Monday, July 28, 2014

sun printing on fabric (seriously the best surface design project of the summer)

 I spent several years at the university earning my BA in art. The last couple of years that I was in school, I was especially drawn in by the fiber arts program. I spent an entire summer term dyeing with indigo vats, for example, and another term learning natural dyeing techniques (with plants and things). I learned to carve stamps and print with acrylic paint, screen print with a Thermofax, photocopy directly on fabric. I learned about resists and cyanotype. I designed costumes and learned the art of sashiko. I tie dyed and sewed and painted and printed and felted and spun . . . and somehow, in all those years of art and fiber classes, I never learned how to sun print on fabric using only acrylic paint, water, and leaves.

It's amazing, really, the many varied ways there are to apply color to surfaces. This effect, in particular, can be obtained a number of ways. I once made an umbrella into a tree canopy for a play, for example, by holding branches and leaves against the umbrella and lightly spraying with spray paint. Cyanotype paper and cyanotype ink can each be used to make sun prints. You can also make simple sun prints on construction paper just by leaving the leaf-covered paper in the sun for a few hours.

This project, though, is astounding in its simplicity. I had all the materials on hand (you can use any fabric paint or acrylic craft paint; the paint shown is Kid Made Modern fabric paint from Target, the same stuff we used on the baby shower onesies awhile back), the set up is simple enough for kids and grown-ups alike, and the results are stunning.

Seriously Easy Sun Printing Tutorial

1) Take a piece of fabric (muslin, canvas, etc., with at least 50% cotton content) and get it wet.

2) Squeeze out the excess water.

3) Stretch and pin to a board.

4) Pour a little paint and water into a container, and stir to mix.

5) Cover the surface of your fabric with thinned paint solution.

6) Cover the wet, painted surface with leaves, twigs, berries, etc.

7) Leave it in the bright sun, then check on it in about an hour. If the sun is weaker, leave it longer.

And that's it.

The capillary action draws the paint from the shaded portions (under the leaves) into the drier, unshaded portions, leaving lightly colored leaves on a darker colored background.

After your fabric has dried completely, put it in the dryer for a few minutes to heat set the paint, or iron with a cloth. It'll be safe to incorporate into a project and wash.

I'll never be done learning new things, it seems. Isn't that fantastic?

Thanks for reading!

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