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Handwoven Dévoré:
More Than Plain Weave
By Holly Brackmann

Handwoven, 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.

Dévoré, 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.

Dévoré 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 dazzling.

Dévoré 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 48-49.

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.

Transfer printing 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 the burnout
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 manufacturer’s 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 solution
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: dry heat
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: soda soak
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!


Disperse Dye
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.

Colored Burnout
Mix 1/4 cup Fiber-Etch with 1 1/2 tsp. disperse dye solution.

Soda Soak
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 bucket.)

Fiber Reactive Dye
Mix 1 teaspoon fiber reactive dye powder with 1 cup water. Add 3 tsp. salt.
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 dyes.
  • 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.


Project at-a-glance

Weave structure for scarf.

Plain weave.

2-shaft or 4-shaft loom, 10" weaving width; 12 dent reed; 1 shuttle

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): 80"

Finished Dimensions
Amounts produce one scarf 8 1/4" x 72" after dyeing and finishing processes.



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