Fabric Printing

I used the thick line design fabric – screen printed three weeks ago – to make a set of bags, quick to make and quite attractive I think.

Toto bag from screen printed mid-weight cotton

Line Print Fabric

Ready to try the base layer for the fine line design; this is to be a crackle effect in pale grey, hopefully with a little silver effect.  The fabric is bamboo silk, about 3m x 140cm.  Getting a cold water dye in silver-grey is unlikely for cellulose  fabric, (maybe available for man-made fibre) but there are several brands of fabric paint which would do the trick.  Ideally I would like to avoid making a resist for such a large piece of cloth but if I must then it would be either wax or a flour-based paste. Experimentation will be needed.

One alternative would be to use Jacquard Acid Dye, this is a hot water dye for cellulose fabric, but this is not suitable for any kind of resist.

One useful source on the internet is ‘All About Hand Dyeing‘ – there are others of course, but this article by Joyce Vance offers a detailed and informative method.  “I have learned that one way to achieve even color distribution across the fabric is by paying careful attention to scrunching it. Starting in one corner, evenly pleat the fabric from your right hand to your left in small increments until you have a small pile of fabric in a roughly circular shape.”  But she is talking about cold-water dye, here.

As I am intending to screen print the fabric after dyeing I don’t want to saturate the fabric with dye, so I am only using one colour rather than the two Joyce recommends.  Having tested the Jacquard Silver-Grey I found it to be rather pale and difficult to control.  My test piece was rather more shibori than ‘scrunched’ but the colour was fainter than I would ideally like, see image.

The result of the hot Jacquard dye was an even silver grey – no crackle at all!  And this was after I tightly scrunched and bound the fabric.

after wax, applying fabric paint

So now I bit the bullet and waxed the whole cloth, then after it was dry scrunched it then rolled fabric paint across the surface (rather than cold-water dye).   This allowed a little more control and I used a pearlescent fabric paint medium combined with matt black.  Next step is to screen print the thick line design.

Bamboo silk after batik crackle


Line pattern fabrics


Quite a few issues arose on Thursday just gone, mainly but not only with my print effort.

I arrived at Bower Ashton very early that morning (Fishponds roadworks meant being really early or having a horribly long journey) and was ready to work at 8.30.  But there was no space available on the fabric print tables.  This was deeply frustrating as I had been in to see Sean (senior technician) and Andy (technician) on the previous Monday and been assured that there would be space set aside, and Andy helped me set up a screen for the thick line print.    As I wanted four metres for pinning out my fabric I needed half of one table.  As Sean doesn’t work on Thursdays it was left to Andy to try and free up some table space and we managed to clear 2m.  Obviously 2m is not 4m so I could not lay out the full length of cloth.

Having done this Andy sanded down the table (it’s cloth but covered in old ink crud) to get a reasonable surface.  It is important to say that as it is the end of term there were several undergrads desperate to finish work, and Andy was therefore in great demand.  Since my file needs a repeat I needed the screen to be attached to the rail and set accurately, something Andy understands fully and I only know in theory.

Andy setting up

Having pinned out the cloth (badly, as it turned out) I waited for Andy’s help; this was repeated several times during the day as Andy was batted around between various students.  The procedure is quite involved and Andy was painstaking in getting it right.  Once that was done I was ready to print.  I mixed up a fresh pot of ink – all fabric ink is acrylic based – positioned the screen and made four passes with the squeegee.  The fabric is a mid-weight cotton, more towards cushion cover than dress.

After the first print the screen was moved two repeat places (all that was available in 2m) to avoid picking up the damp print onto the screen.  A second print was made.  Ink was then recovered and the screen washed and dried ready for the intermediate print, which was made about 1/2 hour later when the first two prints were sufficiently dry.

First attempts

The results were far less than perfect.  The fabric had moved during printing, not all the print was fully made, there was some shadow print (where fabric had moved between passed with the squeegee.

In  the afternoon I laid out a second length of fabric, pinned this with rather more care and printed again, but the results were no better.  Hoping to try again after Easter.


Line pattern fabrics

At Bower Ashton making up screens ready for fabric printing.  Some problem with the fine line file,   moving between Photoshop and Illustrator has changed it to a raster file.  Spotted by Sean and Andy in Fabric screen print, now corrected but not before I wasted money and time getting acetates made.  The thick line file seems ok.

I bought 8m x 120cm of cotton from Fashion,  ready for printing (the thick line design first) on Thursday, all being well.

Fabric designs

After lots of sketching both with pencil and on the Surface Pro (Graphiter app) tablet I was finally satisfied with several of the results. Having then got them into Photoshop I first sized each of the chosen images so that they were of similar scale.  Then I cut from each of them a series of 65mm squares and placed these in a number of grids.  After a bit of quite basic manipulation with filters (Distort), reflect and rotate I had a set of 4 x 4 monochrome squares. These two are the patterns   I liked most and which I will be screen printing soon, onto  5 m of cloth, to be made up into baggies.

The same process was followed for the second fabric, with even less manipulation in Photoshop.

Then both patterns were opened in Illustrator and traced, repeats made and the images saved.





Although these images are simple it has taken quite a lot of drawing and thought, as well as trial and error, to get to this stage.  I have made lino cuts to see the ‘printability’ of the images, simple stencils, ink drawings and numerous tablet sketches.

I feel that these are possibly the first ‘drawn for print’ designs I have made.