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More Than Plain Weave
By Holly Brackmann
Issue 113, January/February 2003, p. 48-52.
In 1995 I was seduced
by glorious scarves that I thought were cut velvet---only to learn
that they were made by a technique called dévoré.
I spent several subsequent years printing and dyeing dévoré
scarves on purchased rayon/silk velvet fabric, and then realized
that weavers have the ability to design fabrics that are not available
commercially. We can combine weaving with varied fibers, printing,
dyeing, stamping and painting techniques to make exciting dévoré
fabrics that far surpass what is available to the mass market.
also known as burnout, is a process by which the cellulose portion
of a cloth is devoured (dévoré) by the application
of a commercial burnout solution that becomes an acid when ironed
with dry heat. If handwovens combine cellulose (cotton, linen, viscose
rayon, hemp or Tencel) with silk, wool, nylon or synthetics, the
cellulose portion of the cloth can be completely burned away.
Core spun cotton/polyester
(cotton fibers wrapped around a polyester core) is another good
option. Wherever the solution is applied, the cotton is devoured
to leave only the fine polyester core. The burned-out areas are
structurally sound but somewhat transparent.
White or light yarns
make the burned-out areas more visible and more receptive to dye.
Fine yarns work best; thick fabrics are hard to burn out and may
yield an old, distressed look.
is a relatively new technique in our handweaving repertoire. It
can be applied to composite protein/cellulose or synthetic/cellulose
fabrics by stenciling, screen printing or painting the burnout solution
onto the fabric. Woven shibori can be combined with dévoré.
It is even possible to weave a fabric in one structure so that an
entirely different weave structure materializes in the burnout areas.
We are only just beginning
the exploration of these techniques, and the possibilities are truly
with dye transfer printing, stencil printing and soda-soak dyeing
are used for the two scarves shown in this article. Specific directions
are given for the "Half-Bulls Eye" scarf, pages
Weaving the fabric
Wind a warp with cotton/polyester industrial thread following the
directions in Project at-a-glance. Thread
the loom for plain weave. Weave the body of the scarf in plain weave
with the same cotton/polyester thread for 80".
Remove the scarf from
the loom and hem the ends with a tight machine zigzag, or serge
the ends using a 3-thread rolled hem. Use regular cotton/polyester
sewing thread for the hems so that they will take the dye and burnout
treatments in the same as the rest of the fabric.
designs on the fabric
Now the fun begins! With transfer printing, your plain-weave white
scarf will be transformed into a colorful, unique piece of fabric!
Transfer printing is
also called dye sublimation. Disperse dye is used to color polyester
by transferring as a gas from a piece of paper onto the weaving.
Begin by painting disperse
dye designs on white paper, using a paintbrush or foam brush; see
Dye Recipes. (I used Blue Prosperse #459, Red Prosperse #360, and
Yellow Prosperse #118 from Pro Chem and mixed chartreuse with 5
cc blue + 15 cc yellow, orange with 10cc yellow + 2 cc red, purple
with 10 cc blue + 2 cc red. I measured amounts with a plastic syringe
that has cubic centimeter markings.)
Choose bold, simple shapes.
Place the paper with the design side down in contact with the fabric.
With a dry iron set at permanent press, iron each sheet of paper
for one minute. The painted designs are transferred to the polyester
portion of the woven yarns.
Use the papers one at
a time and use each paper only once, since the image will become
fainter each time it is used. Cover the fabric with designs. Allow
the designs to air dry.
Making a stencil for
Make a stencil using the same design that you used for transfer.
A design with strong negative/positive areas and bold lines works
best. Fine details do not show effectively. There are many methods
for making stencils and printing screens with thermofax, screen
filler, or photo emulsion.
An easy low-tech alternative
taught by Jane Dunnewold uses fusible interfacing and nylon netting.
Cut two 5" x 8" pieces of fusible heavyweight or window-shade
interfacing and one 5" x 8" piece of nylon net or tulle.
With the fusible sides of the interfacing held together, draw, and
then cut out the design with scissors.
Place the netting between the two pieces of interfacing, lining
up the cut-out areas, and steam iron them together, following the
manufacturers instructions for fusing. Coat both sides of
the stencil with acrylic craft paint, which will keep moisture and
the burnout solution from penetrating the interfacing stencil. Hang
the stencil on a line to dry. If the stencil begins to come apart
when printing, wash out the burnout solution, allow the stencil
to dry, and iron the pieces together again to refuse and reuse.
Applying the burnout
Core spun cotton/poly fabrics can be burned out and colored in one
step by mixing disperse dye in the burnout solution. (I used the
same dyes in the burnout solution as I used for the transfer printing.).
Before applying the solution, place a layer of newspaperthe same
length as the scarf on the work surface and cover it with plastic
wrap in order to pad and protect the surface.
Lay the scarf on the
plastic wrap, and holding the stencil against the fabric, force
the burnout solution through the netting with a stencil brush. Go
over the stencil opening with the brush several times to make sure
the solution penetrates the fabric under the opening thoroughly.
