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, September 21, 2015

Manipulating fabric

 I’m going to show samples of ways in which work can be developed using the properties of manmade fabrics.
If you tie objects into the fabric and then steam or heat the fabric they will retain the shape of the object. Depending on the type and mixtures of fibres in the fabric this may be a permanent distortion or a temporary one which can be ironed out.

So how do you achieve these distortions?
 Over the years I have collected a box full of various object that I can use. I suggest you use metal or wooden objects but be wary of plastic buttons as sometimes they melt in the heat!

I’m not going to go into an in depth description of the method as there is so much information about the process on the internet and by Nienke on here
Basically you tie the object of your choice into the fabric at intervals and heat for about 15 mins or so. You can steam the fabric or heat it in a saucepan of water. After 15 mins remove the fabric carefully and leave to dry. Then carefully untie the fabric.

Here I have tied marbles into a stretchy polyester lining fabric. This was a white piece of fabric on which I had printed circles of text as well as other images. I tied in various sized stones and heated the tied fabric in a stainless steel bowl to which I had added scarlet disperse dye dissolved in enough water to cover the piece. One of the properties I like about the stretchy fabric is that you can add distortion without it affecting the surrounding fabric too much.

I have had quite a lot of success dyeing fabric this way without the addition of any carriers. I simply added the dye to the water and simmer for about 20 mins.

Having said to be wary of using plastic components when steaming fabrics I did explore the possibility of using rawplugs /wall plugs.
First I used a needle and thread to draw the fabric up into the plug and repeated this process over a small piece of fabric.

I steamed the fabric for 15- 20 mins then when it had dried I gently pulled the rawplugs off the fabric.
I then added some embroidery thread as embellishment.

I apologise for the photo but this wasn't a very large strip of fabric but you can see the peaks created by drawing the fabric into the plug and this fabric is now permanently transformed. Also lost is the beautiful shine that these fabrics have.

 I like to use metal nuts and here is a sample I made when I was exploring my paper making.
 First I had embedded paper pulp into monofilament knitting leaving spaces. When the paper was dry I folded it and tied the bolts into the knitting. I steamed the sample keeping my fingers crossed that the paper wouldn’t disintegrate. Luckily it all held together and below is the result. The image on the right shows a close up of the steamed knitting.

Another method I have used to manipulate fabric is by steaming the fabric between two pieces of folded paper.
 First I marked out the lines where I wanted the folds to be onto a sheet of freezer paper. Then I ironed the fabric between the marked sheet and another piece of freezer paper.
Placing the sandwich on a light table or window I traced the lines from the first sheet of paper and folded the fabric and paper along the lines.

I steamed the piece for about 20mins. If you have a heat press then you can press for a couple of minutes.

The image below shows a piece of fabric that has been ironed with a piece of paper
that has been painted with disperse dye.
 Underneath the fabric I have coiled some plastic string. This is parcel string that is made from manmade fibres.

 As the fibres are unknown I wear a mask and work in a well ventilated area.

On top of the fabric I placed the painted paper coloured side down and ironed with a hot iron. The string melts a bit and so distorts the fabric.
I have actually ironed the fabric flat after removing the painted paper and string really just to see what it would look like and I have to say I’m pleased with the result.

In the next post I will look at stitching fabric before steaming or ironing.


  1. Thank you for sharing such novel ideas. I can't wait to try some of them.

  2. This is wonderful! Love learning about these techniques and seeing some of your results. Thank you.

  3. Brilliant results!
    Love the idea of dyeing w/disperse dyes at the same time as heat setting the manipulations.
    Sandy in the UK


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