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.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Soy Wax and Screen Printing, tape resist discharge and other bits

A couple of years ago I was doing a monthly dyeing and printing class with Linda Maynard at the Bramble Patch. We were supposed to do discharging but, unfortunately, Fridays never seemed to provide the weather we needed to be able to get the fabrics dry and then be able to open the windows to avoid being overcome by noxious fumes, as we ironed. Fast forward to a heatwave here in the UK and I managed to find the time to try out discharging with a soy wax screen.

I had dyed a piece of silk noil with black for that particular part of the class and it has been sitting there for all that time, waiting patiently. There will not be much in the way of process photos because I have never been able to see what I'm doing properly when wearing my mask. My varifocals always seem to get pushed about into the wrong position. My discharge agent of choice is Formosol which comes in powder form and is mixed with print paste for screen printing. I have used Jacquard Discharge paste in the past but I like to be able to mix up the amount that I need for one session, rather than have it hanging about. Personal opinion only but I also think that the results I have achieved with Formosol are better.

I began with a screen made with a tape resist, as in the last post, but this time I angled the lines and crossed some of them over each other. I then printed the whole piece of fabric using only discharge paste.

The method for using discharge paste when screen printing is exactly the same as for normal printing.   One thing to remember though is that the fabric should not be soda soaked. This is the fabric pinned to the print table and printed with the discharge paste. As you can see, because the weather was so warm, it started to discharge even before I hung it out to dry. The fabric was actually black although does have a brown cast to it in the photo.

I also had a small piece of cotton that was the tail end of a deconstructed piece and very uninviting ...

It couldn't look any worse so I discharged that too. You can't see the discharge paste on this.

When you have finished the printing process, it is important to let the fabric dry completely before the next step which is the ironing. The discharge process is activated by heat and steam so make sure that you fill up your iron before you begin. This is also where the fumes are at their worst. Work in a well ventilated area and use a mask! I confess that, as my work area is well ventilated, I often don't use a mask but, because I am currently suffering from a virus that affects my breathing, I decided that it was better to be safe than sorry this time.

The magic happens during the ironing process. Some say that you are supposed to hover the iron over the cloth, others that you should just press down rather than using a normal ironing action. I use a bit of both, particularly when my arm starts to ache from hovering. You can see the discharge happening and the good thing is that you can stop it whenever you want to, just lift up the iron. If you want to go a little further then iron some more. I was quite brutal with the cotton and you can clearly see where the dye that was not covered by the tape has lifted back to a very light colour.

The silk noil was a revelation. I hadn't considered how the nubbly texture of the fabric would have such an effect on the discharge process. You can see from this detail photo just how the texture of the silk noil creates a mottled look to the surface.

I also discharged some parts more than others to give a feeling that there was a light source in there. I am really pleased with this piece.

The next thing to do is to wash out your cloth thoroughly to remove all of the discharge paste. If you leave any in then the next time you  put an iron onto it, it will continue to discharge.

A word of warning, not all fabrics discharge well. If you are using a commercial fabric then you need to test to see if it works otherwise you could end up with no change. Turquoise is also notoriously difficult to discharge, if it goes at all. I had read this but once decided to try a piece of hand dyed turquoise silk. It looked as though it was working as it was drying and then, when I ironed it, the areas that had discharge paste on turned a lovely light lavender. After I washed it there was nothing there at all, just the piece of flat turquoise cloth that I had started with! If in doubt try a test piece first. 

As I had not used discharge paste with a soy wax screen before, I was interested to see if it caused any deterioration in the wax screen. It didn't. Everything was perfect after I washed the screen out, and that was after leaving it overnight as well.

Before leaving resists I thought I would experiment with some different ideas. I tried several commercial stencils, most of which were pretty useless;  I think they were just a little too thick. I did, however, manage to get some prints from this stencil.

As you can see, I don't clean off my stencils when I'm using acrylics and printing with a gelli plate!

This is a messy piece but I realised, after the first few prints, that it was actually easier to keep lifting the stencil, laying it in place and putting the screen on top of it. I'm not keen on the result but I think that may be because I printed with a dark dye onto a lighter piece of fabric. Perhaps if the colours had been reversed, the grid would have been more obvious. 

And finally, I tried placing a piece of jute scrim under the screen. After the first pull the scrim sticks to the screen. I had achieved some great effects using this method with a vilene interfacing screen but using a screen alone did not produce the clarity of line from the scrim that I was expecting.

I'll see what it looks like when it's washed out. 

Have fun experimenting with resists and see what you can find that works for you.

Next time I'm going to move on to using vilene interfacing screens, sometimes with soy wax, other times not.


  1. Very interesting and informative, Maggi! I am getting ready to test my soy wax screen today, and hope to progress through some of your other techniques. You are opening up a whole new area of experimentation for me, which is terrific!

  2. Maggi,
    Wonderful experiments! Thanks for the full treatment. Looking forward to more!

  3. I'm learning a lot from your experiments. You are getting some wonderful pieces. I also really like the silk noil piece.

  4. Thanks so much for talking us through your process. It really makes me want to try many of these technique!

  5. Very cool results! Such simple devices to create wonderful designs. Just goes to show one does not need spendy equipment, just ingenuity and experimentation. I love the silk noil piece too.


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