Thermofax Screen Printing
the current climate, when everyone who is anyone is worried about
the planet, or should be, how we use dyes to colour our clothes
is an issue which needs careful thought. Chemical dyes can create
problems for the environment, not least in the disposal of the waste
created by the actual process of dyeing.
I have always been fascinated by natural dyes, but know from experience
that some of the dyes need chemicals, or mordants, to ensure that
the colour will bind to the fibre being dyed.
Because of this, I am working on ways of ensuring that my dyeing
processes are as earth friendly as possible, and sharing with others,
via my teaching, the results of my experiments.
I try to ensure
that I use natural mordants which are not harmful, such as iron
from a pot full of rusty metal and vinegar, which I keep fermenting
away happily in our shed. I also use Tannin from oak leaves as a
mordant, sumac leaves which I simmer and strain-this can be kept
in the fridge for months!
experiments use Soya milk as a mordant, painted onto the cloth,
and then ,natural dye material is spread on the cloth and the whole
is rolled up and left in the compost heap for a week approximately.
This gives wonderful background cloth for overprinting with natural
dye liquids, thickened with Gum Tragacanth.
Soya milk and
tannin have been traditionally used in Indian block printing for
many years, though I’m not sure about the compost heap!
with natural dye liquids is a really exciting technique, as it is
much more free than the normal method and produces a more painterly
effect on the cloth. Block printing can also be achieved with the
natural dyes when thickened and the normal process of discharge
can be used on your cloth, using tannin or tartaric acid as the
discharge medium.(tartaric acid is a stronger form of cream of tartar,
which we all use in baking)
Ongoing experiments with natural dyeing also involve cold dyeing
with madder, which, during this wonderful hot summer, have been
very successful, giving shades of terracotta through to orange.
No heat has been involved in this, apart from that of the sun on
the bucket outside my kitchen door. Certainly, primitive dyers would
not have wanted to use their precious heat source to dye fabric,
so this seems the most likely method for them to have used.
All of my dyeing/printing
work will form part of my teaching schedule in the future, and these
methods would be useful for feltmakers, weavers, spinners and anyone
with an enquiring mind. What better way to do our bit to help the
planet than using colour in our work which is earth friendly?