Dry the fabric with a hair dryer or allow to air dry.
Completing the burnout:
Now comes the magic part! Place the printed scarf on an ironing
board covered with a piece of aluminum foil. Place another piece
of aluminum foil or a Teflon sheet on top of the scarf. Using the
permanent press setting on your iron, dry iron each design for one
minute, keeping the iron moving. The burnout/dye solution should
darken slightly from the ironing, but should not look scorched.
When you have thoroughly
ironed all the areas of the scarf that are saturated with the burnout
solution, wash the fabric gently by hand or by machine (allow 2
minutes agitation in warm water) with detergent. Do not use fabric
softener. The cotton fibers that were in contact with the burnout
solution will be completely washed away.
The white scarf will
now show the dye transfer designs in color, and the designs in the
burnout areas will be both colored and semi-transparent.
Dyeing the background:
Next, dye the scarf with fiber reactive dyes. These will color only
the cotton component of the yarns, not the polyester. The dye transfer
designs, in which the polyester component is already colored will
be slightly affected. The polyester core in the burnout areas will
not be affected at all.
Soda soak, which involves
painting a wet fabric, is a simple process. Using the soda-soad
recipe in the Dye Recipes on page 51, put the scarf in the soda-soak
solution for 20 minutes. Wring out the excess solution and lay the
scarf flat on a layer of plastic.
Mix the background color
(I used 1 tsp. Dharma Chartreuse #47 + 3 tsp. salt + 1 cup water)
and apply it to the scarf by painting with a foam brush, making
sure the dye penetrates the fabric.
Cover the scarf with
plastic, roll it between the two layers, and let cure for 24 hours
at a room temperature of 70 degrees or warmer.
Remove the scarf from
the plastic and let it dry completely.
Rinse the scarf thoroughly
to remove excess dye, soda and salt. Wash gently in detergent, rinse
and hang to dry. After it is dry, apply a drop of Fray Block to
each corner and trim tails of hemming threads when glue is dry.
The scarf is now complete!
Mix 1/2 cup of boiling water and 8 tsp. disperse dye. Stir the dye
until dissolved, let cool, and stir again. Used for transfer printing
and to mix with Fiber-Etch Fiber Remover for colored burnout.
Mix 1/4 cup Fiber-Etch with 1 1/2 tsp. disperse dye solution.
Mix 1/2 cup soda ash in 1 gallon water until dissolved. Soak the
fabric for 20 minutes. (This solution keeps indefinitely in a covered
Fiber Reactive Dye
Mix 1 teaspoon fiber reactive dye powder with 1 cup water. Add 3
Stir well. This recipe produces a hue of medium strength. Vary the
amount of dye for different intensities desired. Use a three times
as much salt as dye.
Dye safety checklist
- Reserve all equipment
for dyeing only; do not use it for food.
- Wear old clothes and
an apron or smock.
- Always wear gloves
and dust mask or respirator when mixing powdered chemicals and
- When ironing the burnout,
work in a well-ventilated area, out of doors or use an acid gas
respirator. This is very important!
- Wipe up spills immediately
with a damp paper towel.
- Do not eat or drink
while working with dyes.
- Use non-reactive or
plastic cups, buckets and spoons.
Weave structure for scarf.
2-shaft or 4-shaft loom, 10" weaving width; 12 dent reed; 1
Warp: Coats T-105 cotton/polyester indutrail thread (4700 yd/lb),
white, 741 yd (2 2/3 oz).
Weft: Coats T-105 cotton/polyester indutrail thread (4700 yd/lb),
white, 558 yd (1 9/10 oz).
Dyes and other materials
Disperse dyes (small amounts in desired colors for transfer printing),
Fiber Etch Fiber Remover, soda ash, fiber reactive dyes (enough
to mix a small amount of one hue for the background color), small
plastic containers for mixing the dyes, one 608 qt plastic bucket,
one Teflon sheet (optional), aluminum foil, plastic wrap, two small
pieces of fusible heavyweight or window-shade interfacing 5"
x 8" each, one piece of nylon net or tulle 5" x *",
acrylic craft paint, Fray Block (a durable fabric glue).
Sources for yarns,
dyes, materials, etc.
Coats T-105 cotton/polyester industrial thread is from Textura Trading
Company. Fiber-Etch Fiber Remover is from Silkpaint Corporation.
Dyes and chemicals are from Dharma Trading Co. and Pro Chemical
and Dye. Stencil brush and acrylic craft paint are from craft stores;
interfacing, tulle, and Fray Block from fabric stores; and the teflon
sheet is from Clotilde.
Warp order and length
228 ends 3 1/4 yd long
Warp and weft spacing
Warp: 24 epi (2/dent in a 12 dent reed). Width in the reed: 9 1/2".
Weft: 24 pi. Woven length (measured under tension on the loom):
Amounts produce one scarf 8 1/4" x 72" after dyeing and