Thursday, October 23, 2008

Washing, but not you or your laundry

Washing fabric for creative work, whatever it is destined for, is a common practice and specific care is required to achieve a good outcome. Here are a couple of my best practices.
First of all, unbleached calico (muslin for those in the USA). This basic cotton fabric is a mainstay in every textile lover's stash. I might confess here that I do love the musky earthy smell of unwashed calico, odd I know, but perhaps it is the promise for what it might become. I buy this in bulk and because it comes heavily coated in a fabric dressing it needs to be washed well before use and I prefer to do this in about 10 metre lengths. Calico does need plenty of washing to remove that dressing, and my method is to soak the 10 metre length in a hot bath overnight (I did take a photo of this when doing my last lot but it qualified for this year's most boring photo!). Next morning the bath water is ugh! Rather like dirty pond water. The soaked calico then goes through a hot wash, no detergent, in the washing machine. Then it is draped over the washing line, not pegged so as to avoid peg marks, before being rolled on to a tube. Each piece then gets ironed before it is used.
Secondly, and this may not be relevant to everyone. When working on my WholeCloth Banners I often paint on a (manutex) thickened dye which, at this point does not cover all the white fabric. This is left to cold-batch (more about this at a later date) but will need to be washed to remove any surplus dye. I often want the white fabric to remain white and not get back-stained during the washing. Although the applied dye may be dry at this point, I still handle the fabric carefully and spread it out on my driveway. Then with a strong jet on the garden hose,I blast the fabric. Any surplus dye simply lifts off and floats away. Then the fabric is given its normal wash, and ironed dry ready to start the next procedure.
This week's photos show the beginnings of a piece stretched on a frame with design structure lines applied using Procion MX dye and manutex; plus two uncompleted pieces, dye painted and washed (one still on the driveway), with their white areas remaining unblemished.

Lots of white fabric here

No backstaining at all...

I've just been hosed!

Next Blog: Butter Yellow, Butter Yellow and more Butter Yellow