Experiments with my quilt

I thought I would make a start with my quilt since I have not made one before & there are lots of tricky things which could go wrong in making 35 cyanotype prints on cotton.

Step 1: find out how to use resist on cotton: draw up the square around which the cotton needs to stay white and block it using wax: if it works on batik, why can’t it work on cyanotypes?  The article on the Alternative Photography web site, recommended by fellow OCA student Catherine Banks,  suggests using black silk painting outliner or vaseline as a resist.

Step 2: since I can’t find my old tjanting, buy a new one and a pot to melt the wax; buy wax..

Step 3: calculate the size of the squares which will accommodate 5 squares across and 7 down which have a 15cm image and, with a denim border, will fit on a 150cm X 200cm surface =  27cm cotton squares with 2 X 1cm seams and the same for the wadding.  The idea now is to sew the cotton and wadding squares with the seams showing on the outside of the quilt.

Cotton square on wadding DSC01521.jpg
27cm square Cotton fabric with a 15cm square drawn on it;  27cm lightweight wadding

Step 4: buy / beg used denim jeans for the quilt edge from a charity shop – plenty of those around – and wash them.

Step 5: cut up templates on card for the cotton; cut t2 trial pieces of cotton into 27cm squares and draw round the 15cm square centres for the image.  Melt the wax & go round the outside of the image square. Paint the inside with the ferric cyanide solution and leave to dry.

Step 5: Check the effect of the wax in the squares: disaster: the chemicals have seeped below the wax except in one small part of the perimeter:

Wax resist problem piece 1 .png
What has gone wrong?

Step 5: start experimenting to see what went wrong.  I thought that perhaps the cotton needed to be hot too so I tried:

Wax resist 1 DSC01503.png
1.  Wax applied with tjanting on cotton fabric over a leaf of aluminium foil, and chemicals sponged over.
Wax resist 2 DSC01504.png
2.  Wax applied with tjanting over a hot cotton fabric over aluminium foil.
Wax resist 3 DSC01505.png
3.  Tjanting applied wax on cotton on a wooden board.
Wax resist 4 DSC01506.png
4.  Apply the wax on a cold cotton but enclose it so that the chemicals are constrained – and will possibly push their way out.  they didn’t.
Wax resist 5 wax top and bottom DSC01507.png
5. Apply the wax on both sides of the fabric over a cold base.

As all the experiments were done painting the same side of the cotton which came out with a rough texture, I tried painting the back first – same result.

Wax resist Paint brush DSC01508.png
6.  Apply the wax with a tjanting on a cold base with a hard bristle brush on the back first and then the right side, both within drawn lines.
Wax resist 7 double layer on one side DSC01509.png
7.  Apply the wax with a tjanting in 2 layers, on a cold base, within drawn lines.

I then tried to iron the wax out but it left a yellow stain where it had been – do I change the wax or wait till I have exposed the chemicals to UV light and rinse in hydrogen peroxide and then wash it? I will first expose to UV, rinse & then try to iron out more wax.


  • The tjanting has a clean edge which I could not get when I was using the stiff bristle paint brush.
  • Applying the wax to both sides has no advantage over applying it twice to the same side.
  • The thickness of the wax is crucial in not allowing seepage.
  • I need to practise using the tjanting a lot more in order to control it better.
  • Try the vaseline method before I decide which leaves the better white border around the images in the squares.




2 thoughts on “Experiments with my quilt

  1. An excellent and scientific experiment. Would it make a lot of difference if you wholly treated a smaller square, created the cyanotype and then stuck or sewed the cyanotype square onto a larger plain white square?


    1. I might have to do that if the wax / vaseline / other resist stains the white surround. Part of the concept is the clarity of the white space around the individual plants which gives them their own life & I do not want that muddied. I should be getting the Ruth Brown’s book on cyanotypes on fabric & I am hoping that that will give me some answers. Thanks for your comments. I actually found it interesting to experiment with the different options. I also loved getting reacquainted with a tjanting which took me back to my batik days in the 1970’s!


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