Workshop: Devore Textiles

Devoré comes from the French verb dévorer, meaning literally to devour. I used this technique on the project Faded Glory for this exact reason, that the USA is being devoured and its constitution being destroyed by the new administration.  However, in this blog post I want to focus purely on the technical aspect of working with this process, but the project Faded Glory can be found here.


Devore is sometimes called 'burnout' where you burn away a design or pattern. In short,  devoré is a chemical paste that is applied to fabric, it then literally eats away at the material to create patterns and designs. It does not work on all fabrics for reasons I will explain and different fabrics will create different effects. This technique is often used in the fashion industry on velvet fabrics, as velvet does not fray and responds to the technique surprisingly well. 

The general consensus is that it was developed in C17th France as a means of creating a poor man's lace - a quick and spontaneous method developed as a short cut to lace type effects. At this stage it is likely that caustic pastes were block printed onto fabric, being washed away once their work was done. Yet this is where its connection with the inferior ends.

The 1920s brought devoré velvet into the mainstream, no longer a cheap tactile alterative but a luxurious and desirable fashion fabric - many vintage examples are still available. Further developments in fabric construction and fibre combinations fuelled a resurgence of interest in devoré velvet in the 1980s and 1990s when fashion garments flooded the market. Designers like Joseph Conran and Georgina Von Etzdorf revived the 1920s fabric with florals, swirls and brocade designs made into scarves and dresses in deep rich hues.


It does not work on all fabrics and the reason is that it only eats certain kinds of fibres, those refered to as cellulose. These are all non-animal fibres, so it won't work on suede or leather or wool. Below are photos of my test results using different fabrics.

Which artists have used it in the past and to what effect:

Lesley Richmond

In a future post I will be covering how my tests worked and how that effected what I did with FadedGlory. I also hope to cover something of the craftsmanship aspect of the process and how it compares with the technological aspects of  FadedGlory. I will also talk a bit about what I would like to do with the technique in the future.

Other references;

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