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Glossary

Dyeing: adding color to fabric by applying a dye. Dyes usually go through some chemical change that binds them to a fabric's molecules. This is different from paints, which sit on the surface of cloth and do not go through a chemical change. Dyes can be applied to cloth by immersing it in a container of dye solution, or by painting the dye on with brushes or sponges.

Discharging: the removal of color through the application of chemicals. Chlorine bleach is an example most people recognize. When you spill bleach on clothing accidentally, a chemical reaction occurs that alters the dye molecule and changes the color of the cloth. When this is used deliberately, a pattern can be created on the fabric surface. There are many kinds of discharging agents, but they all do essentially the same thing.

Devoré: a French term, also known as "burn out" in the U.S. One approach involves the use of a fabric woven from two kinds of thread—one is plant fiber, or cellulose, and one is animal fiber, known as a protein fiber. Cotton, rayon, and linen are cellulose fibers. Wool and silk are protein fibers. Sodium bisulfate is the chemical used in the burn out process. It is thickened, applied to the fabric surface, and heated. During this process the cellulose part of the cloth is destroyed and can be washed away. The protein fiber remains. When a cloth is woven from a silk/rayon blend for example, the rayon part of the fabric is removed by the chemical. The silk backing fabric is exposed because the rayon fiber is gone, and this creates the pattern.

Foiling: foils are plastic films manufactured to be shiny, resembling metallic leaf when applied to cloth. They are perfect for a bit of shine and high textural contrast. In order for foils to be permanent on cloth they must be applied to a permanent, water based adhesive, and heat must be used for the application, as opposed to rubbing or burnishing. Foils are surprisingly sturdy and if properly cared for, will withstand use on clothing and home furnishings. See Supplies for a wonderful source for foiling materials.

Puff paint: a fabric paint formulated by including tiny plastic beads in the paint. These are not obvious when the paint is applied, and it can be stamped, stenciled, or silk screened. Once dry, heat is applied by holding an iron over the surface of the paint and steaming it. The tiny plastic beads pop like popcorn and expand, raising the surface of the paint and giving immediate textural relief to the surface.

Resist: means what it says. There are numerous ways of resisting on fabric. A physical resist might be string or rubber bands that are wrapped so tightly they keep dye from penetrating the cloth. A liquid resist can also be applied to the fabric's surface—flour paste and Elmer's Glue are two very simple products that can be applied to cloth. Once dry, the surface gets an application of thin paint or dye and it colors only the areas not blocked by the resist. When that dries, the resist is washed off. The remaining pattern is a combination of the cloth color prior to the resist and paint/dye application, and the color added last.

Screen printing: a print screen is a wooden frame with a fine polyester mesh stretched on it. The mesh can be blocked with paper or a variety of liquid products, as a way of making a design on the surface. To print, paint is put inside the edge of the frame and then pulled across the mesh surface. The squeegee used to pull the paint forces it through the open parts of the mesh, which creates the design on the fabric. This process can be endlessly repeated as a way of patterning cloth.

Textile paints: these paints are water-based, which means they can be cleaned up with water. They are all related and have acrylic or plastic components—that's the part that makes them stick permanently to the cloth once dry. The companies who manufacture these paints advertise them as nontoxic, which means they are safer than paints with oil bases or solvent components. Paints specifically formulated for fabric have softeners in them so that they don't affect the hand of the cloth as much as a craft acrylic paint might. The paints can be intermixed and are formulated in various thicknesses. Sometimes paints are called "inks" on the label, but this, and other descriptive wording used on packaging, is primarily an effort to set paints apart by company. Any process—stamping, stenciling, or silk screen printing—can be accomplished with any textile paint made—thin to thick. The key is choosing the right tool and perfecting your technique.