Cyanotype on Handknits & Crochets
Check out my detailed cyanotype tutorial at the Craftzine blog. The tutorial is specifically about printing onto handknits and crocheted fabric (very fun), but the same process applies for all cyanotype printing.
Cyanotype Basic Printing Steps:
Here is a quick written summary of the printing process.
- Mix the cyanotype sensitizing solution following the instructions in the kit.
- Coat the fabric in the sensitizer by submerging it in a tray of the solution or by painting the solution on with a foam brush.
- Wring or blot out the excess sensitizer and let the fabric dry in a dark place such as a closet. The fabric is now sensitive to sunlight, and should be kept in a black bag and away from strong light until you are ready to print.
- Decide what kind of pattern or image you want to print on the fabric and create a “negative”. I like to create “digital negatives” by preparing my artwork and photographs on the computer and then printing them out onto inkjet overhead transparency film. Alternatively you can use black markers to draw an image onto a piece of acetate or tracing paper. Or collect objects with interesting shapes such as leaves and grasses to place directly on top of the sensitized fabric to create a shadowgram.
- Printing (assemble everything away from the sunlight):
- with a flat negative: Place the negative on top of the sensitized fabric, cover with glass and expose to UV light – either the sun or a UV light box. Exposure times vary widely from 5 minutes to 60+ minutes depending on how strong the sun is. Wait for a sunny day for best results – weak winter light and cloudy light don’t make the best prints.
- shadowgrams: Lay the fabric on a board and arrange your chosen objects on top. In the final print their shadows will be the color of the fabric, and everywhere else will be dark blue. Carry this outside to expose to sunlight (or a UV box). Try experimenting with moving objects partway through the exposure.
- When the fabric is fully exposed (the areas that have gotten full sunlight will turn gray), bring the fabric back indoors, and wash the fabric in tap water for about 2-3 minutes. The gray areas will turn dark blue and the greenish yellow sensitizer that didn’t turn blue will wash away. Optionally, add some vinegar to the first bath to get deeper blues.
- (Optional): Dip the print in a water bath that contains a splash of hydrogen peroxide. It will instantly turn darker blue (this would happen with time after it dried, the peroxide just speeds it up)
- Rinse very thoroughly until the rinse water is no longer yellowish. Heavier fabrics such as canvas, require longer rinsing and soaking.
- Dry. Following the care instructions for the original fabric, you can tumble dry or hang dry.
- (Optional) tone the print to change the blue to black, brown, yellow, etc.
- Care: The cyanotype print is permanent as long as you avoid certain chemicals that can bleach the image. Be sure to only wash in phosphate-free liquid detergent, and do not use borax, oxyclean, washing powder, baking soda or bleach. I recommend handwashing because washing machines often have residues of these products!