Week 8: Fiber Etching and Bleaching

Prof. Galina cut up her velvet scarf for us to do etching (ಥ﹏ಥ) For some reason, all of us weren’t able to get our hands on the correct type of material (I tried getting velvet from Arab Street. I checked with the shopkeeper, confirming with her whether or not the fabric I was purchasing was a mixture of rayon and silk and she confirmed that it was. Then when I brought it to class, Prof. Galina said it wasn’t. *screams*) Moving on…
Devore, also known as burnout, is a technique whereby chemicals are used to remove cellulose fibres to create a translucent pattern against a solid fabric (or vice versa, where you have a solid pattern against a translucent background). Most commonly applied on velvet, this technique works best on materials with blended fabrics, which combines cellulose-based fibres with protein-based fibres.
The solution we used in class to do this burnout technique is Fiber Etch. The solution only removes plant-based fibres such as cotton or linen, leaving the protein or synthetic fibres behind. The design can be created through painting Fiber Etch directly onto the fabric using a paint brush, or through printing it on using silkscreening. Once the Fiber Etch solution has been applied, leave it to dry before ironing the fabric. The areas painted with the solution should turn brown and be easier scratched off, leaving behind a thin, translucent layer. Once done removing the areas that the solution have been applied to, rinse the fabric thoroughly to remove all traces of the Fiber Etch solution.
Obviously silkscreening would have been the easier option but for some reason, I decided I wanted to paint on my own design (why Louisa why -.-). I decided to doodle some random shapes onto the reverse of the fabric and paint around them, allowing the shapes to stand out against a translucent background. Quite a lot of Fiber Etch solution had to be painted on in order for the fabric to be soaked enough for the solution to work its magic. The painting did take quite a bit of time so I only managed to ironing portion the following week. When that part of the process finally happened, it took a pretty long while for all the bits to be scrapped off from the fabric. Also, for some reason, the areas that I did not paint with Fiber Etch dried up and fell off as well :’) I guess if I ever get the chance to experiment with Fiber Etch and Devore again, I might stick to simpler and bigger shapes. But overall, it did produce a pretty unique effect and it’ll probably look really nice used for a wide variety of things.
Moving on to bleaching! It was pretty straightforward. Prof. Galina had this plastic (?) doily that she offered for us to use to experiment in this exercise. Esther really kindly offered to share her black fabric with us and so using a piece of black fabric, we laid the plastic doily over it and just spritz some bleach over the entire fabric. This resulted in a negative of the doily pattern being “printed” onto the fabric below, with the areas coming into contact with the bleach turning a shade of reddish-orange. Other ways of creating unique patterns could include in random areas of the fabric being pinched and twisted, before applying the bleach. There are many examples online and bleaching is a pretty simple technique that could allow for some pretty interesting results. 

Woman holding reverse tie dye print napkin in front of her.
An example of what you can do. This person used a cardboard cut-out to create shapes on their fabric!
Bleaching technique
Devore technique

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Louisa Lek

*nervous laughter*

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