by Allison Holland
I was very excited about the opportunity to play with Fiber Etch. Fiber Etch gel is designed to dissolve plant (cellulose) fibres such as cotton, viscose, linen and rayon. It is used for the “burn-out” process of devore and cutwork, while polyester, other synthetic fibres, wool and silk fibres remain intact.
My fabric samples included black velvet, satin, cotton and batiste. These were each pinned onto a sheet of newsprint paper as per the Fiber Etch instructions.
I applied the Fibre Etch directly from the bottle. It is easy to work freehand as the bottle has a narrow spout which releases a small amount of the gel as you draw.
I allowed each of the samples to dry thoroughly before ironing them on a wool setting on the reverse. A gentle, even heat activates the gel making it feel hard on the surface. This is when it is ready to be rinsed off, hopefully along with the cellulose.
100% Cotton (cellulose)
As expected, the dots I had drawn on the cotton fabric quickly dissolved into holes when it was rinsed under cold water. A tiny amount of the gel will dissolve the cotton to make very small holes. To make larger holes and prevent fraying, it is necessary to stitch the outline of the area to be burnt-out with polyester thread.
Batiste 72% Cotton (cellulose) / 28% Silk (protein)
The cotton content of the light-weight, gauzy batiste fabric dissolved very easily under the water, leaving a very delicate ladder of silk threads where the cotton fibre had dissolved. The danger here would be to overheat the gel and burn a hole in the fine weave.
Velvet 82% Viscose (cellulose) / 18% Silk (protein)
The luxurious black velvet fabric was a challenge. It is necessary to scrub the surface of the pile with the Fiber Etch spout to make sure the viscose fibres absorb the gel, unfortunately this gives an uneven coating. My first attempt failed as I did not iron the silk backing for long enough and only part of the design washed away.
For my second attempt, I left the gel to dry in the sunshine, and when I brought it in decided to heat activate the gel in the tumble dryer, which is recommend by the manufacturer. This is where reading the instructions more thoroughly would have paid off! It is necessary to check the item frequently when you use a tumble dryer and as I did not, the Fibre Etched areas of the fabric disintegrated in my hands!
My third attempt and I finally managed to create a devore leaf design on my fabric. Disappointingly, I over heated the gel on the left leaf which burnt through the viscose pile and the delicate silk backing, however the leaf on the right devored without a problem.
Satin 65% Cotton (cellulose) / 35% Silk (protein)
The satin fabric probably gave the most satisfying results. Devore on this glossy fabric is so pretty and reveals a silk netting when the cotton has been etched away. I struggled getting the amount of heat correct but when I did, the cotton fibre easily scraped away when it was held under running water.
I think results from screen printing with Fiber Etch onto velvet may be more successful as it is easier to apply the gel evenly with a squeegee. Plan your project, make sure you have the time to give it your full attention and take care not to overheat the Fibre Etch gel as it will burn fibres you want to remain intact. As with most of the crafts on the George Weil website, the techniques take experimentation, practice, and note taking to perfect.
This range of products can be seen in the Devore section of the website.