Monday, 4 August 2014

Bleaching experiments

I wanted to know which of my black fabrics would give me a good result from bleaching with household bleach. I know that in general it is cotton linen and rayon that work best, but I didn't know which would respond to wrapping lines, of what colours they would bleach to, so I did an experiment.

I cut a strip of each of my black fabrics, and wrapped one end with strong cotton weft yarn.

I made a note of what each one was made of in my sketchbook.

At this point I understood that during this course I have finally 'got' what sketchbooks are really for - a tool for me to use for my working.

(There's something appealing about this row of wrapped strips in my sketchbook - it reminds me of Victorian naturalists collections, or those lovely Louis Thompson collections of blown glass objects.Louis Thompson website

I taped each strip to the side of a plastic jug containing household bleach and tap water 2:1 (to slow down the process a little).

I left these for about 2 hours, checking occasionally.

The cotton strip bleached the fastest of them all.

The resulting altered fabric strips were stuck into my sketchbook next to their fibre content. As expected the best bleaching was of the fabrics with cotton in them -

  • Cotton organza bleached completely back and showed no lines from the wrapping. 

  • Linen had an odd grey texture to it after bleaching, and showed the wrapping lines reasonably well where they had been tight enough.

  • Cotton mix fabric bleached to a nice gradient of orange to yellow, which I thought I could use.

  • Opaque tights fabric was surprising - some of the fibres were cotton and bleached to a warm orange / cream colour, and some remained black, giving an interested rugged texture. 

Wrapping only worked when it was very tight. And judging exactly how long to leave it in the bleach will be a matter of keeping a close eye on it.

Making samples
After this experiment I decided to try two samples exploring different ways of getting a bleached pattern - one with the cotton mix and one with the opaque tights fabric.

1. Tacking ovals into opaque tights fabric.

This shows the ovals tacked onto the surface of the fabric

I dipped the surface into a flat tray of bleach, and this is what it looked like after a couple of minutes.

There is some bleaching, more on the raised areas, but also in between.

At this point I decided to use a paintbrush to apply the bleach to the raised areas so as not to bleach the oval areas any more.

After 6 minutes and two applications the orange colour appeared, and the remaining bleach was washed out thoroughly.

This is what it looked like once I had removed the tacking threads. (The orange colour didn't come out very well in this photo).

You can see that there is a variation in intensity of bleaching, but that the ovals turned into hexagons which was not ideal, and the outcome overall was a bit uninteresting.

 This is the reverse side of the same sample, which is more interesting and colourful, and the shapes show more variety.

I found it attractive and it has some movement to it, but it isn't a good way of getting the shapes I was looking for.

2. Wrapping ovals into cotton mix fabric

These shapes were made by oversewing around padding made from cut tights.

The raised parts of the fabric were then dipped into bleach, followed by a series of reapplications of bleach using a paintbrush as above.

There was no apparent effect for the first 8 minutes, and then the bleaching developed very slowly.

The one on the right was after 12 minutes, and below left after 16 minutes. This started to show the surprising glowing orange colour.

I left it for another 8 minutes and it started developing yellow highlights (far right).

The large image below is how it looks with the sewing removed, and with the light coming from behind.

There are some impressions from the wrapping in places, giving something like the shapes I was looking for in the 'cleft', and the colours are good for this. The vertical shapes are better than in the first sampler, but still don't quite reflect the source material.

Sampler lit from behind

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