How to Marble Fabric and Projects to Make
Marbled fabric is easier to make than you might think as long as you have the right materials and a patient instructor. You can achieve a variety of effects when you change up the techniques. It’s most fun to learn in a group – you can see many more possible design variations than you could possibly achieve on your own.
Class Is In Session!
Fabric Marbling with Margot Myers! I spent a fresh-air afternoon with Off-Grain Stitchers friends learning to marble fabric at Camp Huston in Gold Bar, WA. Margot Myers, from Bellingham, WA, did all the prep to get the fabric ready and prepare the size (the gel-like stuff that supports the paint and fabric on the surface). She gave us detailed instructions and provided all the dyes and tools, too, so we could just get to playing with color after her demo. Also important, she made sure to handle chemical clean-up and disposal properly.
Margot prepared the fabric so that it would accept the paint permanently. She soaked the cotton yardage in an alum solution, then hung each piece to dry thoroughly. With 18 of us in class, Margot got up early to start the process! The “size” is the gel-like stuff that the paint and fabric float on in the photos that follow. Carrageenan, a seaweed derivative, is the main ingredient. Margot made gallons of the stuff for us! That was a lot of work with the blender! The solution rested for 24 hours after blending to disperse air bubbles.
These are some of the tools that marble, swirl and spatter paint. Yes, Margot made those combs with toothpicks!
Here is Margot with her size-filled tray – see how smooth the surface is? The size rested before use to eliminate troublesome air bubbles.
Green paint and an eyedropper then rest paint on the surface. See how the color disperses on the size?
Drops of yellow paint push the green paint outward and then the design begins to form.
Dip a brush – even bundled broom straw – into just a little bit of paint to spatter tiny bits of color on the surface.
Then Margot adds more paint with the eyedropper. Use as few or as many colors as you want!
Now for some marbling action! Margot gently “combs” the surface to make a marbled pattern. But she works slowly to keep the paint on the surface.
Starting in the center, Margot then gently places the dry fabric on the surface of the painted size.
You can see the magic begin to happen!
It takes just a few seconds to saturate the fabric, and then it’s ready to pull.
Here’s the first piece!
Now for another one!
Margot shows us what happens when the fabric is not completely dry when you begin. The paint cannot adhere to wet fabric. So you can see the light spots where the wet fabric could not take the paint. You can decide if this is an “oops” or a design element!
Margot grasps two corners of the fabric, then pulls it from the surface. Do you see the paint remaining in the tray? Some of it sinks to the bottom. It is no longer on the surface of the size, so it will not transfer to the floating fabric.
Here’s the second piece. It’s easy to see the empty spots where the fabric was wet.
Shifting gears to red and blue, Margot drips paint onto the size. But a little bit of yellow and green remain from the previous print. If you want a clean slate, lay newsprint on the size to soak up previously used colors. You can use the same size for many impressions!
Here is the same broom straw brush that Margot used earlier. She drags colors with it.
The fabric takes on the color and pattern in a few seconds.
Finally, here is the marbled fabric. After printing, Margot then rinses each piece of fabric in plain water to remove the size. So now the pieces are ready to be laid out or hung to dry.
These are my pieces of marbled fabric sunbathing on the grass. I didn’t “clean” the size between uses – I just added paint for each piece, but the colors kept their integrity – never got muddy.
My badge of honor – paint-stained hands. So I’ll think about using gloves next time.
This is my marbled fabric after drying and ironing. The two pastel pieces in the middle resulted from taking second prints without adding additional paint after the first print. Because I just wanted to see what would happen!
I shibori dyed some cotton fabric in a class and ended up with fabrics that are mostly blue and green. So, in honor of the sensational Seahawks in Seattle, the city that reads, I made Seahawks Bookmarks! I had to add some beads. I really had to. Shibori is a Japanese dying technique that uses stitches, ties or clamps as resists to produce designs. The resists (stitches, etc.) block the dye from reaching certain parts of the fabric, resulting in one of a kind patterns. Experts in the process can predict results better than newbies can. It was such a fun surprise to unwrap each piece of fabric after they dyes were set! For this pattern, I bound the fabric over glass marbles all over with rubber bands and dropped the dye onto the fabric with pipettes. That allowed me to use more than one color, which immersing the fabric in a pot of dye would have given me. A narrow zigzag sewing machine stitch secures the fabric to stiff interfacing to make bookmarks with some heft. (They should be able to endure a lot of page turning!) Stitching beads on one end of each bookmark was an afterthought, but I think it makes them more fun – more Seahawky – and easier for family members to keep track of their own Seahawks Bookmarks.
I love the fun look of tassels, and I see them on more and more things lately. Tassels are easy to make so you can get just the effect you want with different fibers and embellishments. These 4-inch-long earrings began with some scraps of hand-dyed fabric that I fused to a stiff interfacing. I made two tassels with 35-weight cotton hand-dyed thread and put them on jump rings to make them easy to attach later, then cut the fused fabric pieces into rectangles. The sheen with the hand-dyed thread is so nice. A heavy rayon thread dyed in coordinating colors is stitched it to the outside edge of the rectangles – kind of like couching, but on the edge instead of on the surface. This thread covered the cut edges and hid the interfacing in the middle of the fused sandwich. I attached the tassels by stitching the jump rings to the rectangles, then added hypo-allergenic ear wires. These tassel earrings are fun to make and wear! The earrings are big, but they’re super-light and comfy!
Make a statement with these big tassel earrings, that just happen to be in Seahawks colors! So they’re perfect to wear to a game party, or to the actual game!
Marbled Fiber Bracelets
A fun thing to wear with jeans or a casual outfit, I made bracelets with some of my marbled fabric. Layered with batting and a coordinating cotton fabric, I then quilted the bracelets with meandering walking foot stitches and finished the edges with satin stitch. I had fun going through my button collection to find buttons to use as simple closures.
Browse through more ideas and inspiration for fiber art.