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 14, 2015

Preparation for steaming

Today I would like to talk about the materials needed to print directly onto manmade fabric.

When I first started to look at printing directly onto fabric there wasn’t a great deal of information about printing onto manmade fabrics.

Now Prochemical and dye produce their own thickener for printing on polyester fabrics. In order to batch the fabric you need to steam it and instructions for this are on their website.
You mix the thickener with the dye and then use your preferred method of printing onto your fabric.
I use monoprinting and screen-printing.
I have not tried Prochemical’s thickener as I have my own recipe now so I would be really interested to know whether any of you have experimented with thickeners.

For steaming my fabrics I have two methods depending on the size of the piece.
For small pieces I steam them in an old pressure cooker that I bought at a jumble sale.

It needs to be something that your no longer use for food. Below you can see that there is a wire basket that sits on a trivet and this holds the fabric away from the water.

I have also invested in a two plate portable cooker so that I can put my cooker outside weather permitting and so prevent my kitchen or studio getting steamed up.

For steaming larger pieces of fabric I use an old baby Burco which I have had for over 40 years and it was second hand from my sister !!!
I have placed a piece of wire inside so that the fabric is kept away from the water which is placed in the bottom of the Burco.

Recently I wanted to steam a long piece of fabric so I invested in a tube of air vent ducting.

My husband very kindly cut a hole in a piece of metal that fitted the top of the Burco and we set the tube inside. Luckily for me a lid of a Bain Marie I had fitted the opening at the top exactly.

The image on the right shows the tube covered with a thick cloth to help with the insulation.

This is rather a Heath Robinson contraption and we often joke in our house that Mr Robinson has visited again!! However it works a treat and I’m grateful that my husband can help me and usually save money!!
You can also make a steamer by marking a circle the size of the top of the Burco on the bottom of a metal dustbin and drilling some holes in the dustbin. You then stand the dustbin on top of the Burco. The steam from the water in the Burco goes up through the holes in the dustbin.

Before steaming the fabrics they need to be wrapped in paper so the dye doesn’t transfer onto the folded or rolled fabric.
When I buy goods online they often come packaged with long pieces of brown paper that have been crumpled so that the goods arrive undamaged. I save all this paper and flatten it out and use it for steaming my fabrics.
Lay the fabric onto the paper leaving a substantial piece of paper uncovered at the top.

Continue to fold over the fabric inside the paper making sure that the fabric is not folded onto itself.

Just one thing to note you may find that with some fabrics the folds are permanent after steaming. If you are not sure if your fabric will be affected then roll the fabric by putting a cardboard tube on the paper and rolling both fabric and paper around the tube.

You can do a test on fabric to see how it reacts by crumpling a corner in your hand then ironing it. If the creases come out then you are safe to fold if not then roll the fabric. I have found that the cheaper the fabric the more likely it is too crease but that’s NOT a hard a fast rule just an observation!!

In the next post I will look at monoprinting.


  1. Holy Cow! That is quite a production!! Good result though!!

  2. A good way to permanently steam pleats into position, too!
    I really like your contraption. Somehow contraptions are more 'freeing' to creativity as you don't have to make sure you use the posh ones just right. ;-)
    Sandy in the UK

  3. Love your work Yvonne, and your generousity in sharing your knowledge. Time for me to start experimenting. Sue in Victoria, Australia


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