You know what they say about making Cyanotype prints while the sun shines?! Yesterday was a fun Cyanotype printing day but I’ve been prepping for this project for some time. Here’s a little of how I went about it for those interested.

Back in early Spring when plants were just putting out their teeny tiny leaves, I braved the frost to cut and press some of them because I knew the size would be perfect for some illustrative cyanotype prints. The down size was trying to pick them up in a dimly lit room but more on that later.

I used the Jacquard Cyanotype set and coated the fabrics one night once it had got dark. It wasn’t all that easy – all I’ll say is get everything laid out right side up and have plenty of room and plastic to lay them out to dry but expect to be doing it fairly blind. I then put them in a lightfast box before going to bed so that the morning sun didn’t begin processing them before I was ready.

I was also really prepared with what I wanted to create and laid all the elements out on trays in an organised fashion. I began in one of our shadier rooms but as the sun came round the fabric began exposing while I was setting it up so I ended up in our outhouse which has no windows – this did mean that a lot of what I was doing was from memory and not because I could particularly see well.  A lot of the lovelier small or fragile items didn’t get used because I simply couldn’t see to pick them up!

These two photos show the treated fabric changing from green to blue as the sun begins to process the chemicals and the resulting print – this one was a really deep indigo which I put down to it being a 100% cotton fabric.

I tried coating a variety of fabrics – polyester, nylon/cotton mixes, textures, old cotton and linens. My favourite results were the high cotton content fabrics but the nylons do have some winning results such as the shine and the ghostly quality. I intend sewing into mine so I’m happy at this stage if the print isn’t 100% perfect.

I also prepped some acetates of my own hand-drawn elements taken from pattern designs I’ve made. They don’t print as cleanly as paper or solid objects and the acetate edge can catch the light if the sun is at a low angle; but it’s a great way to incorporate your own design personality into your prints.

This is a gold polyester print – a lot of the coating washed out of the fabric so it’s a very pale print. I wouldn’t waste the product on non-cottons again but I’m glad to have experienced the difference.

This is a selection of my favourite illustrative prints. Where there are white empty spaces I intend to fill in with stitches and fabric foiling.

I had a lot of success with vintage doilies and lace and through trial and error realised that the item closest to the fabric prints the strongest which made layering up items interesting (in other words the opposite to the picture below – bird/rabbit underneath doily to print).

This one is going to get framed just as it is as there something perfect about it to me.

The acetate allows some light through (it isn’t as good at masking as black card is) but it does create a blue print rather than a solid white space( see rabbit below)  so that adds an extra layer of interest.

Some of the fabrics with an unidentified mix of cotton/polyester gave up prints on a different scale of blue -these  will have also have their uses as contrasts once I start cutting and sewing. Its a much softer result.

Some even came out a lovely Colbalt blue.

Each print took 30 mins in the UK sun (on a hot sunny day for us) so it was a time consuming activity and I’d coated a lot of fabric so it was a long days work. I believe (from inference) that you can store coated fabrics for sometime in the dark but we don’t often have reliably sunny days so I went for it while I could which was the right call as it’s cloudy today.

 I think I’ve made enough stock to keep me busy for sometime anyway!

So here’s my top-tips for cyanotype sun-printing if you think you’re going to give it a go:

You need to weigh the items down on the fabric to print with some glass or acetate – so measure your fabric prior to coating so that it’s not bigger than your glass. Otherwise you print the edge of the glass.

Once you’ve coated your materials and put them in a dark place try and create a system so that you know which is coated-side up. I got into a muddle and wasn’t always sure I’d printed on the side I’d painted the chemicals onto.

Know your materials before you go into the ‘darkroom’ to place them on the fabric. Maybe even lay them out ready. And I found having things on a lightly coloured tray helped me to see what the shape was in the dark!

If you want indigo prints then stick to high cotton content fabrics.

I’m glad to say I still have another half a bottle of each of the chemicals so can mull over repeating this activity again.