This shirt is my first attempt of painting with thickened dye on linen. To make the dots I used circular foam stamps like the ones below.
This stamping is ridiculously quick and easy. I used both perfect and imperfect stamp prints in three different shades of blue, and two sizes of stamps.
One major surprise has been the feel of the linen when the shirt was finished. For years I have been struggling to make my linen softer, torn between its beauty and comfort and its amazing capacity to wrinkle and look like a rag after carrying around small children or having them wriggling around on my lap.
But this shirt is really soft and buttery, and drapes like tencel, which I suspect is from the soda ash treatment. Soda ash is necessary to fix the dye, so I soaked the fabric in soda ash solution and dried it, leaving it for a week or thereabouts before I got round to cutting out and dye stamping. I sewed the shirt up before washing out the dye and soda ash, because I was worried about the raw garment pieces distorting in the wash. So the soda ash was in the fabric for quite some time, and it is said to break down the fibres somewhat as part of the bonding process with the dye (you are told not to use soda ash with silk as it is too harsh). But with the sturdier linen the feel of the fabric is amazing, like a garment that has been softened through many washings, almost lustrous and silky. I did iron the shirt after washing, so not sure if the linen will feel the same if you don’t iron. In my case the ironing was necessary, because I did not iron during the sewing process because the soda ash in the fabric will discolour if ironed at high temperature and I wasn’t sure it this would wash out. Fortunately I found that it does.
I am not sure if there will be a penalty to pay down the track, in that the soda ash will shorten the life of the linen in the long run, but short term the feel is absolutely luxurious. As I continue to paint on linen which entails putting it through a soda ash soak I will soon see if I will get the same effect reliably, or if this is some sort of miraculous aberration. Let’s hope not, I would love to have something up my sleeve that makes linen sit up and behave.
- Linen soaked in soda ash solution (1/2 to 1 cup of soda ash powder to 4L of water) and dried, left for a week or so before washing
- Dye thickened with food grade sodium alginate. Blend sodium alginate powder with water ( 1-2 teaspoons per 250ml of water), then add dye powder to the gel.
- Spread spoonfuls of the thickened dye on a flat surface such as a plastic plate to load the foam stamp with dye. The plate can be washed and re-used, the stamp too of course.
- Cover the wet dye with plastic to stop it from drying too quickly and leave overnight. I use a sheet of corflute to paint my cut-out garment pieces on and a second to cover the wet paint
- Wash in cold, then hot water with a little pH neutral detergent, such as Synthrapol. Dye left in the fabric should be inactive but if there is any active dye left a neutral pH stops back-dyeing of undyed parts of the fabric.