Capillarity in action

I like experimenting with new techniques. Today it’s capillary action.

I’m a big fan of screen printing. The whole ‘loackme’ adventure basically started when I received a screen printing kit as a birthday present. But the latest t-shirt I’ve made doesn’t use that technique. In fact, it’s not even printed at all. The fabric of the pocket is dyed by capillary action.

Since I was a kid, I’ve always found capillary action fascinating. How you could put a sugar cube into water and see it make its way up. It seems kind of magical to me. Lately, I remembered a high school experiment that we did in Physics class. We mixed blue and yellow ink, added some water and then placed a band of blotting paper in it vertically with one end soaked in the mix. Wait a little bit and then you would see the ink travel up the paper and separate into yellow and blue traces, because one colour pigment being lighter than the other, it would migrate farther. That was so cool.

Building on this recollection, I started to experiment again, but with fabric this time. I cut some old cotton and linen clothes that I had kept around just for this kind of situation, I created dyeing baths from diluted printing inks and I was all set up! It was as fun as I remembered. You can get a lot different patterns depending on the fabric you use, how long you let it soak, the inks you’re mixing, etc. Below, a sample of what I’ve got.

Of course, my monochromatic brain brought me back to shades of grey and that’s what I went for with the Capillary Tee. Yeah, I know, it might be a bit corny, but well, one has to do with one’s sense of humour. The key was to design the dyeing process so that it was kind of reproducible, but with a little bit of variability for the sake of fun and uniqueness. I’m now pretty satisfied with what I have. Let me show you how the dyeing goes. This one took around 40 minutes but I sped it up a little for you (20 and then 80 times).

A bit of drying, a bit of folding, a bit of sewing and you got yourself a pocket tee. You can see the result here. Let me know what you think about all this in the comments below!

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