Print your own fabric with Inkodye

I played with Inkodye again—a photo-sensitive dye that uses the sun to develop prints on natural materials like wood and fabric. One nice thing about using this dye instead of fabric paint is that fabric stays soft and flexible, instead of stiffening like it does with paint. Plus watching prints develop is always fun!

I made a simple cloud design this time, since I knew that achieving perfectly crisp edges is tricky due to shadows that might occur. And clouds can have soft edges, so if that's what happened, all the better.

To make your own cloud print, you'll need Inkodye, fabric, a foam brush, a large piece of cardboard wrapped in plastic for your work surface, masking tape, cardboard for cutting out shapes, a pencil and scissors.

Sketch clouds onto cardboard. You could use a cereal box or other recycled cardboard for this; avoid regular paper since it might let light through and it will curl more easily if it gets damp.

Cut out the clouds.

Tape the edges of the fabric to your work surface to keep it in place while you brush on dye. (My "work surface" was a piece of corrugated cardboard wrapped in a garbage bag, which worked great.)

Mix up your Inkodye solution. It's fine to use it straight from the bottle, but it's very concentrated so you can mix it with water to stretch it. Use a 1:1 ratio of dye to water, and colors will still be vibrant. I used about 1/4 cup of each for this project.

In a dim room away from direct sunlight, quickly brush the dye evenly over the surface of the fabric.

Then blot up any excess dye until the surface feels barely damp. Less moisture will keep the cardboard shapes from curling up.

Arrange the cloud cut-outs over the fabric. Then carry the board into a sunny area, set it down, and don't move it while the dye develops. (About 8 minutes on a sunny day, 15 on a partly cloudy day.) For best results, expose prints around noon when the sun is directly overhead; it will help reduce cast shadows.

It's helpful to weigh down your shapes to prevent curling; I used some stacks of coins. Place them quickly to prevent the cardboard from shifting. Once exposed to sunlight, the dye will begin turning color within seconds. When your print has been exposed long enough, bring it back inside before removing your shapes. Remember, the unexposed areas will immediately begin to turn color if you remove the cutouts outside, so resist the urge to peek immediately.

Quickly begin washing out the excess dye in hot, soapy water, scrubbing thoroughly. Rinse, and you're done! The resulting print will be permanent and machine washable.

If you'd like to give it a whirl, Inkodye is available here.
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