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Heat press fabric design workshop

Gina is running 2 more workshops this June (2023). Head to her website to book. Find the review of the workshop I attended below.

Everyday I am inspired by the vintage fabrics that surround me in my studio. I’m in awe of the colours, prints and textures. I love creating mini collections with fabrics from the 1950s to the 1990s. Fabric lengths that were made decades apart but work well together. So when I saw Gina’s heat press workshop advertised I jumped at the chance to create some of my own designs inspired by my vintage fabrics.

Gina is a fellow studio member of Craft Central in London’s Docklands. She creates beautifully designed textiles for interiors and accessories. We started with the theory behind the dyes, mixing them, the weight of paper to use to wash the dyes over. The timings of the heat press, how the structure and fibres of the fabrics create different colour saturation. I always loved my science lessons at school (excluding physics!) so I was happy to geek out at the detail.

I’d brought along some of my favourite prints that I had previously sold for some colour inspiration. I’m naturally drawn to the styles of the fifties with the black highlights and scratchy stripes. Gina explained that the colours of the paper are darker than the final result so we referred to the colour charts she had created. I experimented with a yellow-orange-brown colour pallet using charcoal as a highlight and the white negative space.

We experimented with creating stripes using tearing, scalpel and fun edged scissors. The fabrics need to be synthetic on order for them to react to the heat. I found the fabrics with a short pile, such as towelling and velvet, brought out a brighter colour than the loser woven canvas. The lycra swimwear sample wasn’t very successful but we think that was because it was in the press along with the thicker towelling and the inks didn’t have a deep enough contact with the fabric. All the fabrics Gina supplied are from factory waste.

During the last hour we created a design from our own inspiration. I’d been to the V&A the week before and my attention was caught by this tile by Reginald Till for the Festival of Britain in 1951. It represents the structure of zinc hydroxide. I knew that we would be using Polyester for the workshop so I set about designing a swatch inspired by the structure of this molecule. The result is very busy and I realised that larger, free forming designs work better using the heat press method. If I did this again I would use the hexagon as an inspiration only and have it floating on a textured background.

It was a delight to spend the afternoon cutting and sticking coloured fabrics, getting to the fundamentals of what makes a good fabric print design. Thanks to Gina from Pipet Design for a super organised and fun workshop. Gina is running two print workshops in June 2023. More details here.