Category Archives: Tutorials

Hints, tips, instructions and photo tutorials for beadwork, embroidery and basic sewing

Reconstituting Screen Printing Inks

So one thing that the Goblinessa is obsessed about lately is screen printing and stenciling garment edges.  (Not that we have MADE any actual garments yet.)  Yesterday, I met with my Sister in Law, who is getting married in October, to discuss adornment options.  We may be using some screen printed organza or violle somewhere in there and I decided to make a couple of test samples for her to look at while she is here.

dry and gummy magenta ink
dry and gummy magenta ink

When I pulled out my Jacquard inks, I was dismayed to find that most of them were gummy and some of them were downright sticky and grainy.  I really don’t want to buy new inks right now so I decided to try mixing in some water to see if that would smooth them out.

These inks are probably 5 years old or more.  They have mostly been sitting in my studio storage, which gets very cold and very hot.  Some years, I have forgotten to move my inks, dyes & mediums out of there before the weather hits 30 below and they have gotten a bit . . . frostbitten.

reconstituting printing ink
mixing water in to reconstitute the old ink

Water and lots of stirring seemed to do the trick.  My wrist is sore and I used a lot of paper towels in clean up but I think these inks will work again.  Jacquards line of screen printing inks are all water based so if this trick worked with the professional grade, it would probably work with their other inks, too.  I have also found that you can water these down quite a bit for printing before they get runny, which is nice for sheer fabrics.  I can’t wait to do a test run on the organza and voille!

ready to print
water and lots of stirring resulted in a creamy consistency ready for printing

I made a quick test print on paper with the magenta ink after I had stirred it for long enough to make it smooth.   It worked well.  No lumps to drag across the image, no graininess or gummy spots.  (Yes, I know that is a lame-o screen.  I haven’t done a lot of printing so I don’t have lots of professional frames.  This one is made with screen from, stabilized in a piece of old mat board which was sealed up in duct tape.  It gets the job done for very small runs.)

My white and copper were both pretty far gone – almost like stretchy plastic instead of ink or paint.  They took a while stirring and adding water gradually but they came around.  I used a butter knife from the kitchen – a dowel wasn’t doing the trick – I needed something with a wide, flat edge and a blunt blade so I could smush the ink against the edge of the container and cut it into bits with the blade.  If you have real painter’s tools in your studio, a flat metal oil paint spatula would probably work pretty well.

magenta print
a successful print with the reconstituted ink

When I bought inks, I chose the Professional grade  because they can be used on just about ANYTHING – fabric and paper, yes, but also vinyl, some plastic, leather and wood.  Plus it has a long open time – which is good because I am slow.

I am still hoping to buy some new inks.  Jacquard didn’t have all of their process colors (or Dharma wasn’t carrying them) when I bought my first batch.  The yellow that I have leans pretty far toward orange – it is sort of an egg yolk-y color and they didn’t have cyan.  I can’t make a nice green with it.  So maybe someday soon I will get those CMY hues into the studio but I will wait to see how much I actually use in this new line Molly and I are working on.  I have a bad habit of spending money on stuff I want and then not using it.  The Goblinessa makes me do it.  She is very impractical.


Ice Dyeing Tutorial

Jersey Ice Dye
Ice Dye on Rayon Hemp Jersey

I promised a tutorial on Ice Dying in my last post but Dharma Trading already has an excellent Ice Dying tutorial.  I’ll give you a brief overview here and examples of ice dye on various fabrics.  Pop over to Dharma’s tutorial for detailed photos of the process.

Silk Dupioni Ice Dyed
Ice Dye on Silk Dupioni – blues are muted – as expected on silk – color texture is sharp and “fractured”

Ice Dying is surprisingly Simple.  Start with clean, plant fiber or silk fabric soaked in a soda ash solution: 1 cup per gallon of water.   Scrunch the fabric up and lay it on a draining rack above a sink or tub.  Cover the fabric with ice chips.  These can be large or small – you can even use snow.  I like using ice that has been partially crushed as different sizes of ice result in different color texture on the finished cloth.

Raw Silk Suiting Ice Dyed
Ice Dye on Raw Silk Suiting – blues are again muted, color texture is softer than on dupioni.

Sprinkle Procion Fiber Reactive Dyes over the ice.  You can use a little or a lot.   This is where the real fun is – use dyes in the same color family for a monochromatic result or use different colors for a rainbow garden effect.  This is one technique where you can put chartreuse or green next to purple or orange and not end up with an ugly muddy mess.  As the dye migrates down the melting ice chips, the first color to hit the fabric strikes and succeeding colors bleed out from the area, resulting in some really lovely auras, halos and gradients.

Denim Ice Dye
Pale blue denim Ice Dyed with green, fuchsia and purple. The denim takes the dye with a watercolor effect – hard edges and soft gradients.

Leave the ice on the fabric until it all melts and keep the fabric damp overnight.  Then rinse & wash the fabric out, hang it to dry and enjoy the fabulous results.

I have had a lot of fun experimenting with this effect on different textures of fabric.  Thicker fabrics, like denim and silk suiting, have an almost ink stained effect.  You can see how the melting ice carried the dye like a glacier carries pebbles.  There is a hard line where the dye hit the fabric and stopped moving with a soft gradient behind the line where the remains of the dye eventually soaked through to the fibers.

Dupioni silk has a crisper effect.  Because Dupioni has such tiny threads and tight weave, it does not wet out as well as other fabrics so ice dying results in a crackled or fractured look to it with lots of crisp edges and hard definition between colors and between dyed & undyed areas.  (see photo above)

Bamboo cotton Ice Dye
Ice Dye on Bamboo Cotton blend quilting fabric

A smooth woven bamboo cotton blend quilting fabric resulted in an impressionistic watercolor effect.  There are some nice, hard lines and lots of soft gradients.  Complimentary colors placed close to each other did not turn to mud but stayed clear and bright.  Bits of the one yard section that I dyed would make a very nice starting point for some floral embroidery.

Rayon Jersey Ice Dye
Blue and Brown Ice Dye on Hemp Rayon Jersey

My favorite by far, though was ice dying on a lightweight hemp rayon jersey that I have had laying around for a while.  The jersey wets out really nicely and crumples well going on the draining board so there are lots of ridges and valleys under the ice.  Because the fibers stay nice and wet, colors strike and then bleed out into some of their component pigments.  There were some really fabulous halos on some of those pieces.   The fabric is slightly shimmery – something I hadn’t noticed when it was white – but that slight shimmer allows the dyes to really shine.  Colors were also more bright and true on the bamboo/cotton blend because Procion dyes really loves those cellulose (plant based) fibers.  Silks are more problematic because they are a protein fiber instead of a cellulose fiber.

Be bold and try some ice dying this summer!  It is quick and easy and the results are so much fun!  If you are afraid to try on your own, rumor has it that I will be teaching an Ice Dying class in Potsdam this August for the St. Lawrence County Arts Council.  We are still looking for the right date so I will keep you posted.    Also look in the scarves section of my Etsy shop for some wonderful ice dyed rayon jersey scarves.