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Work Before the Dye Pot

3 May

“When Life Spirals Out of Control” series

You carve & create the stencils

You create the paste resist from bran & sweet rice flour & steam it. That was yesterday’s project.

You prep the fabric, should have done this while paste was steaming.

You lay the paste down, carefully & slowly.

And go on to the next piece….notice I am not to the dye stuff yet. That was grown, harvested & dried last year.

Will allow to dry overnight, then on to dye pot.

Pulling color & dyestuff into an image

25 Jan

As we start 2015 I am creating collage photos of the dye plants and the finished product in one photo. Quite a composition challenge! Here is a start! Happy New Year to all!

This is a silk shawl donation for our public library here in Johnson City, Texas coming up in March. It is screen printed with an iron mordant and dipped in our Texas Persimmon.


And these are some large silk wraps dipped in my local native or garden grown dye stuff. Starting top left and working clockwise…..the source colors are Texas persimmon, Texas red madder root, Japanese indigo and teloschistes exilis, slender orange bush lichen.
These silk wraps will be heading to our local art gallery, Texcetera


Screen Print – Take 1….impact of ammonia on iron?

24 Aug

My arm is now well enough to use from my shoulder surgery but not quite up to dye pot or wrangling shuttles. So I’ve had time to puzzle over a Catherine Ellis workshop presented in San Antonio in Feb 2012.  I am having a lot of fun but do have some questions.  I hope some of my dye blog buddies and dye list mentors will offer some insight.   This photo shows you the stenciled iron ferrous print that I did on mordanted silk yardage.

Ferrous sulfate stencil before its trip thru the dye posts

Ferrous sulfate stencil before its trip thru the dye posts

Now here is my puzzle,  you’ll see the photo comparison of my persimmon bath to my lichen bath.The big question is why did the iron screen print not hold up to the lichen dye?  It did hold up to the persimmon.  Here are the pieces after their trip thru the dye bath.


Top is lichen, bottom is persimmon, both with ferrous sulfate print


Top is lichen, bottom is persimmon, both with ferrous sulfate print, compare to the screen print above before cold dips


  • I am working with my persimmon dye and my lichen dye from here on my property.
  • The persimmon is just juice from the persimmon that has been aged and smashed to extract it. (high tech machinery is a sausage stuffer)
  • The lichen has soaked in an ammonia and water bath for about 4 months to extract the color.
  • The silk I am working with was scoured and PREMORDANTED with alum acetate PRIOR to printing.
  • I did so using the Ferrous Acetate mixture straight or diluting it with the persimmon or the lichen.
  • After screen printing my samples I dunged them with calcium carbonate, rinsed them and allowed them to dry.
  • All samples then took a trip thru either my persimmon or lichen cold baths.  My lichen usually is fixed by heat.  I used the cold soak just to see what happened.
  • Both prints of ferrous sulfate were dark prior to entering the dyebath. Silk samples were soaked either 5 minutes or 10 minutes in a cold bath.

On all my lichen samples the 100% ferrous sulfate came out lighter than the persimmon samples. I am mystified.

Do you think the lichen/ammonia mixture impacted the ferrous sulfate. In other words, does ammonia affect iron mordant? It is a very high ph. The smell is strong and the ph is high 1 part ammonia to 3 parts water for the color extraction. Normally when I take it to the dyepot I dilute it with water and put vinegar in to take the ph down. So I have two possible culprits, the ammonia and the vinegar that might have affected the ferrous print.

Overall the printing is fun, I am a strict novice on applying stencils or any other surface design but it is a fun journey to think in that direction with natural dyes. Of course I could make this all the more easier if I would use the natural dye extracts but since I can get these two colors (lichen and persimmon) from my valley I am running out the possibilities with them for now.

Obviously the persimmon is a strong candidate for more experimentation along with an indigo over dye.

The other issue is to put the lichen thru a heat process to ensure that the lichen color deepens and stays.  I have no problem with skeins taking the lichen under a heat method.  Screen printing appears to need a different approach for my lichen brew.  Any brain biscuits would be welcome!

Ferrous Sulfate Printing with Natural Dye

3 Aug

My shoulder surgery therapy has moved to strengthening (1-2# weights). Things are moving in the right direction. In the meantime I am trying to explore areas that I can maybe use on painted warps in the future. Hopefully giving my shoulder time to calm down from the weight exercises.

Today I am venturing into screen printing with natural dyes. I’ve learned from Michel Garcia and Catherine Ellis about using the iron modifier in your thickener to screen print THEN run your natural dye bath. So, I mixed my guar gum and created ferrous acetate from my ferrous sulfate and let fly with the screens.

The test silk is drying now. I am risking my test silk to see if it is damaged by the iron. Tomorrow I’ll dung it with calcium carbonate to fix the iron. Once it is dry the iron is bonded and won’t migrate from the print. Then some pieces will take a trip thru my persimmon dye and some thru the lichen. Once I am happy with my tests I’ll move on to some silk scarves and a silk shirt for a real skill test.

The blank squares on the piece were left for just printing with lichen and the guar gum, always room for one more test! I’ll be able to see if my lichen and persimmon dyes are strong enough to cold print and solar set.


Chemical dyes with training wheels

21 Jun

I drove down to San Antonio to the Surface Design Association Conference marketplace earlier this month.  I met some friends from New York, Delaware and Colorado.  We had a great time going thru the art galleries and fiber art supply venders.  One of my short term goals was to do some warp painting or other surface design on some warps while I wait for my shoulder to come back into action.  My shoulder is on the mend but I have limited range of motion and cannot lift.  Throwing a shuttle and lifting dye pots or wet skeins is a no go right now!   So I picked up some supplies from Marlene Glickman at  She walked me thru making silk blanks into beautiful scarves using a baggie, the dyes and taking advantage of the crease dye method. I saw the potential for some easy warp painting!

When all the conference attendees were off in the keynote speech I took advantage of Marlene’s time and she gave me an intro to using the silk paints.  They only work on protein fibers, attach when wet and don’t require heat setting, an interesting acid dye formulation.  Since I am a chemical dye rookie this seem like the least investment of time and effort to do some training wheel chemical dyeing.

The goal is to prep a couple of warps and see how they look with the stenciling.  Before I tackle a warp (which requires winding – more shoulder action) I worked with some stencils and some screen stencils. I also worked with an open stencil on dry and wet silk fabric and made myself a color chart of the 10 colors on hand, all prepped at the same strength.

Experimenting with dry & wet application

Experimenting with dry & wet application

Marlene introduced me to using shaving cream as a medium to use a silkscreen to transfer a dye.  The dragonflies below start with the green dye and a rose & green mixed together using the shaving cream as the transfer media.  I also pulled some lichen and mixed in into the next cream batch and gave that a try.  The lighter color rose brown is the lichen screen print.

Experimenting with shaving cream and lichen

Experimenting with shaving cream and lichen

So now I’ll wash and iron the results and ponder the next step. I have guar gum I can use for the transfer media with my lichen and persimmon so that would be another direction. Perfection in the printing is not my goal. An ikat image on a warp is definitely going to be fuzzy so I’m not concerned with the open stencil wet edges. For now I’ll stay with my chemical dyes and see what else I can do with them.

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