Friday, 27 July 2012

Fiber Etch for Cutwork and Devore - fabric sampling

The Fiber Etch has a narrow applicator spoutI was very excited about the opportunity to play with Fiber Etch.  Fiber Etch gel is designed to dissolve plant (cellulose) fibres such as cotton, viscose, linen and rayon and is used for the "burn-out" process of devore and cutwork, while polyester, other synthetic fibres, wool and silk fibres remain intact.

My fabric samples included black velvet, satin, cotton and batiste.  These were each pinned onto a sheet of newsprint paper as per the Fiber Etch instructions.

I applied the Fibre Etch directly from the bottle.  It is easy to work freehand as the bottle has a narrow spout which releases a small amount of the gel as you draw.

I allowed each of the samples to dry thoroughly before ironing them on a wool setting on the reverse.  A gentle, even heat activates the gel making it feel hard on the surface, this is when it is ready to be rinsed off, hopefully along with the cellulose.

100% Cotton (cellulose)

As expected, the dots I had drawn on the cotton fabric quickly dissolved into holes when it was rinsed under cold water.  A tiny amount of the gel will dissolve the cotton to make very small holes.  To make larger holes and prevent fraying, it is necessary to stitch the outline of the area to be burnt-out with polyester thread.

Batiste 72% Cotton (cellulose) / 28% Silk (protein)

The cotton content of the light-weight, gauzy batiste fabric dissolved very easily under the water, leaving a very delicate ladder of silk threads where the cotton fibre had dissolved.  The danger here would be to overheat the gel and burn a hole in the fine weave.

Devore on silk / cotton batiste
Devore on delicate Batiste fabric
Velvet 82% Viscose (cellulose) / 18% Silk (protein)

The luxurious black velvet fabric was a challenge.  It is necessary to scrub the surface of the pile with the Fiber Etch spout to make sure the viscose fibres absorb the gel, unfortunately this gives an uneven coating.  My first attempt failed as I did not iron the silk backing for long enough and only part of the design washed away. 

For my second attempt, I left the gel to dry in the sunshine, and when I brought it in decided to heat activate the gel in the tumble dryer, which is recommend by the manufacturer.  This is where reading the instructions more thoroughly would have paid off!  It is necessary to check the item frequently when you use a tumble dryer and as I did not, the Fibre Etched areas of the fabric disintegrated in my hands!

My third attempt and I finally managed to create a devore leaf design on my fabric.  Disappointingly, I over heated the gel on the left leaf which burnt through the viscose pile and the delicate silk backing, however the leaf on the right devored without a problem.

Devore on black Velvet - the silk backing on
the left leaf was burnt from too much heat
Satin 65% Cotton (cellulose) / 35% Silk (protein)

The satin fabric probably gave the most satisfying results.  Devore on this glossy fabric is so pretty and reveals a silk netting when the cotton has been etched away.  I struggled getting the amount of heat correct but when I did, the cotton fibre easily scraped away when it was held under running water.

Devore on Satin fabric

I think results from screen printing with Fiber Etch onto velvet may be more successful as it is easier to apply the gel evenly with a squeegee.  Plan your project, make sure you have the time to give it your full attention and take care not to overheat the Fibre Etch gel as it will burn fibres you want to remain intact.  As with most of the crafts on the George Weil website, the techniques take experimentation, practice, and note taking to perfect.

This range of products can be seen on the Devore section of the George Weil website.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Screen Printing using Screen Filler & Drawing Fluid

The direct block-out or “Negative Method” of screen printing can be achieved by using Speedball Screen Filler.  The screen filler blocks out the areas of the screen that you DO NOT want to print through.

It is always a good idea to make sure your screen is completely clean before starting a new print.  Use Mesh Prep Gel (see on website) to degrease monofilament polyester mesh fabric.

Draw out your design on a piece of paper, place beneath the screen and trace the image onto the screen mesh with a soft lead pencil.  Stir the screen filler to a smooth consistency before applying with a paint brush to the areas not to be printed.  Allow to dry thoroughly in a horizontal position, bottom-side up, before applying the flood stroke.

