This experiment is about a very simple concept. If you cover a surface with something impenetrable, like a stencil, and paint over the top, the paint doesn’t get to the whole surface, causing a pattern to form.
In this case, the surface is a silk scarf, and the something impenetrable is flour and water paste.
Although this technique would work on a nice, plain white scarf, that wasn’t a very appealing idea. After preparing the fabric with a mordant, I splodged two colours of dye over the scarves, allowing them to mix where the colours touched to form shades of purple. I used a different brush for each dye, so that the colours didn’t merge too much, and there was a variety of marks.
After leaving the scarves to dry overnight, I mixed up some flour and water paste for the really messy part. I spread the paste on with a spatula, and made patterns using a chunky plastic comb. I worked in stages, because it is easier to mix the paste using about 125g of flour in each batch.
For those with patience, this is the easy bit. The paste needs to dry thoroughly to form a proper barrier. By the following morning it looked dry, but there were some places where the paste was a bit darker, so it was obviously still damp in places.
I had put the paste on when I knew I didn’t have time to work on this project for several days, in case I was tempted to move on too soon. That was a good move. By the time I was ready, the scarves had curled the pvc table cloth I was working on. Where the paste had been scraped over the edge of the scarf, it had risen away from the base as it dried.
The next stage is to mix up some dye in a different colour, and paint it all over the paste. The dye takes in the pattern drawn in the paste, and in the cracks formed in the paste as it dried.
I was wondering whether the dye would reach through to the fabric. I was a bit concerned that I might not have scraped all the way through the paste, so a thin layer might prevent any pattern forming. When I turned the dried scarf over, I was reassured.
The dried paste is removed from the fabric by flaking it off. I was surprised quite how messy this was.
Although some came off in big chunks, a lot of powder was created, and the more persistent sections needed to be soaked off. I’m wondering whether an old fashioned mangle would speed up this part of the process.
The final stage of most dyeing processes is to give it all a good rinse, and hang it up to dry.