Friday, January 15, 2016

Discharge Surprise

Have you ever discharged a fabric?  This is a fun product and technique to work with for surface design, screen printing, or just plain altering a fabric.  Discharge, in the textile world, means taking color out of cloth and can be done with several products.  Bleach is the most obvious, but also the most harmful; you must use a bleach-stop product or risk damage over time to the fabric.  There is a product called Anti-Chlor to do this.  You can also use a bleach pen, spray, or even Cascade dishwasher detergent.  However the product we use most frequently is called deColourant by Harbor Sales Inc.  It's available from online sources like Pro-Chem and Dharma Trading and retail outlets like Artistic Artifacts.  This is a much more user friendly product in that the odor is greatly reduced and it is the perfect consistency for screen printing.
It comes both colorless (on the left) which merely takes color out so the end result is a surprise, and in colored versions (on the right) which remove color but also replace it with the color of the product, so you control the result, to a certain extent.  The most fun part is using the colorless because you never know what the result will be.  It depends on what dyes went into making the fabric in the first place.  We've seen turquoise discharge to purple, and other interesting results.

So why am I blogging about this?  Well, Sue's art group issued an "ugly" challenge in which we swapped fat quarters of an "ugly" fabric (and let me tell you, ugly is all relative, depending entirely on individual perspective), and need to use the "ugly" in a 12" square quilt.  I decided to alter my "ugly" fabric first by discharging it.  It is a batik, black background with brown cats.  Typically, black will discharge to brown, sometimes gray. So I set about applying the discharge paste through a screen with a crackle image, anticipating a brownish result that would add some background texture and blend with the cats.
Here is the piece with the discharge drying.  After it dries, you take it to the iron (steam helps) and iron it to activate the color change process.  The more heat you apply along with steam, the more change you should see.  You can stop the process whenever you are satisfied with the result.  Well, imagine my surprise when I didn't get brown as I thought, but rather a blue-grey and light beige!
This coloration totally changes the fabrics I would use with it, compared to those I had pre-selected!  Plus, I can't honestly say I LIKE this combination of black-blue-brown-tan.  I think it's actually uglier than when I started! (Perhaps that would be the true challenge, to use THIS piece!)  I do like the effect of the crackle screen, just not the colors.
Here's the before and after.  Good thing I just cut a piece off the fat quarter, instead of doing the whole thing!  Not to be defeated, I had another deColourant with color added - called Natural Nutmeg.  So I decided to try another piece, smaller this time, leaving some of the original unaltered.
You can see the texture in the black background; its less visible on the cats themselves.  This is more what I was going for, though I do wish for a bit stronger color.  Maybe another round is called for - we'll see.
Here's a comparison of the brown discharge with the original piece.  Now to mull it over a bit and decide which way I'm going to go with the challenge piece.  Will I use the really ugly discharge piece, the slightly altered, or the original?  That remains to be seen.  You'll have to check back for the results later, after Feb. 3!

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