Dyeing, printing, birds, and some large circles.

I taught a one day workshop yesterday, and as I like to have work in progress as well as finished work to show students, this week I made some birds using the slip method, and also printed and dyed some Khadi paper backgrounds for them. The slip method is basically constructing the bird or any other piece of work separately, stitching it as an independent unit and then applying it to its background. It was a method much used by the Elizabethans, and doubtless by stitchers before them. It’s very useful if you have an awkward background, either through size or type of material, which would make working on a small detailed piece on a large unwieldy background difficult.

As I like to use Khadi paper, which in bigger sheets isn’t that much fun to handle, I use this slip method quite a lot. I decided I wanted to use some bright silks for my new birds, so dyed some small pieces of silk and put them in the sun to dry. The dye is heat fixed but I didn’t rely on the sun to do that, I did use an iron.



DSC_0012Good excuse to include some vivid flowers and leaves too.

DSC_0014The circles in the title of this post are actually some ready made, round pieces of Khadi paper I bought on a whim from the Khadi website. They are about 40 cm across; I admit that is a guess as they are downstairs and I am not, and I can’t possibly go downstairs to check, now can I?  [ I have now, and they are 56 cm in diameter.] Here they are in my newly reinstated print and dye studio [garage] which has been out of action all winter.


DSC_0016The circles of paper [there are 5], and a few other random sheets of paper after having been printed with thermofax screens and acrylic paints. I mix screen printing medium into the paints, which helps in cleaning the screens, and in keeping the paint fluid. The paint also keeps for ages in an airtight pot too, which is handy.

DSC_0021When the acrylic prints were dry I dyed the papers using procion dyes, brushed on. The circles were meant to be kept quite plain, but as you can see, things got out of hand. No, it was a decision I made, as they looked a bit boring; I did keep one very plain, just printed with a simple screen in silver. I find the silver and gold work really well, especially with the interesting way they resist the dye.



DSC_0038Some close ups of the papers I produced.

DSC_0028Here are all the birds, actually except one, who escaped this photograph. The top four are silk, and the others are simply cut from a piece of previously printed fabric which caught my eye; I decided to make multiple birds from it for a more pattern based piece, with a few appliquéd additions on wings, and possibly tails.


DSC_0031The two hummingbirds in early stages, on a possible background. Leaves, stems and flowers will be added, no doubt.

DSC_0029And here’s the one that got away, the only one who has been stitched and beaded, trying out another background.

14 thoughts on “Dyeing, printing, birds, and some large circles.

  1. Hi Stephanie Have been really enjoying your blog post of late and your work as always; well have been enjoying both for years!! Wondered if I could ask a couple of questions? Do you have a Thermofax Machine? Or do you have your screens produced/exposed by someone else? I have been using screen printing for surface decoration for or some time now in my work but use photo emulsion and expose them at home in a fairly crude way and not always successfully so have a certain amount of “naff” ones that are either badly coated or under/over exposed!! Have been thinking of late about the possibility of purchasing a Thermofax machine but they seem fairly pricey! Second question….do you use a standard translucent binder and add ordinary acrylic paint to them? Is it fluid acrylic or the thicker paints? What sort of proportions do you use….paint to binder? Many thanks, bye for now Dot

    Sent from my iPad

  2. Hi Dot, I’m very pleased you like the blog, many thanks for that; yes, I do have a machine. They are quite expensive, but I had so many drawings I wanted made into screens I decided to buy one. I can make screens in any size I want, up to A3, as the mood takes me; I like having that freedom. They are easy to make, too.
    I use System 3 or Galleria acrylics, and Daler Rowney System 3 acrylic printing medium. They recommend 0.5 – 1 part medium to 1 part colour by volume. I find it a good medium to use and have never suffered from a blocked up screen.
    I would advise you to have a couple made, they are quite cheap, and have a go with them. You can use thickened dye and doubtless many other media to print with too. Claire Benn and Lesley Morgan’s book Thermofax Printing is invaluable if you start to use thermofax screens.
    Sites to check out are http://www.thermofaxprinting.co.uk http://www.thermofaxscreens.co.uk and http://www.inekeberlyn.com

  3. Steph, I had to read that bit about the slip method twice and I’m still not sure I’ve grasped it. I can see the birds are made independently but they must be on a background too? Is the fabric bondawebbed onto interfacing or something similar? The common sense side of my brain tells me this must be how it’s done but they look too fine. Whatever the method, the outcome is a joy. What a riot of colour. I love the way the dye reflects those gorgeous tulips. I have loads of handmade paper circles that I did a couple of years ago using a splatter guard for frying as my mould/deckle but they’re not big enough for this type of project. It’s given me an idea for something else though. Thank you!

  4. Yes, they are constructed in this case on Lutradur, but Vilene or similar would do. The silk and other fabrics can be cut out and applied to the basic shape. Lutradur is a heat pressed man made material that doesn’t fray when cut, and is stiff and thin, so it’s very useful for this and many other things. If you didn’t mind the piece being chunky felt would do.
    Your paper circles sound fun, I’ll keep an eye on your blog to see what you decide to do with them.

  5. Another really inspiring post! Love the birds, I had not heard of the slip method before and am going to have a shot at it myself. Also, I have been busy with the thermofax screen I had made after reading your last post – I can feel an addiction coming on!

    1. Thanks Gill! Slips are really useful, I have planned in the past to make a very big piece of work using the method; it’s not yet come about, but who knows, it may at some point…
      Very pleased you are enjoying the screen, I’ll watch what you are up to. I know what you mean; when I get started on what I have decided will just be a small amount of printing, it invariably grows and grows, so I end up with lots of fabric and paper. Time to use some of it on that large piece, perhaps.

      1. Sorry about the delay replying Gill, you were floating about in ‘pending’ for some reason. If I do the large piece I will certainly blog it; it will go one and on though, I am a slow but steady worker these days.

  6. i always enjoy seeing process photos but i was at RBSA last week and really enjoyed your cafe wall work up close 🙂

  7. I love your birds Steph, beautiful. Think I’ll have to put a few hummingbirds in my work since I’ve been chasing them around the garden recently trying to get photos!

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