Saturday, September 3, 2011

Surface Design

Are you a weaver with shaft envy?  Have 4 shafts and want 8 or more?  Not a weaver? Envy no more; you can add depth of texture, color and design with fabric paint. 

The scarf above was woven on a Atlantic Moonglow silk/rayon painted warp and weft of dark teal 8/2 tencel. Although, there are a lot of ways I could have surface-designed this scarf, I chose the easiest as my goal was to enhance the depth of texture and color; I was not striving for complete coverage as I wanted the structure and painted warp to be dominant.  

In order to surface design properly, you first need a surface design board on which to work. The pad helps the fabric to accept the paint. My board is approximately 17" X 25" and layered with plywood, wool carpet padding and topped with plain muslin stretched, stapled and taped to the back.  A temporary surface design board can be made with insulation foam, quilt batting, muslin and packing tape. Use an additional piece of fabric over your surface design board as you will use this again.

List of materials for this process:
Flexible printing plate
Foam core, wooden blocks or corrugated cardboard
AND/OR Speedy Stamp or EZ Cut Stamp Kit (includes cutting tools)
Speedy Stamp Blocks
Resist forms like berry baskets, large screen wire. Look around and you will see textured items in a whole new light.
Soft rubber brayer
Versatex printing ink (I used black as it will work on almost anything.)
Lumiere fabric paint in a metallic if desired 
Freezer paper, plastic spoons
Prepare the fabric you plan to surface design by washing or wet-finishing suitable for the fabric and finish. I recommend Professional Textile Detergent (gift with purchase through September 30, 2008). Do not use fabric softener or dryer sheets prior to surface-designing.  You may do so afterwards if you like. 

Freezer paper works well as a place to mix fabric paint for applying to a brayer. Take out a little extender and place on the freezer paper. Add some printing ink and mix with a spoon. No specific amounts are required; use mostly extender with a little paint. You will get the feel for it after working with it. The extender will keep the fabric supple; additionally, on light colored fabrics will lighten the color, i.e., lots of extender and dab of paint will give a pastel on white. Roll just a little bit on the side of the paper with the brayer until you have an even coat on the brayer and apply to stamp. Place your scarf or piece to be surface-designed on the design board and stamp. Finely detailed commercial stamps will work but not as well as one you carve. Hand-carve your initials or logo for a one-of-a-kind look. If you'd rather not carve or want to try something additional, you can use flexible printing plate, cut into different shapes, peel off the back and adhere to a base like foam core, wooden block or corrugated cardboard to create your own stamp.

I generally surface-design one side of a scarf with Versatex/stamps and go back over it with highlights of copper using a clean brayer and resist forms. Stir and pour out a little Lumiere onto clean freezer paper. Place your resist(s) over the item to be surface-designed and roll the brayer directly over it. (Before you do this, take a deep breath and hold it. )

Allow one side of your fabric to dry 24 hours and then surface-design the other side. Dry for another 24 hours and heat wet with a dry iron. Cover with a pressing cloth and set your iron on high and press for 30 seconds on every piece of the fabric. Some toss it in the dryer but I have more confidence with the iron. After that, it is set and can be washed, fabric softener added, etc. 

There are many other options you can use with fabric paint such as stencils, silk-screening, transfers or mono-prints, etc., but this method is easy and effective with any fabric and especially handwovens.

It takes a little courage the first time you print onto handwoven fabric but is quite addictive after the first time as the depth of texture and color is further enhanced. If you're a little nervous, try it on commercial fabric first - and I think you will want to keep the commercial fabric for a quilting project.

Source of supplies:

Some local art supplies have stamp kits, additional blocks and printing plates. However, I was unable to find Versatex or Lumiere locally and purchased it from Dharma Trading Co., San Rafael, CA.

This should be called the everything scarf. The warp was natural tencel and the weft was taupe 8/2 tencel. After wet-finishing, I laheria dyed it in a 25% solution of Cerulean blue. Then it was surface-designed the first time with textile paints in copper and a midnight blue using a brayer, stencils and stamps that I either drew and cut or purchased. Then it was discharged where you see the white lines. There appeared to be a lot of bleach left in the neutralizing bath which bleached the background and so I surface-designed again so that the scarf has many layers of texture and color. This scarf was surface-designed at a workshop for our guild taught by Debbie Stringer, fellow guild member, and me. The process was fascinating.

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