There are a great many interesting developments in the line of stencilling that can be evolved by those who are interested in experimenting, and one of the most fascinating of these is the stencilling on dark materials with an acid to produce a pale design. For not only can the pattern be made pale on a dark background, but the colour of the material can be completely changed by means of the acid, and frequently a most exquisite colour - combination is obtained. A description of how acid stencilling is done will serve to show the endless possibilities there are in this interesting form of stencilling.
A beautiful colour scheme consists of a piece of copper linen with the design in the palest shade of lemon yellow. The original colour of the linen on which the stencil was applied was an intensely dark tobacco-brown, and yet a coffee tone and pale yellow were the final outcome.
Another experience was with a piece of scarlet Cairo lattice-cloth. The result was a design in string-colour on a crushed strawberry background, very soft in colouring, and yet having no artistic colour value.
A dark brown arras-cloth stencilled with acid resulted in a string-colour design with an iridescent copper background. As arras-cloth has a linen thread crossed by jute, the acid has a different effect on the threads, giving a most beautiful iridescent colour scheme.
An interesting experiment was made with green denim. The design came out cream, while the dark green denim was turned into the beautiful shade of blue green of the willow tree.
The most surprising result was obtained with apple-green linen, which changed into pure corn-colour with a white design after it was treated.
An experiment on blue denim showed the design in pure white, while the denim's original colour remained unchanged.
All kinds of material can be subjected to this novel treatment. Some rough Shikii silk (olive green) assumed coppery tones with a cream design. Accounts of these experiments are enough to show my readers what endless possibilities lie in acid stencilling worthy of further development. Of course, small pieces must be experimented with first if the fabrics chosen are intended to go with certain colour schemes, but if they are made for Arts and Crafts Exhibitions, and only beautiful colour schemes are required, and when no special colour has to be matched, it would not be necessary to do a small piece first. The process for obtaining these various colour schemes is extremely easy, and are also very inexpensive. The recipe for the mixture is as follows: -
One ounce of tartaric acid. Forty grains of gum arabic. One ounce of water.
This quantity may be ordered at the drug store, and will cost about fifteen cents. It will nearly fill a 4-ounce bottle. Begin the work by laying some blotting-paper on the table, and then fasten the material firmly with drawing-pins. Then lay the stencil on the fabric, and apply the liquid with a stencil brush. The mixture looks like water, and has hardly any colour. Do not have too much acid in the brush, or it will spread under the stencil, and leave an uneven edge.
At first the design will only appear damp, and nothing apparently happens. A little faith is required, however, for the acid is doing its work. Hang up the material until the stencilled parts are quite dry.
The next process is most interesting. Make a bath of one pound of chloride of lime to one gallon of water. Chloride of lime can be bought by the pound at the drug store. It is put up in quarter-pound boxes, costing five cents, but possibly it can be bought loose at a cheaper price. Then take the stencilled material and immerse it in this bath. If it is left in only a few moments, the design will appear a pale colour, but the longer it is left in the bath the paler the design will become; the chloride has the effect of bleaching the parts treated with the acid. This is where judgment and experience is required, and where the opportunity for experimenting comes in, as the changes come about while the materials are being immersed. Chloride of lime does not hurt the hands, but, of course, it is advisable to remove rings.
When a pleasing colour has been obtained, take the material out of the chloride, and give it another bath in soap and water. I find that boiling the fabrics makes the design more distinct. The longer they are boiled, the more distinct the design becomes - in fact, it can be boiled until the design is perfectly white, but this is not always so desirable as the creamy, pearly tones, which are softer. Feasts of colour can be made by this process, but it is well to keep samples of the materials before and after they are treated, so as to be able to get the same colour-combination a second time.
After the materials are perfectly dry, it is necessary to press them with a hot iron on the back. Linen, arras-cloth, Cairo lattice-cloth, all kinds of silk, duck, cheese-cloth, or bunting, can, any of them, be used. A short-pile velveteen can also be treated, as this material can be washed, but it should be shaken afterwards instead of ironed, so as not to flatten the pile.
After the stencilling is done, clean the stencil with a cloth wrung out in cold water. Never roll the stencils, but keep them flat in a portfolio. If any little break occurs, they can be mended on the back with passepartout tape.
If the stencils are kept clean, they can be used either for acid stencilling or stencilling with colour, but it is evident that any mark of paint left on the stencil would soil the material. Perhaps the best way would be to cut out a duplicate of the design and keep it exclusively for acid stencilling.
Heretofore there has been a limit to the colour of materials to be stencilled, it being impossible to stencil on dark fabrics in an effective way, for stencilled designs of paint and dyes on dark tones give a melancholy result. But with acid stencilling the rich effect of dark materials stencilled proves a valuable addition. The variety of colours in which arras-cloth and denims can be obtained make these materials particularly adaptable. A softer material can be used for book-case curtains, and the advantage of a dark-coloured tablecloth in a furnace-heated house goes without saying.
Another opportunity for using acid stencilling would be on the house gowns known as "jiggers," now so popular with artists. A "jigger" is a garment worn by the Arabians, and many artistic women have adopted the fashion, and wear "jiggers" in the morning before they don their walking suits. They are also worn by artists as studio gowns. These garments are usually ornamented in some decorative manner, embroidered or stencilled. But acid stencilling seems particularly adaptable to them, as they are generally made of heavy, dark-coloured materials. The effect of a light pattern on a dark background, at once so unusual and striking, is fascinating. The light pattern somehow seems a conversion of the material itself, as it develops from its rich background. The stenciller must remember that the most artistic draperies are those in which the design is light, but not white. Cream or soft grey tones blend better with most colour schemes than sharp, white ones.
If my readers enjoy making experiments as much as I do - and I often get very good results - I know they will not be content to stop after the first few attempts, but will feel encouraged to develop this beautiful craft into something worth while, and will gradually evolve new and exquisite colour schemes to suit their special requirements.