Inspiration Amid The Pandemic - Sun Printing Tutorial

 

 

During the spring of 2020, like many other working mums, I was busy homeschooling two children alongside making and posting products for Faerie Story and it was an absolute nightmare!! I had the busiest ever March to July in terms of sales, which was great, but combine that with children at home needing constant supervision plus a husband who was still going out to work, and I found myself at home doing everything and being responsible for everyone and not surprisingly ended up burning out a bit (a lot). When the kids broke up for the summer holidays a week earlier than planned in mid-July I decided that I would also take a break from Faerie Story for a few weeks so we could all rest, relax and recharge our batteries physically and mentally.

The summer of 2020 was lovely in the UK, hot, dry and sunny and we spent most of the time in the garden or walking in our local area. My kids and our dog love being active outside so we prioritised outdoor activities as best we could with the pandemic restrictions that were still in place at the time.

One of the activities we tried in the garden was sun printing, which I had first seen in a book called, "The Found Object in Textile Art," by Cas Holmes. Sun printing is a process similar to cyanotype, where a piece of fabric is painted with heat reactive silk paint before creating a negative print by placing an object on top and leaving in the sun to develop.

The flowers and plants in our garden and on our daily walks had really been a highlight of the spring and early summer for me, so these flowers had formed my current interest and sun printing seemed perfect to try out with the kids in the garden with some flowers and foliage picked for the occasion.

Sun Printing Tutorial

What you need:

  1. Heat Fix Silk paints
  2. Cotton or silk fabric, pre-washed.
  3. A waterproof board
  4. Objects to use for printing such as foliage, leaves, flowers, feathers, etc.
  5. Pins or tape
  6. Bowl of water
  7. Paintbrushes or sponges
  8. Iron

Process:

  1. Cut your first piece of fabric and wet it in the bowl of water. Wring out so it’s damp rather than dripping. Spread on your board.
  2. Using a paintbrush or sponge apply your silk paints to the fabric.
  3. Place your objects on top of the painted fabric and pin or tape in place at the edges if needed.
  4. Place the board in a bright, sunny position. Follow the instructions on your silk paint for length of time it takes to develop, in general the sunnier the quicker the print will form.
  5. Once the silk paint has developed remove the objects and allow your fabric to dry completely out of the sun. Once dry iron on a cotton setting for a few minutes to fix the colours.

 

My wooden board covered in cling film with painted fabric and foliage in the sun.

The finished sun prints.

I used Pebeo Setasilk paints for the prints above, they are inexpensive and available in most art shops as a starter set or individual bottles. They worked well, when you lay the colour down on the fabric you can see the colours so its easy to make a nice design. I also tried Solar Fast dyes (see photos below) and they are pale when applied and you can't really see what effect you will get until after they have been placed in the sun. They were more expensive, but you get a larger bottle and they give a very vibrant colour with a good contrast on the print.

For a board I used an old plastic chopping board and a wooden drawing board which I covered in cling film. I found it difficult to pin into both of my boards so used clear tape instead. You only need to pin or tape your objects if it’s a windy day and they’re in danger of moving before the print has developed.

All the prints above were made with Pebeo Setasilk and objects from the garden, printing onto cotton. As an extension exercise, if you enjoy sun printing why not try using some solar film like I have below. The film is used instead of objects, you can print onto it with an inkjet printer and place it on your fabric in the sun. Below are some examples, these were made with Solar Fast dyes.

 

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