Colour on Fabric – Marbling.
With a view to seeing how coloured paints sit on fabric a friend and I got together to do some fabric marbling for a day. This was our second attempt and our results improved a lot from the first time. We used well washed smooth surface, closely woven cottons and fabric paints with additional textile medium as this helps the process a lot. We pre-treated our fabrics with an Alum mordant, dried them and ironed them very flat, each piece being roughly the size of our water bath.
The water and Carrageen bath solution was prepared the day before and left so that bubbles would disperse. However on the marbling day we decided to use an additional bath so mixed more solution and worked with it – including bubbles – to see what effects we would get.
We had a few basic colours of fabric paint and mixed up some more in plastic cups. We also had some regular acrylic paints so added textile medium to them and we dug out a lovely metallic pewter paint.
Getting the surface tension for the paints to sit on, the paint thickness and quantities of textile medium was a bit of a challenge but having done it before we had a lucky day and most samples were very successful.
Picture 3: Paints being dropped on to water surface.
Picture 4: Fabric laid on painted surface.
Picture 5: Raising the patterned fabric from the surface.
Part of the secret seems to be not to use too much paint or it just drops to the base of the container, and to work fast. Over a few minutes the paint on the surface starts to break up and the patterning becomes less smooth and splits into fragments. It is important to put the fabric down flat and that’s where having two people working together is a real benefit. All four corners can be held tight and the fabric can be lowered into the bath, smoothed over and lifted at one end onto a tray for rinsing.
Some finished pieces are below.
Picture A: Grey backgrounds with paints allowed to sit and start to break up before applying to fabric.
Picture B: Yellow green fabric with deeper green, black and orange paints applied.
Picture C: More of my overdyed clean-up cloth, used in previous postings, overpainted with black swirled into multiple thin lines.
Picture D: Black cotton fabric overlaid with deep red, purple, yellow (makes the green areas) and metallic pewter.
Picture E: White base with orange partially disintegrating and pink swirls.
Conclusion: Really fun day. This technique can be quite slow but with two baths and two people working together quite a number of samples can be achieved. The size limit of samples is ruled by the size of the bath surface. So if a kitty litter tray is used fabrics must be cut to that size. Surface tension changes depending on both depth and surface area of bath so testing is required. This can lead to a few disasters when getting started. The largest hand-made marbled fabrics I have ever seen were a fat quarter (50x55cm roughly) and now I’ve tried it I know why.
Results are somewhat unpredictable although colour choice and some pattern making can be done. I can see scope for these to be stitched on and embellished.