Screen filler can also be used in conjunction with Speedball Drawing Fluid.  The drawing fluid acts as a mask so that Tusche–resist or “positive method” of screen printing can be achieved.

Trace your design onto the screen using the method above, and paint over the areas of the design that you DO want to print through with drawing fluid. Be careful to fully block out the entire area. Leave the screen to dry in a level, flat position and make sure nothing touches the areas covered with drawing fluid.

When the screen mesh is completely dry, spoon the stirred screen filler onto the screen and over the design painted in drawing fluid.  Use a squeegee to apply an even coating over the entire screen, in one pass. Multiple passes of screen filler will dissolve the drawing fluid.

Put the screen to dry in a horizontal position making sure nothing touches the fabric. 

It is important that the screen filler dries completely before spraying with cold water on both sides of the screen where the drawing fluid was applied. These areas will wash out and leave exposed parts of the screen for ink to flow through them. Areas of the screen that remain slightly blocked can be scrubbed lightly with a small stiff brush on both sides. If necessary you can use washing soda dissolved in warm water but do not use hot water during this stage.

The screen is ready to use when it has been allowed to dry in a level position, bottom-side up.

You can see these, and many other, Screen Printing products on the George Weil website.

Friday, 13 July 2012

The Rain Stops Play with Jacquard Dye-na-flow

Attempt two of the Jacquard Dye-na-flow Sun Printing test was scuppered when, once again, the sun became swallowed up by rain clouds.  I first discovered the technique of heliographic sun printing when Pebeo brought out their Setacolor Soleil paints and I was given the opportunity to test them with my children.

This image (right) shows a print we created by placing keys on the wet painted fabric.  In sun printing the colour disappears from areas obscured from the sunshine by a stencil or object.

Pebeo are now discontinuing Setacolor Soleil, so I decided to test the Jacquard Dye-na-flow paints to see if they are equally effective.  I first sprayed my fabric with water before painting one side in Scarlet and the other side in Golden Yellow. You can see how sunny it was by the darkness of the shadow cast by the paint jars.
Jacquard Dye-na-flow painted on cotton fabric
A plastic bin bag was taped to the table to protect the surface
I then placed four pieces of net curtain onto the fabric.  The stencil needs to be both flat and opaque so that it does not let any light through or cast shadows.  It is important to work as quickly as possible as the colours 'bleach' out while the fabric is still damp. 
Jacquard Dye-na-flow covered with stencils for sun printing
Flat stencils which obscure the light should be used
Shortly after I took this photo, the sun was kidnapped and the experiment ended.  There was a small amount of fade behind the flower shapes but not as much as if the sun had stayed out. 

All is not lost, the opportunity to use the Jacquard Dye-na-flow paints demonstrated the brilliance of these colours and their fluidity.  They are ideal for painting onto silk and finely woven fabrics and become wash fast when heat set with an iron. 

Take a peak at the Jacquard video to see a successful sun print created using Dye-na-flow and add this to your list of Summer activities, should it ever come! See the paints on the George Weil website

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Halftone Printing on Textiles

Halftone prints can be used to create stencils for screen printing (see our previous post Screen Printing with Diazo Photo Emulsion).

Halftone is a reprographic technique which simulates greyscale imagery using black dots in different sizes set at varying distances to each other.  A halftone image can be printed onto a clear acetate sheet, placed on a screen treated with Diazo Photo Emulsion and exposed to a bright light source.  The light sets the exposed areas of photo emulsion onto the screen, while the covered area remains soft and can be washed away to create the stencil.

A halftone image can be drawn by hand but if you're lucky enough to have a copy of Photoshop, you can transform images using the 'Image > Mode' option.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 was used to create the halftone image above.  The 'dots' are actually squares and Photoshop provides a number of choices for the dot shapes as well as the angle at which they are presented.
If you'd like to have a go at creating a halftone print, choose an image with either no background or a light coloured background and open it in Photoshop.

I chose a photograph I took of Ruth who worked for George Weil for 11 years as our bookeeper until she retired last year.

