Thursday, May 22, 2008

Monoprinting with MX Fiber Reactive Dyes - Part 2

As discussed in the previous post, there are many options open to you when deciding you want to monoprint. For all of the options discussed, I used pre-treated PFD fabric. PFD fabric is fabric with no whiteners, permanent press finishes or anything that might interfere with the absorbtion of the dyes. I personally prefer using mercerized cottons, any 100% rayon or rayon/linen mixtures. You can also use tencel, bamboo or silk or any combination of those fibers as they are all cellulosic fibers (except for silk which acts like both a protein and a cellulosic fiber). I pre-treat the fabric by first washing it with a little soda ash and synthrapol, drying it and than soaking it in a soda ash solution (9 tbsps soda ash/gallon of water) for about 15 minutes. I then line dry the fabric and press it with the coolest iron that will press it flat. You can also use damp or wet fabrics with this technique and you will get a different result. I prefer the sharpness of the images using dried pre-treated fabric though.

There are several surfaces that I have used to monoprint fabric. These include heavy duty tablecloth plastic (the kind you buy at Joanns by the yard), laminated masonite ($10 for a 4 x 8 white sheet at your local home improvement store), plexiglass, and (one of my favorites) the large rolls of fun foam that you find at Joanns. All will give you different results. Dyes tend to bead up more on the plastic and brushstrokes are more obvious. The foam provides a little texture which hides some of the above a bit.

Tne of the secrets of using thickened dyes is to realize that although you might use the initial recipes contained in various dye books for making the thickened dye, you can add urea water to the mixture until it is the thickness that you like working with the best. If you live in the dryer climates, it is very important to use urea when making up your dyes for direct dyeing or monoprinting applications. My process is to make a very thick print paste mixture and to thin it down as I use it. This mixture will last for a pretty long time if not exposed to too much warmth. A very thick mixture is 5 tsp powdered print paste/cup of urea water. Urea water is made with 5 1/2 tbsps urea/cup of water.

I tend to use about equal parts urea water and the thick print paste mixture when monoprinting. I also use dyes that are about 10% concentrations (10 mg per 100 ml of urea water or 2 tbsps (roughly) dye powder per 1 cup of urea water. I mix up equal parts of my dye mixture with the print past in small portions (about 1/4 cup of each color I am going to use).

Then the fun begins!! Just slather some color onto whatever of the surfaces you have chosen. Cover up that surface with whichever color you want to use. If you have used thick dye colors, it will just sit there where you put it. If you have used very thin colors, they will bead up a little or a lot -- not always that predictable. If you used the thickened colors, you can then use any implement of your choice to make patterns in the dyes. Just scrape away the color or add brushstrokes or swirls. Best to avoid using complementary colors with too much mixing as you can get mud! After you have a surface that you like, just press your fabric down onto it and voila, a print. Let it sit for about four hours covered with plastic and then wash out. Sometimes you can get more than one print but the second will be a lot lighter.

This was made by applying the very lightly thickened dyes onto a piece of tablecloth plastic. The surface beads up a lot especially when using plastic that hasn't been used before. I then pressed the fabric onto the surface. When it dried, I applied thin dyes over the surface. I love that pitted surface you get.

I always try to have a surface that is at least as big as the cloth I am printing onto so either work with smaller pieces of fabric or find a surface that is much larger. The foam sheets come in either come in sizes form letter size to table top size.

Another approach is to take a small piece of foam or plexiglass or plastic sheet and directly paint onto it and then apply it like a stamp onto a piece of fabric. This is an example of one of the 200 images (each about 4 x 6 inches) that I created using this technique. I glopped pretty thickened dyes onto a piece of plexiglas and then took the broken end of a foam brush and scratch lines in. The circles were the top to the plastic containers. I love using the foam for this as well.

This was another direct dye application where I rolled a paint roller into thickened dyes and then painted directly onto the fabric with the roller. I would put a number of colors onto the roller and then just apply it.

This piece was made using a piece of plexiglas and applying thickened dyes onto it and then using it as a stamp onto the fabric. I also used thickened dyes in an applicator bottle for the lines. I then overpainted (after it dried) with thinned dyes and then washed everything out. As the days wear on, the thickened black dyes definitely weaken.

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