Although bleaching fabrics is one of the simplest techniques, it is one of my favourites so far as the results are always unexpected depending on the dye the manufacturer used. I enjoy this aspect of open-endedness and the unexpected in the process of making. Furthermore, we can use recycled fabric scraps and give them a new lease of life by creating unique patterns!
I tried multiple rounds of bleaching as the first few materials I used (felt, poly-cotton blend) were not susceptible to the bleach! Despite leaving these samples drenched in bleach for hours out in the sun, they remained the same colour, allowing me to conclude that these fabrics are not affected by the bleach.
So the next week, I cut out shapes from old t-shirts and fabric. These dark fabrics produced very different results, ranging from almost white, to warm orange, to a cool grey. I used rubber bands to pleat and tie the fabric in different patterns.
Knitting is a very popular and widely-loved technique of manipulating yarn to create a soft, warm fabric. This is done by looping the yarn with needles to create multiple rows of stitches and purls.
Wool or Acrylic yarn of any size or colour
Knitting needles (size will depend on yarn chosen)
Knitting basically consists of making knit and purl stitches in a variety of patterns. The number of repeated knit and purl stitches create different knit patterns such as stockinette, garter and ribbing.
Continuous knit or purl stitch creates a garter pattern which is the same on both sides.
After getting comfortable with purling, I tried to combine knit and purl to create a stockinette pattern.
When adding different yarns, I also tried switching needle sizes to suit the larger yarns. Introduce the new yarn colour on a knit row to create a smooth transition between colours.
I also tried to knit ribbing but this could be neater with more practice!
Experimentation: Knitting with unconventional materials
I attempted to knit with a fine jewellery wire but it did not work out beyond a few rows as the wire formed kinks and lacked elasticity, making it difficult to loop and manipulate.
Instead, I tried weaving the wire together with wool yarn to form a new 3-coloured yarn with white yarn, charcoal grey yarn and golden wire.
I used this 3-coloured yarn to knit a sample which was soft to the touch yet stiff due to the wire coil.
The next unconventional material I experimented with was knitting with plastic, specifically a used correction tape plastic film and nylon string.
The two types of plastic used made this sample was very springy and curl inwards.
I also tried knitting with hemp rope. Rope, by nature, has a lot of friction in order to carry weights and maintain tension. It was very difficult to knit it because after 3 rows, the rope would be too stiff to manipulate.
I tried it once more, this time separating the rope into three strands and knitting using just one.
After this experimentation with knitting, I realise it’s an extremely versatile skill which can be applied to many different materials. It is not limited to wearables and clothing and can even be used as an interactive or smart fabric. I enjoy the calming, rhythmic movement of knitting and look forward to knitting a scarf for my loved ones this summer! 🙂
This week we visited Touch & Print at Waterloo Centre and learned about transfer printing techniques and their applications.
Leon explained the pros and cons of various techniques, such as how screen printing is used for mass production, where despite the long setup process, each reprint is fast and inexpensive. He also illustrated the different printing techniques, how they can achieve different effects on a variety of materials such as fabric, wood and metal.
He showed how printing on white often left a film border around the image, and how laser cutting could eliminated the border to create a more seamless result.
Previously, I never really considered how printing techniques affected the overall quality of product, e.g. the film border of an image or how thick and stiff the printed portion became. The care and thought that go into these printing techniques made me consider these differences in quality between a cheap T-shirt and one made using more suitable printing techniques.
He also gave live demonstrations and explained how printing white on dark backgrounds required further steps such as the use of white toner.
The alternative uses of printing techniques was very interesting and I never knew it could be applied together with etching to create interactive components such as custom circuit boards!
This week, we learnt to print with thermochromic inks!
Developed in the 1970s, thermochromic inks have numerous applications and can be found in everyday items, art and design:
Silkscreen and squeegee
Light-coloured fabric to print on (A different type of ink is needed to print on dark fabrics)
Thermochromic pigment (powder form)
Acrylic medium and paint (optional)
Heat source e.g. hair dryer or iron
Mix the thermochromic pigment with the medium. Caution: wear masks while doing this as inhaling the fine powder can be harmful!
Mix well to achieve a paint-like consistency.
The printing process is similar to the basic silkscreen printing process. Put some ink along the top of the silk screen.
Drag the squeegee downwards, applying pressure evenly. Move the squeegee up and down several times to ensure even coverage.
When I initially printed them, the inks were very bright and saturated. Strangely, when I brought my prints home later that day, I discovered that the colours (especially the blue) had faded substantially to a light pastel blue. I suspect this may be due to the type of fabric I used.
I printed another sample with yellow thermochromic pigment mixed with green acrylic paint. When heat is applied, the yellow disappears, leaving a cooler and darker shade of green.
‘The Original Wearable-Tech’
I like how fabrics with thermochromic ink are highly interactive. We can consider them to be the predecessor of wearable technology which is becoming increasingly popular. Instead of including electrical components such as LEDs and temperature sensors which add to the bulk of the clothing, fabric printed with thermochromic inks are lightweight and create a more seamless interaction. They are playful and can create surprising effects, reacting to human touch as well as the environment.