Friday, July 17, 2009

Holy Cow!

No really, Holy Cow! Its the best. I discovered it about a month ago at the grocery store while searching for a "degreaser" to clean-up printing screens, squeegees, and stencils. There are definitely products marketed specifically for cleaning screens but most were expensive and contained unknown chemicals I didn't want to deal with. Primarily because they smell yucky.

I originally went to the store to get Simple Green. You know, the cleaner you used in college to clean your "recreational" tools. Even though it was another product that smelled yucky and contains unknown chemicals, I compromised because its relatively inexpensive and I was familiar with it. To my dismay the store didn't carry Simple Green. Hrrmphh!

I figured there had to be something else to fit my needs and maybe something less offensive than Simple Green. As I stalked the isle a happy looking cow caught my eye. I picked up one of the bottles and read on. Natural and biodegradable ingredients. Says it will get the job done. Around 5 bucks for a 32oz bottle. Why not?

When I got home I immediately grabbed a screen I was have trouble getting screen filler out of. I sprayed on the Holy Cow Concentrated Cleaner, let it sit for about 10 minutes, and started to scrub with my cleaning brush.

Guess what? I actually exclaimed "Holy Cow!" The screen filler scrubbed off relatively easily. Since then I have been hooked. I even use it now to get out specks of unwanted printing ink I get on shirts from time to time .

Check out their product line. So far, I am only experienced with their concentrated cleaner but when the current bottle runs out I might try out another in addition to my current pick.

Do you have any unconventional clean-up tricks for your craft? Share them!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Let Me Count the Ways!

There are many facets to the world of dyeing. It has been a craft around the world since time immemorial. According to the World Shibori Network, evidence of adding color to fabric has been found from pre-Colombian society in Peru and ancient tombs in China. The greatest historical record of dyeing is the technique called Shibori, or bound-resist dyeing. We are familiar with this today in the form of tie-dyeing. Traditions over the centuries have not been limited to South America and the Far East. Surviving traditions can be found in the Middle East, India, Africa, and Indonesia.

Adding color and patterns to fabric can also be achieved through a variety of other methods besides tie-dyeing. These include Batik, stamping, silk screening, and painting. Batik utilizes wax as a resist(method or substance preventing dye from penetrating fiber). The wax is applied using a Tjantings, Tjaps, or brushes.

Stamping, well, utilizes stamps to apply dye or pigment to create designs and patterns on fabric. Stamps can be created from a variety of materials. Do you remember using vegetables and fruits to stamp paint on paper in preschool? One of my favorite things to do is to make stamps out of craft foam. It is a simple and easy way to create great images on your fabric.

I think silk screening is a method that everyone is most familiar with. Heck, the t-shirt you are wearing right now was printed using silk screening methods.

Some of the most beautiful painted images I have ever seen were painted on fabric. Fiber, especially silk, takes color marvelously. Combine this with the creativity and skill of an artist and WOW!

How will you add color!?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Something fun and quick

Low-Water Immersion Dyeing using MX Procion dyes

Well, that pretty much describes it; you're using a low water to fabric ratio to dye.

But seriously, it is a process that leads to a varied amount of outcomes. It can be used with single colors or multiple colors. You can use it to get a mottled/variegated effect or solid shading.

As with most dye processes, everybody has their own way to do things. So the following is my process, which has been gleaned from a variety of resources including and

You might be asking 'Well, how much fabric do you use per cup of dye solution?'
Quite honestly(and some dyers may cringe at this) my primary criteria is whether or not my final dye bath, which includes the soda ash solution, will leave my fabric mostly submerged. I like to have the level of liquid be level or just above the level of the fabric in the container. Some dyers are more precise about the amount of dye based on the weight of fabric. If you would like to be more precise than I am Prochemical's LWI instructions are a good place to start.

When my dye(s) is mixed and my item is crammed to my liking in its container, I pour the dye solution over my fabric. I may or may not choose to manipulate (by hand, with a spoon or by shaking the container) my item to encourage the dye to migrate to certain areas. The more manipulation you do to your fabric during the process the more blended and less mottled/variegated your end dye results will be.

If you are dyeing with more then one color, I suggest pouring on the lighter color first then the darker. Sometimes I mix it up; I'll pour on half the light color then half the darker then the light color again, topping it off with the darker. Just one of my many quirks!

After my dye has been poured on and my fabric has been manipulated or not to my satisfaction, I let this sit for about 20 minutes or until I remember! I then pour a solution of 1 ½ tsp soda ash to 1 cup water over my concoction of fabric and dye. Just to note I use 1 cup of this soda ash solution per cup of dye solution.

I let all this sit to react for at least 4 hours. Remember that temperature is important to the dye/fiber reaction. Keep it above room temp, around 75'F. On warm, sunny dyes I let my dye batch sit outside. If there is enough room for the container I will set it on top of the stove.


The Story of the Stencil

There are a couple of ways to create your stencil for screen printing. The most common is to use photo emulsion to "burn" your image stencil directly onto the screen. The second is to use drawing fluid and screen filler to hand draw on your stencil. Another is to create a stencil using paper, acetate film, or wax paper to cut the image out of.

The last method is what I use. I like it for many reasons. The primary reason being that I don't have a huge selection of screens to print with so using a cut acetate stencil allows me to reuse a screen. Though burning the image on a screen using photo emulsion allows for a greater degree of detail and durability, if you need the screen for something else you must destroy the burned image and start over.

Acetate film, commonly known as transparency film, is easily available at office supply stores. You can also get larger sheets at art supply stores. Art supply stores also carry acetate film in colors i.e. green and red. I prefer clear, well, just because it's cheaper.

So, let's get started on making a stencil from acetate film. Can't start without your supplies! What you need is an exacto knife, a self-healing cutting mat, acetate film, and an image. Images can either be printed directly onto the acetate film or drawn/printed onto paper which you put under the film as a guide for cutting. For this particular tutorial my image is larger than what my printer can print. What I did was create my image in photoshop and split it in two before I printed it out. I then taped the two seperate print-outs together to create the whole image.

Now that you have your supplies and your image ready to go, it is time to cut. Because the image itself is on a piece of paper instead of printed directly on the acetate you will need to place the image under the acetate. Center the image as best as possible being sure to leave room at the top, bottom and sides where no cutting will occur. Having these areas solid makes the stencil a bit more stable and durable. Tape the paper to the acetate so it won't slip around while cutting.

I like to start cutting around the more detailed "islands" in the image. Islands are the white areas in the image that don't get cut out and are connected to the outer template by "bridges". The particular image I am using doesn't have any real "islands" but rather long "bridges" that will help create detail and depth in the final print. I prefer to cut these areas first because it can involve more fine cutting and having most of the template intact allows for a more stable cutting surface.

As more of the stencil is cut out you will notice that the acetate may slip or bow in the area being cut. A remedy to this is to place a finger or two above and opposite of the direction you are cutting to give the piece stability. Be careful though not to cut yourself with the exacto knife.

Once the cutting is complete the cut out areas need to be removed. When pulling off the cut outs be careful not to bend or rip the areas of the template that will remain. Sometimes a cut was not complete at certain points. When this occurs, carefully take the tip of the exacto knife to this area and gently cut it.

And voila, you have your stencil and you're ready to print!