There are so many variables in making cyanotypes.  With the help of all things photographic guru David A., I devised a way of controlling the time that the images are exposed to UVA light.  

If my exposure of 1/15th sec on my camera = 4mins under UVA (because that is what I determined at the start of my experimenting)  then 1/30th sec = 2 mins under UVA.

If everything else was equal, then that would logically follow.  But it isn’t.

The variables which get in the way are: 

  1.  How long the hydrogen peroxide has been exposed to the air – the longer it stays, the more oxygen it has absorbed from / has given up to the environment and so the weaker its effects = the lighter the final ‘cyanotype  blue’ it is.
  2. How long the cyanide mix has been standing – the longer it stands, it seems, the more exposure time it needs – I haven’t worked out why yet.
  3. I had forgotten that for our cyanotype training last year, we had to take 2 copies of the digital negatives to make the resultant cyanotype clearer.
  4. The accuracy of the timing device.
  5. If I paint the cyanide mix onto the cotton, it dries blotchy but smooth.  If I soak the material in the cyanide jar mix and squeeze out the excess liquid, it dries creased.
The cyanide-soaked material on the top left was mixed 4 weeks ago.  The one on the top right was mixed today.
this print was made with the original cyanide mix 
and exposed for 4 mins.  I judged it too dark.
Same time exposure but different hydrogen peroxide freshness: left old HP , right: New HP
Camera exposure: 1/40th sec and therefore should have had 2 mins (right) I redid it but increased the timing to 3 mins (Left)   HP was newly mixed but still the old cyanide mixture.
Rosemary success: 1/15th: 4 mins.
Red cabbage: 1/15th sec: 4 mins.

The last 2 examples look much better in the photo than they do in reality.  maybe I’m just picky & want it to look like the design I made in Photoshop?

I found the time dial on the UVA lamp very crude: I could not get 2mins 30 secs but had to guess so I started using the timer on my phone.

The fennel has come out quite well:

Again, exposure time was critical here: top fennell I used the lamp timer; the bottom one I used my phone set at 2mins 30 secs.

Rabbit left: old stock of everything and 1 digital negative: 3 mins exposure.
Rabbit right: new stock of everything; 2 min exposure.  L = too dark; R = too light

6 thoughts on “Progress on my quilt cyanotype experiments.

    1. The UVA lamp I am using ( a birthday present from Steve!!) is the 6 bar Efbe Schoff. I have increased the exposure time to 4 mins now & the results are much better. With 35 panels to make, I could not rely on sunlight at this time of the year. I met a lady recently at the local sailing club who has been making quilts all her life so she is going to give me a hand with that side of things when she comes back at the end of January.


  1. That sounds very promising. I’ve been finding that just over an hour of sunlight works reasonably art the moment – but then one has to rely on the sun staying out for that length of time!
    Great that you’re going to have someone experience in quilt-making to help you out as well. Reminded me of the lovely novel I read “How to Make an American Quilt” by Whitney Otto.


    1. Sue is going to give me the sewing info I need to cope with that aspect. I have just extended the ‘cooking’ time to 6 mins & it works like a dream – I might have to redo a whole lot of other squares!


  2. I haven’t explored cyanotype printing yet but have always been intrigued by what I have seen others do. The logistics of getting all of your squared cooked to the same extent is just mind boggling though when there are so many variables.


    1. It is! I have had so many failures! But, yesterday I had a lot of good ones – I increased cooking time to 6 mins across the board & tried to see where it failed & where the strategy worked – I hope to have an update this evening after I have done the last 3 squares ;))


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