Cyanotype Fabric: The Easiest Abstract Art Project You’ll Ever Try
I’m seeing blue everywhere these days – kitchen cabinets and islands, sofas, and curtains, to name a few. What about adding those stunning blue hues to your walls? And no, I don’t mean with paint.
You may have heard of an old technique called cyanotype printing. It’s been around, well, since the 1800s, and has since stretched from a practical means of making blueprints, all the way to various forms of art in the printmaking and photography world. It’s an amazing (and easy) process with the help of pre-treated papers and fabrics, and only requires one key ingredient: direct sunlight.
I rounded up a handful of items ranging from old boxes, home decor, and other odds and ends, snagged a few yards of cyanotype fabric, and got to work on one of my favorite DIY art projects to-date.
What You Need
- Cyanotype fabric mural
- Assorted shapes — cardboard cutouts, cork board shapes, wood pieces, tape rolls, etc.
- Pushpins or tape (to prevent the assorted shapes from moving)
- Weighted coasters, rocks, or similar (to prevent the the fabric from blowing away)
- Plastic tub or bucket (to rinse the fabric)
- 1-2 tsp of hydrogen peroxide
- Stitch Witchery
Step 1. Prepare your design. Because the fabric is extremely light sensitive, you’ll want to gather all of your items and plan out their design before taking the fabric out of its packaging. Once the fabric is laid out, you will need to work very quickly, so make sure your design is easy to transfer, or grab the help of a friend.
Pro-Tip: Use materials that either have some weight, or that can easily be pinned or taped to the fabric. And also keep in mind the direction of the sun as you select your items and their layout.
Step 2. Keeping your fabric indoors and out of direct sunlight, cut your fabric to the size of your choice, keeping in mind the dimension of your layout. Make sure to leave at least 4 inches on each side so you can hem the tapestry later. This is also a good time to read the instructions provided with the fabric, as they will help you calculate the right amount of time to expose your fabric.
Step 3. Once you have prepped your design, get your weights (I used clay coasters, but rocks also work well) and tape ready. Bring your fabric out into the sun only once you are ready to begin. Again, it is very sensitive and will start exposing as soon as it is laid out. Quickly weigh down the corners and sides to prevent movement during the exposure process. Move your design onto the fabric, using tape and pushpins to fasten each piece in place.
Pro-tip: For smaller projects or designs that require more than a few minutes to attach, it might be helpful to complete this step indoors, securing the fabric on a piece of foam board or cardboard, and pinning each item to the board before carrying out into the sun.
Step 4. Step away and let the sun do its thing. The fabric will develop over the course of 10-20 minutes, 10 minutes offering the least contrast, and 20 minutes creating more of a blue and white exposure. I chose to expose mine for about 16-17 minutes. It’s very important to make sure nothing shifts during this time, so keep an eye on your project.
Step 5. Once your fabric is developed, it’s time to remove the weights and tape and quickly bring your fabric out of the sun. I would bring it indoors out of direct or indirect sunlight, just to ensure it doesn’t lose its contrast. During this time you’ll want to prep the rinse. Fill your plastic container with enough water to rinse the fabric according to the instructions included. As you rinse, you’ll notice the design will start to show more.
Step 6. Once the fabric rinses out clear (which may require dumping and re-filling your container a couple of times), you can add 1-2 tsp of hydrogen peroxide to the water to help the blue hue develop. Re-soak your fabric until all of the color has deepened.
Step 7. Ring out your fabric and hang to dry, out of direct or strong indirect sunlight. Once the fabric has been rinsed, it shouldn’t expose anymore, but I noticed that some of the silhouettes faded if it was in the sun.
Step 8. After your fabric has dried, you can iron your tapestry and prep it for hemming.
Step 9. Hem each side of your tapestry using Stitch Witchery, a cloth, and an iron. Give the corners a mitered hem for a nice finished look.
Step 10. Hang your new beautiful work of art!
If you liked this project and are ready to up your DIY game, try turning fabric into cyanotype fabric. Find our tutorial here.