I first turned it into a greyscale image (choose 'Image > Greyscale' and discard the colour information) and then increased the brightness and contrast (choose 'Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast) until the background became white.  If there are any marks in the background, use the Eraser tool to wipe them out.

Next you need to change the image to a bitmap (choose 'Image > Bitmap' and select halftone screen from 'Method'.  The halftone screen options give you the chance to experiment.  Play around with the frequency, angle and shape until you are happy with the effect). 

Friday, 6 July 2012

Screen Printing with Diazo Photo Emulsion

Selectasine & Speedball Diazo Photo Emulsion
Diazo Photo Emulsion
The Diazo Photo Emulsion method of preparing a stencil for screen printing offers a wide range of possibilities. The technique makes it possible to print fine line drawings, hand and commercial lettering, and photographic half-tone positives.  You can choose from the Selectasine or Speedball Diazo Photo Emulsion system.

A polyester screen fabric is recommended as nylon will stretch when used with water-based inks, and as it is necessary to scrub the screen to reclaim it, silk and organdy screens should not be used either.

To start, the screen is thoroughly cleaned to remove any grease (see Mesh Prep Gel) and the coated with sensitised photo emulsion with a squeegee.  It is then placed in a dark room and allowed to dry. 

Use a high contrast image
The stencil is made by placing a "film positive" onto the treated screen, which is then exposed to UV light.  A film positive can be made from your design printed onto a transparency, or hand drawn onto draftfilm / polydraw using plumtree opaque, the darker the image, the better the contrast and sharper the design.  Placing a sheet of glass over the top of the design will ensure better contact with the screen and help to define the edges of the image.

The screen is then placed below a bright light source and where the light is blocked by the film positive, the emulsion will remain water-soluble and will wash away after the correct amount of exposure (see Photo Emulsion Exposure Fact File page for further information). The remaining emulsion will have been hardened by the light and act as the stencil (or resist). 

You can find out more about Screen Printing techniques from the George Weil Fact File or browse the range of products in the Screen Printing section of the website.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Louet Junior Drumcarder

To spin a light and lofty yarn it is a good idea to card fibres before spinning them. A drumcarder makes light work of this process and can also be used for creating blends of fibre such as the Merino Wool and Silk blend pictured below. The blends of fibre can be used by both spinners and felt makers.

Louet Junior Drumcarder
The Louet Drumcarder is a relatively small machine, weighing just 6kg, and an economical option for the beginner spinner.

The drum carder is made of laminated birch and has a hard white coating, making it easy to keep clean. The drums are 10cm (4") wide and their surface speed ratio is an efficient 12:1. Each drum is covered in hardwearing teeth which are made of high grade plated steel wire and set at 72 tpi (teeth per inch), making the Junior ideal for carding very fine fibres as well as more substantial wools. As a safe guard, the gearbox is enclosed to prevent fibres from entering the gear system.

Each drumcarder comes with a doffer brush, doffer pin and two table clamps, plus an instruction manual written by well known author and fibre artist Deb Menz. weighs 6kg (10lb)

Here is an overview of how to create a batt of carded fibre:

Diagram of how the drumcarder works
1) Attach the drumcarder with the two table clamps onto a corner of a solid table. Take the fibre in your left hand, and as you are turning the large drum with your other hand, allow the fibre to be pulled between the two drums. Try to distribute the fibre across the width of the drums and do not feed through too much at one time.

2) When the large drum is full, use the doffer pin (the black handled item in our photograph) to remove the fibre by pushing it beneath the fibres in the wooden rail on the carding cloth.

3) Lift the mass with the doffer and turn the drum backwards while pulling away the batt of carded fibre. It is not necessary to clear the small drum unless you wish to change colour or fibre mix.

Merino Wool and Silk Blend
There are a selection of drumcarders available from George Weil (see the Fibre Preparation section on our website).  If you do not see what you need, please contact us as we are able to order any spinning or weaving item sold by Louet, Schacht, Glimarkra, Howard Brush, or Ashford Handicrafts.  Please telephone: 01483 565800 or email: with your enquiry.