Thursday, August 18, 2016

Second Thursday Tutorial a week late: sun printed fabric


I realize this is a week late, but I needed a few supplies I didn't have last Thursday in order to pull this off.  Today I'm going to show you how to sun print or sun dye fabric.   There are lots of ways you can do this, most of which require special supplies.

If you're new to sun dyeing, or sunprinting, you probably don't know about MX Procion dyes.  These powders are sold at various internet sites and must be mixed using a mask to keep the powders out of your lungs.  Before you can even begin the process, you must soak the fabric in soda ash or apparently the dye doesn't take well.  After you have completed the sun dyeing, you wash the fabric in another toxic chemical.

Then there's fabric paint, which also seems to work quite well in the sun or under a heat lamp.  You saturate the fabric with a transparent fabric paint for this process.  Seta Color brand fabric paint is the one most people use.  It is also sold through the internet.

A third method of sunprinting involves the use of light-sensitive vat dyes, which are sensitive to ultraviolet light.  These are Lumi's Inkodyes and Jacquard Products' SolarFast sold only on the internet by very specific vendors.

A fourth method is blueprinting, using exactly the same photographic techniques used in making architectural blueprints.  For this, the fabric is treated with two chemicals, ammonium ferric citrate and potassium ferricyanide.  I was given some of this years ago, then read it must be used within six months.  Therefore, I've never tried it.  The finished fabric can be washed in phosphate free detergent, since both phosphate and soda ash turn the fabric yellow.  You cannot hang it outside to dry though, because the sun continues to lighten the fabric over time.

Another method of photoprinting fabric utilizes Rockland's FA-1 Sensitizer, which is a photographic emulsion that makes black-and-white silver prints on fabric. It can be used only on natural fibers. Be aware that it contains poisonous silver nitrate.

But unless you are very new to my blog, you know I'm a simple dyer.  I don't like chemicals, I don't care to do all that mixing and waiting while one process must be completed before another can be started.

So, I tore pieces of an old bed sheet to size and soaked them in water while I prepared a piece of sturdy cardboard (gifted me by my friend Sally who was sending it to her recycle bin) to hold the fabric.   Since the bed sheet had the sizing removed years ago, I didn't need to prepare it for dyeing by using harsh chemicals.  Old, used bed sheets give so much bang for the "buck" that I encourage people to look through their old linens or ask family and friends to donate old, worn, torn, holey, or badly stained sheets when conducting fabric experiments.

One of the reasons I waited to start this experiment was because of the wind.  Well, the wind wasn't going to stop, no matter how long I waited, so once I had the needed cardboard, I was ready to begin.  Ironic that a piece of cardboard would put this project on hold for so long.

Using masking tape, I taped the plastic to the cardboard which would absorb the moisture.

Once I laid the wet fabric on the plastic, I realized I had picked the wrong color fabric to show.  That wouldn't be a problem for long, though.

Originally, I planned to use three colors, but once I had these two in place, and they mingled enough to make a purple, I was quite pleased.  I used Golden Fluid Acrylics because they have so much pigment, even watered down, they stay vibrant and bright.  I considered using craft paint in a bottle (the stuff you buy for less than a dollar, euro, or pound at the craft store), then realized since I had to saturate the fabric with water and keep it wet until I placed it in the sun, the craft paint would be so pale it wouldn't be worth the effort. 

I didn't allow the two colors to mingle as much on this piece of fabric.

Next, I laid out my design using keys, 

making sure both fabrics were still saturated.

I laid the pieces out on my driveway in the hot sun.  I had to straighten a few of the keys after the wind nearly hydroplaned the heavier board out of my hand.

I'm not sure you can tell, but now that the fabric is dry, I have sun painted it to make a cover for one of my scrappy journals.  The fabric at the top in the photo above is the inside to which I will sew both pockets (shown on the lower board), one on the left, one on the right.  The large fabric on the lower board is the outside of the cover.  I will add batting between the two fabrics after I sew the pockets to the inside fabric, then sew the two large pieces, wrong sides together.

