Tonal printing

In my scientific training I was taught to change one variable at a time in experiments to assess more accurately the effect of each variable. In my textile experiments, however, I’m too impatient to stick to this rule!

I started my day at college by repeating the printing on pleats with resists I did last week, using different fabrics: a heavier linen and a sheer synthetic organza.

I liked the printing on heavier linen – it produced lovely textures, quite crisp. The synthetic organza? Just meh.

Then I tried some stitched concentric circles. After printing with the first colour I undid the stitching, stitched in different places and was going to mask off part and then print with a second colour.

However, at this stage I decided to try some tonal printing with different colours instead.

The secret of good tonal printing is to get the right distance between the different colours so that they just blend at the edges. On this occasion, the distance between the different colours was too great, so they just ended up as stripes. The result looks more like a flag!

The imprint left on the screen after this looked quite interesting, so tutor Mark suggested putting the screen down on a blank piece of cloth and doing another pull, producing a kind of monoprint. I did a couple of pulls on two pieces of fabric; the results were very psychedelic 60s, man!

Finally, I tried ironing irregular pleats in the fabric both horizontally and vertically and then printing, letting it dry and then repleating before printing again. Because I used quite light calico I hoped that the binder might penetrate through at least one layer – but it didn’t.

So this method would require quite a few repleats and reprints to build up the colours – or I would have to make the pleats smaller to expose more fabric each time.

There’s also an interesting subtle “embossed” effect in places caused by the layers of fabric where it is folded underneath. It reminds me of a Braque painting.

Adding stitch to printed pleating

After printing one of the mokume pieces with normal transparent binder, I left it to dry and then opened the pleats out flat. At regular intervals I then stitched sets of the pleats together and left other pleats ungathered, removing the original thread used to pull the pleats together.


I’m trying to construct a 3D structure here, using stitch for structure rather than decoration, but the cotton I used for printing is quite soft, with a loose weave.

I think I will have to experiment with crisper cloth, with the pleats more spread out when printing so that more binder reaches the fabric, to give more body.

Back to shibori printing

After the scarf and pencil roll production line over the past few weeks, it was good to get back to Morley for a day of play and experimentation.

This week we started our eight-week printing block with tutor Mark. It seems odd that this time a year ago I had never done any printing and knew nothing about it. This time I feel like an old hand, helping others coat their screens and finding my way around the binders and pigments with more confidence.

I wanted to continue my experiments combining shibori techniques with screenprinting, which I started last year. I’d prepared some pieces of cotton stitched in parallel rows, as if for mokume (woodgrain) shibori.

Using an open screen, I printed one of these with puff binder. Even normal transparent binder results in a ridged, textured surface – I wanted to see if I could exaggerate this, making it even more 3D.

Pleated fabric printed with puff binder
After printing before pulling the pleats open
After pulling the pleats open
detail of puffed pleats
Detail of puffing in the heat press

When I put the piece in the heat press, it didn’t puff up consistently – I’m not sure why this was. Mark wondered whether the binder was too old. And I think that next time it would be better to remove the threads before using the heat press, as it’s more difficult when the binder has puffed up and set. 🙂 Might be interesting to try this with flock binder as well.

With the other piece I cut three paper circles to use as resists and put them on top of the pleated fabric before printing.

As I opened the pleats, the circles extended to become elliptical – and the pattern was much less distinct when viewed straight on.

However, when viewed from an angle, the ridges are much more apparent, and the pattern reappears. The lower the angle of viewing, the clearer the pattern.

It’s an interesting feature, though I’m not sure how I might use it yet. Maybe a lantern or something that is viewed from below?

All suggestions welcome! 🙂

More shibori paper

I’ve been doing some more experiments with shibori paper. This time I used a much heavier paper. I’m not exactly sure what weight it is, but it’s thick enough not to buckle when it gets wet.

First I tried wrapping pleated fabric on top. The example below was cotton poplin. It wasn’t very successful, partly because the length of the fabric meant I had to make the pleats quite large to fit it on the pole.  (You can see that it worked better on the left-hand side, where the pleats were narrower with more space between them.) I also thought that the weave might have been too close to allow much indigo to reach the paper beneath.

So next I tried a finer cotton muslin, with narrower pleats. This was more successful

Then I wondered whether I needed to use fabric at all – whether I could dip the paper directly into the indigo vat. So I went back to binding, dipping and rebinding with paper only.

I found that even with quite a concentrated vat, the first couple of layers are very pale, and it’s difficult to brush of the foam (hana) without rubbing off the indigo. But with repeated dipping, I achieved quite satisfactory results.

Finally, here’s a tiny stitched sample (on fabric) that was inspired by the markings on a whale shark. Could be the start of a (much) bigger project!

More on pleats

There’a a whole new world out there. When I went online to get other ideas for possible pleat moulds, I came across some very advanced origami tessellation techniques. And I realised that some of the techniques used by artists I’ve previously written about, like Polly Verity, could be adapted to make pleat  moulds.

However, their folding skills are far more advanced than mine – I got very confused in discussions about iso, 64-pleat grids and 12.12.3 tessellations!

Then I came across this piece about the Miura Ori map, a type of origami pleating that minimises the stress on paper where folds intersect and is also easier to fold and unfold (anyone who has ever tried to refold a map in a confined space like a car will know what I mean!).

So in class this week I made my own Miura Ori mould from cartridge paper, plus a longer parallel pleat mould, and used them with synthetic fabrics and the heat press.

First, I steamed some sheer polyester organza in the Miura Ori mould and then put it in the heat press, still folded with some disperse dye paper on either side. As you can see, the dye did not penetrate very far through the fabric folds:


I also repeated this with the diamond pleat mould:


Then I dyed the fabric in the heat press before steaming it in the mould:


Similarly, I dyed a piece of shiny polyester in the heat press and steamed it in the longer parallel pleat mould. Unfortunately, I clamped the fabric and moulds between two plastic rulers to keep it straight before putting it in the steamer – mistake!


Finally, I steamed a couple of pieces of cotton muslin coated in PVA in moulds, before clamping them and putting them in the indigo vat. Obviously, dunking the fabric in more liquid means the pleats are lost, leaving just the dye pattern where the indigo penetrated: