Seaweed Printing

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This morning I found some old samples of ‘seaweed’ printing, one of the first textile printing techniques I was introduced to way before I had any interest in creative embroidery. It was shown to me on a primary teachers’ course and I remember it being very successful in the classroom as it is so easy! Above is piece on satin that looks as though it has been done with ordinary poster paints. Below is a finer example, a more delicate seaweed effect, but still done with basic paints.

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I also have a nice sample, presumably intended as a background, where I have patched several pieces of seaweed printing on organza onto a white felt background.

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To print with this simple technique I used two pieces of Perspex (also useful for monoprinting). On one side I added some splodges of paint, deliberately using a cheap, plentiful version. Although something like Lumiere has beautiful colours it does dry very quickly and this technique is reliant on a bit of ‘squelch’ so quite a lot of paint needs to be used.

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Lay the other sheet of Perspex on top and press down hard. You will see the paints moving and mingling beneath you, spreading out into an organic shape. Carefully lift off the top sheet, lay it down flat, and then you will see two merged splodges of textured paint ready to take prints from.

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Now lay on a some ironed fabric. You may need to gently press it down onto the ‘fronds’ with your fingers but do not use a roller or smooth firmly with your hand otherwise all the seaweed will be ruined. You can take several prints from each area, depending how much paint you used in the first place. The example below is on a piece of curtain lining.

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On the sample below, probably the first print I took as the paint was thicker, I then added some embossing powder to the paint and gave it a blast with the hot air gun. This was possible because the fabric was thick and natural – it wouldn’t be possible on the samples I have done on organza. I love the effect of the embossing powder – a possible idea when it was all completely dry would be to flood the background with some dye.

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Finally the sample below shows the same print taken on some white crystal organza. I love the delicacy of this and of course the organza would allow the seaweed to be layered up with other fabrics. Even when the paint seems to be all used up it is worth putting on a sheet of thin paper, giving it a once over with a roller, and seeing how much you can pick up in order to make some decorative paper.

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