Marilla Walker has launched a fabric swap on her blog. This requires participants to print a metre of fabric and send it to another blogger. I have signed up because I love printing fabric. This dress which I have on today (it’s still boiling in London) is the reason why.
I wanted to try to recreate “Blades” the iconic DVF fabric in order to make – the iconic DVF wrap dress.
Had I wanted an absolute replica I may have resorted to bidding on eBay for a genuine piece (approximated $1000) or I might have tried to get a firm like Spoonflower.com to print a similar version ($26.50 a yard for jersey, plus tax and postage). But I am like the Granny in Goodness Gracious Me, who always claims she can “Make it at home” for a fraction of the cost.
Meera Syal as Ummi. Picture from the Guardian
The fabric I used – Adult Ed cotton – costs around £2.50m. But of course making the fabric took me weeks of labour!
I downloaded images of Blades (based on blades of grass), used tracing paper to copy the design, transferred it to a piece of Lino, and cut out the white sections of the pattern. Hard work, but good for the biceps! Once completed I used Permaset ink in Red to transfer the image to the cotton.
After the lino printing is complete it is left to dry, then ironed with a hot iron to fix the colour.
As you can see the print is roughly similar to the original, but of course the pattern register is far from perfect. But I didn’t even try to get a continuous pattern, and you get see marks on the fabric where the block printing starts and finishes. Block printing is a traditional and rather ancient approach (going back around 3000BC) and to me this is its charm. It is the kind of thing you can do at home. The ink is not especially even.
But the main problem with my project is that, try as I might, I could not get my lino to print effectively on my chosen and appropriate fabric, cotton jersey. The DVF iconic wrap dress is designed for a knitted fabric – albeit silk rather than cotton or viscose. I tried various techniques on cotton and viscose jersey but the ink just didn’t absorb. My tutor suggested trying mixing powdered procion dyes into a binder instead of the commercial ink, but the effect was even more patchy. In frustration I used the lino block on woven cotton and the results were very good. Unfortunately most DVF patterns call for a knit rather than a woven so my project was in jeopardy.
On this occasion I threw caution to the wind and made up Vogue 1553, a pattern I had already successfully made up in jersey. Unfortunately, as every child knows, woven cotton doesn’t stretch much. As a result there was insufficient ease over the bust. The dress is really closely cut around the arms. It looks fine but I had to deploy a little trick. I stitched on the buttons with shirring elastic. It now has just a little bit of give.