Workshop: Creative Textile Printing

Creative Textile Printing with Helen Richards 17/08/2014

This was a fascinating workshop and, whilst not exactly the type of printing I’m covering in my OCA course, enthused me and has widened my printing skill range.  As a textiles person I’m more interested in printing on fabric than paper so this was an excellent opportunity to learn more than just the screen printing and stamping I’ve done in the past.

Some of Helen’s quilt work, using bleach on black fabric:

HR1aSome of her painted ladies which she explores when teaching children:

HR5Helen likes to print fairly large areas of cloth so she can produce homewares, so she cuts large stencil templates from plastic floor or table covering.  This product comes in various thicknesses and is very hardy.  It’s easy to cut, long-wearing and lies flat against the fabric surface.  We used water based, heat-set fabric paints, diluted and sprayed on to the fabrics, and the stencil takes these well with easy clean-up.    However, as the paints are heavily thinned there is some seepage and softening of the imagery.  This can be combatted by applying the paints more thickly with a brush but the point of this class was to learn the spray method, amongst other things.


Above is my drawn stencil in the process of being cut with a craft knife.  The stencil is then placed on top of fabric (an old painted piece for my initial trial) and paint is sprayed horizontally above the piece.  The mist drops and gives an even coverage through the cut areas.  You need to ensure you have a huge covered space around the work area though as it can spread.

HR10Above is a twice sprayed piece and a close-up.  The black was sprayed as a fine mist and the image diffused as the water seeped into the calico.  The red was then sprayed in larger droplets, so producing this mottled effect.

HR11On the left is a positive image using black misted spray on  grey hand-dyed cotton and a little brush work in blue whilst the stencil was in place.  A second piece of fabric (light mottled brown) was placed over this and pressed in place.  This picked up the spray from the stencil surface, so giving a negative image.  The stencil was then removed and blue was lightly sprayed in droplets across the surface of the original piece.

As the rain stopped and we were able to work outside we moved to bleach spraying to remove dye colour from fabrics.  I was surprised at how strong the fumes are, even working outdoors.  On my own at home I would wear a mask for this type of thing.

HR8Normal household bleach was sprayed over the stencils and within two minutes we could see a dramatic change in the colour.  In this case the black bleached out to a rust colour.  The fabric was then rinsed and placed in Anticlor to stop the process.

HR12These are two different black fabrics that have been bleached giving very diverse outcomes and it seems to depend on how the original black was mixed and applied to the cloth.  Some interesting (and unexpected) effects can be obtained by bleaching.

HR9These two samples show the same fabric bleached, the first piece for two minutes and the second for three minutes.  It’s worth keeping a close eye on the progress of colour discharge.

HR13The same fabric was used for both these pieces.  The first has been spray bleached through the stencil as previously.  The second was rolled around a chop stick diagonally, but as it was a little long I also tucked two corners in.  It was tied tightly and ruched along the stick length.  It was then dropped into a bucket of bleach and left for two minutes before unwrapping, rinsing and putting in Anticlor.  I tied the string very well and it took a while to get it off so the two minutes ended up at about four, or even five minutes.

HR14This is a lightweight piece of cotton I dyed some time ago and I was a little reluctant to mess with it.  However, with encouragement from my fellow classmates I spray bleached it and am very happy with the result.

These pieces are all big enough for me to work with and make into either bags or book covers – which is mainly where my interest lies presently.

It was a very informative day, thoroughly enjoyable and I came away with a new skill and a continuing interest in surface colouration.

Helen Richards work can be seen on her website here.



About Claire B

I'm a passionate printmaker, paper-maker and a poor sketcher (which I'm working to improve). I've stitched from early childhood and am a perpetual student, loving learning and participating in everything creative.
This entry was posted in My Creative Pieces, Printmaking 1, Workshops & Classes and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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