I was really pleased with the way the design turned out

on any key that was completely flat.  The old time skeleton keys didn't leave such a great mark, but only because there wasn't enough surface area.

In the end, I was glad I used the pink bed sheet instead of a white one.

EDIT: Kaybee asked how the process works, and to the best of my knowledge, the wet exposed fabric dries first.  Once it is dry, it sucks the moisture AND paint from under the masked items, leaving no paint in the unexposed areas. 

Sunpainting can be fun and all you need are acrylic paints.  No fancy or specific paint is necessary, although I DO suggest either a heavy body or fluid acrylic, rather than the craft acrylics that also come in a bottle and have very little pigment.  I hope you try it, too.  If the wind ever dies to mere gale force, I hope to pick a few flowers and leaves to make more of these.  It was fun experimenting because that's really what my Second Thursday Tutorials are all about.  Sorry I was late with it, but I hope it was worth the wait.

Once this post goes live, I will add it to my tutorials page under "Sunprinting fabric."  And thank you beyond belief for visiting.

19 thoughtful remarks:

Helen said...

what fab results, and no chemicals involved!!

Valerie-Jael said...

Your sun-printing turned out well, looks like you had a fun day in spite of too much wind. Looking forward to see what you make with your key-printed material. Have a great day, hugs, Valerie

kaybee said...

Never knew this could be done with just acrylic paints. What fabulous results!
Don't really understand how it works though - :D

Nancy said...

Very nice results and a simple, straight-forward approach. Sounds as if wind is the only problem with this method!

My name is Erika. said...

Wow- who knew you could sun paint with such a simple process? Not I. Very very cool. You'd have to use something heavy, like those keys, but its way cheaper than buying the sun paints. And I am with you about old sheets, old curtains....I made myself some new kitchen curtains using my old kitchen curtains...and thanks for the tip about the president on PBS. We record the American Experience because I love it, but funny, it only started with LBJ. Wonder why our box never got the earlier ones. I am going to check them out though. Thanks for the tip. I really want to see the FDR one now. Hope all is well, and maybe a little cooler? Hugs-Erika

Corrine at corrinegilman.com said...

Very cool result Elizabeth. I like simple process and not alot of chemicals too. Great keys...xox

Meggymay said...

A great turorial, the results look wonderful and I look forward to seeing what you make with the fabrics. I think you must have enjoyed the day when the results look this good.
Yvonne xx

Sami said...

Wonderful results and easy method.
I see you also paint your keys. I use different colour nail varnish to distinguish the various house keys.

Gibby Frogett said...

Fabulous results, the skeleton keys that aren't so crisp make it all the more interesting - I love this.
Thanks for sharing your lovely photos and info.
Gill x

Divers and Sundry said...

I love how it turned out. The pattern is quite striking.

Sandra Cox said...

How cool is that? I would have never thought about using keys for a design!

Rita said...

Looks like you just plain had fun doing this! :)

froebelsternchen Susi said...

Fantastic results Elizabeth! Super!!!
Thank you for sharing the process!
oxo Susi

kaybee said...

Thank you for the explanation. I've pinned to my Pinterest How To board so that I remember how to do it. Just need some sunshine now! Rain is forecast for the next few days ...

Dianne said...

really stunning sun prints...turned out beautifully!!

sheila 77 said...

Well gosh and golly. You dyed and printed your fabric with just acrylic paints and the sun?
That was a great tutorial, Elizabeth, and preceded by an interesting summary of the other more complex and chemically ways of dyeing.
Thanks a lot.

pearshapedcrafting said...

Oh Elizabeth you have taken me back to my teaching days - I used to use a similar method although I used to leave them on a table that got a lot of sunlight on it - the children were always excited to see their 'pictures' when they came back to look! Hugs, Chrisx

Jeanie said...

Your tutorials are always so clear and well written/illustrated. I actually feel like I could do this now. It's something that has always intrigued me but I've never had the time to go at it. But I may have to try.

Pamela Gerard said...

Oh! How interesting -- thanks for sharing the process.