RE: VDB/Kallitype/Cyanotype on fabric?

From: D. Mark Andrews ^lt;[email protected]>
Date: 06/14/05-07:56:23 AM Z
Message-id: <>


Joe cites the only books I've seen about cyanotypes on cloth:

Hewitt, Barbara
Blueprints on Fabric: Innovative Uses for Cyanotype
Hard to find, but you can always get a copy through one of the bookstores on

James, Christopher
The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes
Has section on cyanotype on cloth

Also seems to me that I've seen something on this subject by Galina Manikova
(, but can't find the reference.

I've been working for the past two years with cyanotype on cloth--primarily
with another parent and 45 kids at my son's school to produce an annual
quilt for fundraising. Each kids get a "square" to print on. I have not
worked with VDB on cloth, but do often tea stain my cloth cyanotypes to get
a sepia color.

I agree with Joe's comments below except for the use of detergent. Sometimes
you need a detergent to get the sizing and stiffness out of new cloth. I
generally wash the cloth first in the washer with detergent and then twice
more with water only. The dryer is not a good place to dry the cloth since
it often has a softening affect on the cloth--both chemical and natural.
Letting it air dry keeps out any chemical residue and keeps the fabric stiff
which makes it easier to lay flat.

One note on fabric is it should be 100% natural. Both cotton and silk work
great. I often use bed sheets since they are easy to find and relatively

Ideally you would always soak the cloth to coat since this produces the most
even application, but this is not always practical when you want something
large so cheap foam brushes or even rollers work fine for application.

The process is surprisingly simple once you clunk you way through how to
hang a 5x5 foot piece of coated cloth to dry and learn to live with the
subsequent stains from drips :-)


-----Original Message-----
From: Joe Smigiel []
Sent: Monday, June 13, 2005 10:27 PM
Subject: Re: VDB/Kallitype/Cyanotype on fabric?


You may want to check

Barbara Hewitt who wrote "Blueprints on Fabric" sold the business about
a year or two ago but it appears her book is still available through the
new owners. I used her precoated fabric and paper when I taught at an
art camp for visually-impaired kids a few years back. The cyanotype
fabric (and paper) is available precoated on several different colors
and types of material. It worked well with no muss, no fuss.

I've also prepared my own cyanotype fabric on muslin up to 9' square and
much smaller with VDB. The only real difference I found practically
between fabric and paper is that the former is a bit messier and tends
to print lower contrast due to the surface roughness. Probably needs a
bit extra exposure too.

I always took care to wash the sizing out of the fabric and I also
acidified the cyanotype fabric with a little citric acid before coating
the emulsion on it, but otherwise it was very similar to printing on a
paper substrate. (Avoid detergent when doing the wash to remove the
sizing since the alkalinity is bad for cyanotypes.) Once the sizing was
washed out, I dried the fabric, ironed it in some cases to remove
wrinkles if I was printing negatives on small sheets, and then coated it
with emulsion either by immersion or with a foam brush. It saturates
the fabric and uses much more solution than paper so be sure to have a
barrier down on whatever surface you use to coat the fabric upon. The
emulsion will also migrate due to gravity if you hang the fabric to dry.
 I periodically rotated the large sheets to minimize this effect.

Just as with paper, expose to the point of solarization with cyanotype.
For cyanotypes I washed the images in a weak citric acid bath several
times and then did the peroxide in water final rinse.

If you've done the processes before on paper you should have no
difficulty transfering that knowledge to printing on fabrics. Just use
natural fabrics like cotton, muslin, canvas, or silks. (Use that
polyester for leisure suits instead.) The big difference is the mess
and longer drying time, and getting rid of the sizing before coating
with emulsion. The fabrics also lend themselves to techniques such as
tie-dyeing with emulsion in concert with contact printing or making
large photograms.

In addition to Hewitt's book, I believe Suda House's book also had a
section on fabric printing and I seem to recall some big cyanotype
photograms in , was it Christopher James' text?


>>> sanking@CLEMSON.EDU 06/14/05 12:42 AM >>>
I am posting this message again with an appropriate heading. Sorry for
> I will be teaching a carbon workshop at the Photographers' Formulary
> beginning on June 26. Since the class is fairly small I agreed to also
> teach VDB, kallitype and cyanotype to one of the students. However, I
> have learned that what she wants to do is use these processes for
> images on cloth surfaces, and I know little or nothing about this.
> anyone direct me to some good sources, either in the list archives or
> elsewhere, that could help me get up to speed quickly on the subject?
> Sandy
Received on Tue Jun 14 07:56:45 2005

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