Friday, July 11, 2008

Technical Matters

I’m back from a fun four days screen printing and painting with friends – nothing to show yet because I’m still “batching”!! that is I’m letting the dye molecules make fast friends with the fiber molecules in the perfect steam heat (85 degree heat, 90% humidity) of summer Georgia with rain storms! A lot of people ask me for directions for dyeing, dye painting and screen printing with MX dyes. I don’t think you can do better than get the instructions directly from the dye company websites. I order from on the East coast – they are very good.
I hear equally good things about west coast based Dharma.

Here is the link to Prochem’s instructions for direct dye painting and screen printing:

If you go to their page, you will notice there are four methods given. I use method one, I always have a few yards of pre-soaked (with soda ash) fabric on hand. I keep a big bucket of the soda soak in my outside studio I can throw fabric in easily any time. You can see bucket, line, print table and batching fabric (under plastic) in the photo below. also a lovely patch of self sown cleome!

The soda soak will keep forever (until it’s all used up!!). I have a line for drying the fabric right there. Some people put the fabric in their dryer to dry it, but since I’ve several times managed to burn soda soaked fabric by ironing it, I’m not too sanguine about putting it into the heat of a dryer. Plus it uses up electricity, and we get plenty of free heat in GA!

I have left screen printed fabric “batching” on the print table for days – if not weeks!! It will come to no harm, and magic may happen – you never know!

Method two on the prochem website describes putting the activator/soda ash directly into the dye/alginate mix. You can just add soda ash and that works fine, if you add a mix of baking soda and soda ash as described on the prochem website it slows down the dye process. You would use this method when you want to take some time – several hours or even a couple of days – to paint the fabric. The baking soda activates the dye much more slowly than the soda ash. Why is that a good idea? Well, once the soda ash, the dye and the fabric get together they start mating up pretty quickly!! And you should complete the painting/screen process within 4 hours otherwise the dye is pretty much exhausted. It takes baking soda longer - as it slowly converts to soda ash.

Method 3 doesn’t involve batching (i.e. leaving the painted fabric in a warm (over 70 degrees) damp situation for 24 hours or more) but rather steaming to set the dye – so you’d just that one if you were in more of a hurry or couldn’t batch. To me the extra work of steaming is rarely worth it! And of course I’ve plenty of local heat without using electricity unnecessarily. I’ve not used method 4.

You use the same techniques for dye painting (applying thickened dye with a brush) or screen printing (applying thickened dye to fabric through a screen with a squeegee).

Kerr Grabowski has made a very detailed DVD of her screen printing processes and I’d recommend it – the only problem is you have to find a naked man (as she does!) to hand you items as you need them!! I think I’ll have to employ one for my next workshop!

And, if you have been…………………thanks for reading!!


P.S. the quilt at the top "City of Garlic and Sapphires" was made from many different pieces of screen printed fabric.

1 comment:

Deb Lacativa said...

You are not kidding about the heat and humidity here in GA. I should be outside dyeing right now BUT, clever girl ordered fresh dyes and forgot to get any FABRIC. !!! Now off to see the naked guy....