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.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

put on your mask and gloves, it's about to get messy

So... we've been looking at deconstructed screen printing this month.  First I showed you some finished work combining other fiber techniques with this dye process.  I've suggested trying unusual fabrics like handwovens and some examples of framing the finished work. I admit I was just trying to get you interested in the process!  Then I gave you some information on how I make screens and padded print boards.  Next you need some basic information on the dyes and the release paste. 

I like to use squeeze bottles with screw tops that don't get lost.  The dye is thickened but these tops have worked well and are a lot less messy that scooping out blobs of dye - fewer  spoons or spatulas to wash when I'm printing. I mix the dye paste in square tubs so that pouring it into the bottles doesn't require a funnel - just a steady hand.  You may prefer to use a funnel.  Once a tool is used for dye, DO NOT return it to your kitchen for use with food.  Mark the tool with paint or permanent marker that it is "for dyes only." 

The dye is MX Procion dyes.  You make a concentrated paste with water and urea to help it dissolve more easily.  I always use gloves and a sturdy face mask (with the metal strip that fits snugly on my nose) while the jar containing the powdered dye is open.  Once I have the lid back on and the dye powder is completely wet, the mask can be put aside.  I work in the sink with newspaper protecting the counter tops.  If any powder is spilled in the sink, it is easy to wash it away.  You can spritz the newspaper lightly with water and that will help control any dust that might float around. Work in an area where children and pets will not wander in and out.  I don't have a mask that fits my dog, Oscar, so he is banned from the room until the mixing is all done and cleaned up.  Once the dye is in solution, the dust is no longer a danger to anyone's lungs.  Label all dye containers carefully and store away from food and drink products.  More on safety and best practices can be found on Paula Burch's dyeing site as well as on the dye distributors' websites.

Here's Oscar hanging out while I mix up the dyes.  Look, he's smiling!

Okay, so once you have a concentrated paste of dye with water and urea, you need to add some thickener so that the dye doesn't just run through the screen.  Sodium alginate is used as a food additive, so if you want to mix the thickener in your blender you don't have to relegate it to the craft room tools but it can be hard on the blender.  I wouldn't mix the dye with thickener in the blender because that will make the blender a dyes-only utensil and anyway, it's a big pain to wash out after each color.  Lately I've been trying the sodium alginate that is called print paste and it seems to dissolve easier than the bag I bought a long time ago that was only labeled sodium alginate.  A little patience is necessary.  Mix your thickener up on the day before you mix your dye concentrates so that it is ready to go.  Follow the directions on the package but double the quantity of thickener to water so that it is extra thick. When you combine the thickener with the pasted dye, it will be thinned down a bit.  If it's still too thick you can add a few drops more water, but it really needs to be thick enough not to run through the screen. You want to be able to push it through the screen with a squeegee.  You can buy premixed thickener but it would probably only be thick enough to use as the release paste when printing not to thicken the dyes. 

This is getting too wordy. Break time!  Stand up and shake your body.  We've both been looking at this screen too long.
Check out this print I made using an embroidery hoop temporary screen.  I was auditioning  some threads for free motion quilting.  It seems I get a different prospective when I look at a photo on the screen than when I am looking directly at my cloth.  This is the fabric that is the background on my blog. It became the cover for a Japanese stab bound book that I swapped at a Book Arts Guild meeting a couple of years ago.

Did you get off the couch and take a stretch?  Good, me too.  We have our thickened dyes, we have some plain thickener (also called release paste), we have made screens, we have some padded print boards, a squeegee. Oh, yes, we need some fabric!

I use 100% cotton, prepared for dyeing (PFD), or my cotton handwoven cloth.  On the day you mix up your sodium alginate, you need to presoak the fabric in a solution of 9 tablespoons to a cup of soda ash (not baking soda or washing soda) dissolved in a gallon of water.  You can soak it for 30 minutes or overnight.  It needs to be dry before printing - don't iron it and don't put it in the dryer - so line drying is it.  Groan, more waiting. The soda ash solution can be saved and reused.  Just wring out the excess solution back into the bucket.  Add a couple more tablespoons of soda ash if you soak a lot of fabric.  The soda ash dissolves faster in very hot water than in cold.

On Friday, we print!  Are you ready?

Diane - yarngoddess


  1. Many years ago when Lunn Studios was in business and Mike was doing alot of pre-soaking for shibori, etc., he said that he used 1 cup of soda ash to 1 gallon of water. This is about double the 9 Tbsp recipe. He said he didn't have time to wait 30 minutes or more to make sure he had SA throughout the fabric. He just wet the fabric, wrung it out and went from there. Since Lunn's fabrics were beautiful apparently it worked well. For those of us who are eager to get on with things, this is a good alternative. Now if we could just do something about the line drying wait . . .

  2. Well, I'm still sitting on the couch reading your post!! Will have to put this on the 'todo' list for next month...but I'm watching your results!!


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