Tuesday, January 24, 2012

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V24: Block Printing 18th Century Fabric - Preparations

After much deliberation and many very helpful comments, I revised my Colonial Williamsburg mix n' match plans:

Now the two jackets will be in prints, and the two skirts and gown will be solid colors.  I'm still bent on blue and yellow, so I've collected some iDye packets to that end, ready for the linen/cotton blend and silk I'm almost decided to go with. :-)




Somewhere in the past couple weeks I got the idea to print my own fabric.  This came from my love of 18th century block printed textiles, the gasp-worthy price that comes with many of them, but also the problem of quilter's cotton being really not the right stuff for the job.

18th century cottons were not nearly as tightly woven as quilter's cotton is today, so a service like Spoonflower, which offers the ability to design your own textile prints, still doesn't fit the bill in terms of total authenticity.
From Threads of Feeling (book) - you can see the rather chunky weave of the fabric.
Instead, I will be using Essex Linen, from Dharma Trading Company, a Linen/Cotton blend that is much closer in weave and weight to 18th century textiles, and also historically accurate.


As for prints, here are the stamps I got:

A long stamp that when repeated will make a print in lines

An all-over stamp for basic block printing.  The flower and buds might be filled in with separate colors

A very Indian graphic, to be applied in red/brown over yellow, perhaps.

A basic leaf line print.  This will look good in any color on white, but I also want to try this one as a resist.

Something to consider about cottons - in 1701 England banned the import of printed cottons, but set up its own cotton-printing industry, which was immensely successful.  Ironically, they were printing the same sorts of designs on calico (cotton) that was still imported from India, at least until 1721, when another law was passed banning most cotton fabrics, but not cotton fibers.  The English cotton-printing industry started blending cotton and linen, and printing on that, hence my choice for a robust linen/cotton blend. (Thanks to Hallie Larkin for this information - At the Sign of the Golden Scissors)

As for my choice of stamps, I got both Western designs as well as Eastern.  The cotton ban didn't apply to the American Colonies, so I'm hoping to create one of my prints in a very Indian way, and the other in a more European way.

My stamps should be here any day, and when they arrive, I have practicing to do.  Straight printing in one color on a light ground will be easy, but adding more than the outline color, or trying resist techniques will be interesting.  More to come!
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18 comments:

  1. Ooooh! Can't wait to see how this comes out!

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  2. Can't wait to hear how this experiment turns out! I've mused over it while looking at the prices of the reproductions ...

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    1. I adore Duran Textiles, but can't afford it! So maybe this will produce something similar, although the stamping seems to be somewhat limited in terms of design and color.

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  3. I too am eagerly awaiting to see how this turns out!

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  4. Oh me oh my! I bought my stepdaughter a bunch of wooden stamps with those kind of patterns from the TradeAid shop, as they sell stamped handmade papers using them which I adore. It never occurred to me that you would use the same thing for fabric, but now my brain is fizzing with possibilities! I await your adventures unfolding with great curiosity.
    I passed on a dresslength of stamp printed organic Indian cotton to a friend to make an open robe recently - this all amuses the aged, as this kind of cotton was what we used to wear in the 1970's, how delightful to know that it was also worn in the 1790's! :)

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    1. I've been hunting 1970s textiles and crewel work embroidery for use in my 18th century stuff. I wish the trend would come around again... well...I mean Jacobean style embroidery and printed cottons, not the 1970s!

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    2. Yes but unfortunately in the 1970's the colours were often really, really huckery! :) But the Indian fabrics that were so common then, especially the preprinted half circle wrap around skirts, were pretty much the same, and a few years back I bought a pile of it in a sale (new) mostly out of nostalgia. Good to know it is going to get used for an open robe :)

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  5. That looks like a lot of work, but fun! Spoonflower does have a linen/cotton blend… the texture of the piece I have here looks pretty close to the Threads of Feeling one, since it is a canvas—not super rough, but not as smooth as quilting cotton.

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    1. Rae, I saw that, but the canvas seemed awfully heavy. I have a swatchbook from Spoonflower and wan dearly to try out their printed voile. I'm a sucker for voile. :-)

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    2. Me too! I keep trying to figure out a project worth getting custom printed voile for :). And silk. And basically anything else custom printed.

      I don’t know where my swatch book went, but the linen/cotton canvas medallion I had printed for a quilt is pretty lightweight. It had a fair bit of starch/sizing on it when I got it, but softened up nicely (and seemed lighter after) when I tea dyed it / tried bleaching/color removing to no avail (was trying to mod. the color a bit). It is far lighter than home-dec weight canvas. Of course, I’ve never sewn 18th century, so light-weight enough for quilting doesn’t mean appropriate for gowns—you’re the expert on that one!

      Can’t wait to see your progress!

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  6. Just be careful with going *too* Eastern on your prints ... there was an absolute difference in the textiles going out of India that were made for European markets, and those that stayed within the border.

    That being said, I am SUPER excited to see how this experiment turns out!

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  7. Kristin, I hadn't thought of that - I know that calico was being imported to Europe throughout the century, so I assume that the textile I am studying would be of this imported variety. Is it the fiber/weave you are referring to, or the print itself?

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  8. I think it was the print itself. Doesn't http://thedreamstress.com do a whole post on just that very topic?

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    1. I found the Dreamstress' articles and they were extremely helpful as well. Thank you for pointing me in her direction :)

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  9. Nope, the print itself. Démodé has some fabulous research (with photos!) done already on this very subject--I'd just read it, so it was fresh in my mind when I posted!

    Here's the link to her research: http://demodecouture.com/cotton/

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    1. SUPER helpful link, Kristin, thank you so much. I think the emblem I got that is the teardrop shape is perhaps too Indian, especially if it were printed red on yellow. The more floral designs would be better...

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    2. You are so very welcome, Lauren! I definitely agree that the teardrop is probably too Indian, though your other stamps are REALLY good, so definitely use those. You are so BRAVE to be stamping and printing your own fabric; I have printed linen that needs to have yellow flowers toned down (7 yards of it!) and I am procrastinating soooo badly on it. Hopefully this will be a good kick in the pants to get it done, as I plan on using this fabric in a gown workshop next month, and wearing said gown during Battle Road in April!

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  10. What a great work and also very nice content keep it up. i really enjoyed your blog. If you are interested in block printing visit
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