The cyanotype print process is a really fun summertime craft project for all ages. Allowing the sun to penetrate coated paper or other natural fibers, you can create beautiful works of creative art. On coated paper, we can play with knit stitch pattern swatches to create new graphic prints. I love creating new ideas for my Summer Knit Series, so let’s have some fun to create new graphic prints with our knitted work.
Taking it a step further, we can also coat knitted pieces to become our canvas! Add a bit of burlap and muslin into the mix, and the possibilities seem endless.
CLOSER LOOK at the Cyanotype Print Process
A Cyanotype is a vintage developing process created in 1842 used to make blueprints. The chemicals are a mild photosensitive solution by mixing equal volumes of an 8.1% solution of potassium ferricyanide and a 20% solution of ferric ammonium citrate. Today we can either purchase cyanotype paper ready-made or easily mix our own solution from a premixed cyanotype sensitizer set.
Natural sunlight and UV lights exposure makes the magic happen. Placing objects onto coated cyanotype mediums allows the light to create a silhouette effect to make photograms. After rinsing your work in water and hydrogen peroxide, the exposed areas will develop to a vibrant Prussian blue, while the areas covered by your materials will retain your medium’s original color.
MATERIALS for the Cyanotype Print Process
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Photogram Objects: Any household, craft, or natural item that inspires you. Think of leaves, flowers, knick-knacks, stickers… the possibilities are endless. And as you’ll see, I’m using my knit stitch pattern swatches to create designs on cyanotype paper.
Contact Prints: Photo negatives or transparencies allow a positive image to appear.
Blocking Mats: To easily stretch your knitted work for the best sunlight exposure, use Blocking Mats. I love my set of 9 blocking mats from Knit IQ.
Luna Photo Frame by Umbra: The photo collage frame that I used to display my knitted cyanotype prints is the Luna Photo Frame by Umbra.
Gather Up the following items, too:
- Hydrogen Peroxide
- Latex Gloves
- Small Plastic Measuring Cup
- Paint or Sponge Brush
- Plastic Cup or Dish
- Plastic Tray or Small Bin
- Plastic Bags
- Glass Pane from Photo Frames
- AVOID Metal Objects
- DO NOT USE items like cups or trays that will later be used for food or kitchen purposes
WATCH VIDEO TUTORIAL
SUN-DRENCHED KNITTING ART CYANOTYPE PRINT
CYANOTYPE PRINT PROJECT PREPARATION
Workstation: Organize your craft materials and set up a safe workstation.
Safety: Ensure your project is being managed by an adult and follow all safety precautions listed in the product information.
Mix Chemicals: Prepare your Cyanotype Sensitizer Set as instructed by the product packaging with distilled water. The instructions encourage you to shake your solutions well, then allow to sit for 24 hours prior to usage. I’m happy to report that I detected no odor from my solution, so that was a nice surprise.
Sun Art Paper: If you are using pretreated cyanotype paper, feel free to skip to Day 3 now!
COAT CANVAS MATERIALS FOR CYANOTYPE PRINT
Lighting: If you are crafting during the daylight hours, you’ll need to work with as little natural light exposure as possible. Create a darkened space in your home and allow just a necessary amount of light. I worked in my pitch-dark bathroom with a vintage photography Paterson safelight I saved from my Dad’s 1970s darkroom. Love working in that red glow!
Mixing: As your Cyanotype Sensitizer Set instructs, mix equal parts of solutions A and B in small amounts into your plastic surface or cup. I personally used a little medicine cup holding 30 ml, about 2 tablespoons, to mix each batch of my solution.
Painting: Using your brush, simply start stroking the mixed solution onto your canvas materials. If using watercolor paper, you’ll find that it requires a very small amount to cover. Either paint in very clean strokes or enjoy more painterly effects by dripping and swirling your solution. My Cyanotype Sensitizer Set says it will coat over 65 prints on size 8″ x 10″ paper, if not more.
Drying Time: Allow your canvas materials to dry naturally in the dark. Minimize exposure to natural light. To speed up drying time, use your hairdryer on the cool setting in moderation. I found that watercolor paper dries fairly quickly, allowing you to move on to the next step of getting into the sunshine within about 20 minutes.
CYANOTYPE PRINT MAGIC
Layering Designs: Continuing to work in as little natural light as possible, layer your items with your canvas item on the bottom with your photogram objects on top. Pop out some glass panes from photo frames and place atop your work. Weigh your entire project down with small objects like rocks to keep your project firmly in place, so that it won’t shift from movement or wind while outside.
EXPOSURE IN THE SUNSHINE
High Noon Time: Keeping your project under wraps, bring it out into the sunshine. The ideal time is at solar noon so that the sun is shining directly down upon you, rather than angled from the side of your work. High noon doesn’t necessarily occur exactly at 12pm in all locations. Daylight Savings Time and location within your time zone is a factor to keep in mind. Websites like SunCalc.net can help you determine exactly what time your area has the sun in the solar noon position. You also can look at your own shadow. If it’s directly under you, it’s time!
Exposure Time: Uncover your masterpieces and allow them to bask in the sun for approximately 5 to 15 minutes. The longer the better, as long as your objects don’t shift atop your canvas.
DEVELOP YOUR CYANOTYPE PRINT
Bath Time: Within the first 2 hours of sunlight exposure, finish your project by giving it a bath. Wearing your protective gloves and a bin or tray in the sink, start rinsing each item off in cold running water. I like to swish it a bit in the water caught by the bin, pour it out, and continue the process until the water collected in the bin is clear.
Vibrancy: Your print design will become more pronounced as it dries. To speed up that process, do one last bath with 1 teaspoon of Hydrogen Peroxide per each 1 cup of water. Swish your artwork for about 5 minutes in this solution, then lay out to dry.
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