Saturday, June 28, 2008

Chemical Reaction

I’ve blogged before about how much I love research. This week I learned about cyanotypes. What fun!

I talked to Linda Stemer, owner of She treats fabric, silks and cottons, with chemicals (potassium ferricyanide and ferric salt, if you must know) so that a reaction will occur when exposed to sunlight. This is an old process,discovered right about the same time as photography. It’s how architectural blueprints were made before giant copy machines were around.

Check out Linda’s website and poke around. Especially interesting is her link to the NY Public Library and the cyanotypes of Anna Atkins, the first woman photographer. Using images from nature, she made hundreds of prints. The ghostly images over a century and a half old are haunting.

Of course when I heard of this process, I start thinking of ways to use it in a Quilting Mystery novel. My experiments and my talk with Linda had my mind buzzing. You will have to wait until the publication of Ocean Waves, however to find out how blueprinting helps Dewey solve a mystery.

Here’s a photographic journey of the process.

This is what the treated fabric looks like. Kind of a pretty green.

Place your object on the cloth. I used a doily and some balsa palm trees. Put in the sun. I did this toward the end of the day and still got great results. Summer in California, you gotta to love it. Except for the smoke and the drought, of course.

After a ten-fifteen minutes, take to sink and rinse until water runs clear. I never photographed running water before and did this by accident. Very artsy!

Let dry flat. Ta-da!


Kathryn Lilley said...

I can imagine doing a wonderful pattern with autumn leaves. In the mystery itself, the fabric could show an odd silhouette that turns out to be the leading edge of the murder weapon, or something the murderer dropped by accident and then took away, not realizing it had left a shadow! Fabulous.

beckylevine said...

Very cool--I love the palm trees & QP! I think its amazing that both wood and thread translate onto the cloth.

Betty Hechtman said...

Wow, how totally cool. I love how you showed the whole process with photos. One question - does the background have to be green?

Camille Minichino said...

Chemistry combined with art and mystery .. my heart is full!

Lauretta6 said...

Wow I love Techno stuff. I could sure make a great quilt out of the fabric. What are you going to make with the doily print?

Terri Thayer said...

The original fabric is green because of the chemicals. The final color will always be blue (as in blueprint).

I'm not sure what I'll do with the fabric yet although I could certainly see myself doing a quilt with leaves or something similar. It's fun to mess around!