Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Another great week!

Don’t you just love it when you get up in the morning with a sense of anticipation? I seem to have felt like that a lot lately, because there are so many interesting things I want to get on with. Perhaps it’s the arrival of spring this week?

I finished another postcard to swap at Fibrecircle last time. It’s another in the Forest series, and uses the same techniques as the last one – building up layers of colour using transparent Setacolor paints. I find these postcards totally absorbing to do, but they are rather time-consuming. I don’t think I could imagine making large works this way.
This began life as a section of a piece of cloth, looking like this:
I love seeing how these little pieces change over time!

I also had a quick play with discharge dyeing some of the less exciting results of my breakdown printing. There are always a few duds in everything I do and this looks like being an exciting way to improve some of them. It helps that the weather is warmer and I can take smelly things like discharge paste outside. I cut printer paper into random freehand strips and taped them to one of my silk screens, in a pattern vaguely like water ripples or tree bark. I mixed the Thiourea dioxide into some of the goop made with DR33 for breakdown printing and printed the screen onto my dyed fabric with the paste, just as I would with screen printing inks. Then I rolled the fabric into a small parcel and put it in my steamer for 30 minutes. Then I left them to cool down in the steamer for a few hours, while I went about my life, and then rinsed them out with gentle detergent and warm water.

This is the first one before it was discharged…
… and here’s how it looks now…
It’s gone from being a muddy mess, printed before I got the hang of how colour theory worked with breakdown printing, to something really quite interesting.
Here’s the second one before discharging…
… and now…
This one has been improved out of sight too.
Paper stencils seem to work fine for this process. I know from screen printing that you can often get 60 or so prints before the paper starts to disintegrate, which is more than enough to do this process on quite a large amount of fabric.

 I also started another pot of natural dyeing. A branch came down from the ironbark tree outside my house and, because I read somewhere that ironbark leaves will yield orange, I thought I'd give them a try. I’ve dyed a couple of times with the bark, which gives a lovely brown-black colour, especially with ferrous sulphate as a mordant, and once with the leaves and twigs and copper sulphate, which yielded a coppery tan. This time, I used just leaves, which I set to steep in hot water and left outside. After the first day, the colour was pale yellow, but by the third day, the colour was indeed a rich orange. I added a wool scarf to the pot and left it to steep for three more days, but I remembered after the fact that the wool hadn’t been pre-washed.
The colour in the pot wasn’t going any darker, so I put the pot on the burner and very slowly raised the temperature to almost boiling. The colour was a little more intense, but seemed to be going a little more towards brown. So I added some alum as a mordant and left the pot heating until it simmered gently for about half an hour. Then I left the scarf in the pot to cool down overnight. The leaves were left in the pot throughout, because some of them were becoming trapped in the folds of the wool, as I moved the cloth around, and I thought this might lead to interesting colour variations.

The result was a nice colour but alas, not orange.
Disappointing, but it is a nice rich yellow. I may try these leaves with other mordants or even leaving the pot for longer, with other mordants added. Meanwhile, this scarf has lengthwise folds ready to be clamped and redyed, so you'll probably see it again soon.