drips. The thick drips of dried dye act as a resist but as they break down (deconstruct) they leave a halo or outline of their color. Can you see the navy outlines along the sides of these drips?

On the block below you can see a double image or ghost image. This happened ( many times) because I lifted he screen after the first pull, thought the image too weak so I lowered the screen back into place but it was just enough off to give the double image or ghost look.

      On the screens above, you can see the navy color around the drops or circles on both screens
These last two were just fill-ins. I had run out of dye on the screens and just filled in the space with color. If I hadn't, I would have large blocks of white. This way I used some of the left over dye, covered the white and have something I can add more layers to with stamps, more dyeing or fabric paints.
This was a very sad pale square although the drips and dots are kind of cute. A good first layer. The objects on the left are color catchers which grab loose dye molecules in the washing machine to prevent dye back or dye re-depositing on the fabric

Here are some fabulous deconstructed screen prints with those sad white blank spots. See the difference when you fill them in? Also with all the white filled in, 4 prints can read as one long piece of fabric.

In addition to filling the white spots or areas of resist with dye I also have been very diligent to at least butt and sometimes overlaps screens slightly so that multiple prints read as one piece of fabric like the results from today.
Next post I will show another way of using this process to make wonderful marks on screens.


  1. Can you share how much water to mix with the soda ash?

  2. I love these! One question: when you do rows subsequent to the first, how do you keep from picking up dye from the first row on the bottom of your screen, then taking the risk of adding that to other rows? Or do you care if you do? The first time I tried Deconstructed printing, I had a specific design and was concerned about fouling it with overdyeing...

  3. I have been enjoying this blog for awhile now and share it often with friends. Great stuff! And now you are on a subject I just love, after taking a terrific workshop on deconstructed screen printing with Kerr Grabowski. Big question: can I mix soda ash into aleady-made print paste or should I make a brand new batch? Thanks! You can some of my initial experiments on my blog at crisniche.blogspot.com

  4. I have been enjoying this blog for awhile now and share it often with friends. Great stuff! And now you are on a subject I just love, after taking a terrific workshop on deconstructed screen printing with Kerr Grabowski. Big question: can I mix soda ash into aleady-made print paste or should I make a brand new batch? Thanks! You can see some of my initial experiments on my blog at crisniche.blogspot.com

  5. Here are some answers. When I am making soda ash water to pre-treat the fabric, I use 1 cup of soda ash to 1 gallon of water. I always err on the side of MORE soda ash and never less since it's the key which locks to dye molecules to the cloth fibers.

    Sometime I care about getting wet dye from the bottom of the screen on my next print and sometimes I don't. When I do, I use a sponge to wipe the bottom of the silk screen before the subsequent prints.

    You can always mix soda ash into thickened dye but just remember that it will exhaust the dye molecules in about an hour so work fast (smile).

    From my monoprinting experiments, I am now starting to spray the back of the fabrics I have deconstructed with soda ash water because adding the soad ash to the print paste is so time sensitive. It is always a shame to put all this work into deconstructing and end up with faint prints.

    The way I did this on my monoprints was to apply the dye to the fabric, cover with plastic bin bags, flip over exposing the back of the fabric and spray soda ash water til the fabric back is saturated (you can see this with your eyes).

    Hope this helps and keep asking the questions since probably more people are wondering the same thing.

  6. Thanks so much for all that additional information. I'll do some experimenting. I love having an expert on hand ;-)

  7. Thank you for the tip about covering the white spots using clear paste. Excellent way to keep the hue without having to over dye later.
    I read the blog post by email so I have no idea who is sharing their work and taking the time to teach your readers. Please take credit for your work by starting with your name or putting it at the end.

  8. Those look so cool! I do cross stitching and dye my own fabric I may have to learn to do this.

  9. GORGEOUS!! I always just LOVE the organic results of DSP. And great idea about getting rid of the white spots!

  10. Love how these turned out just wonderful, love all the texture

  11. You get amazing results. What a great set up!

  12. Lovely results. This is one of my favourite techniques.


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