At the annual Christmas convention of family and friends, we got a little too drunk and decided to marble some fabric for fun. (Okay, we weren’t really drunk, but we should have been.) Here are photos and a description of the marbling process.
Here is the process of marbling fabric, from start to finish.
First steps (not shown):
- Soak the fabric in an alum solution, so it retains the paint. Hang to dry.
- Build a shallow marbling tray, about 2″ longer and wider than the fabric you’re planning to marble, and 3-4″ tall. We built one out of wood, but I’ve also been quite successful in simply cutting down a cardboard box.
- Make broomstraw brushes for applying paints by cutting up, well, a broom. We used cable ties as a quick and easy way to hold the brushes together.
- Make marbling rakes. We did ours by using a nail gun to drive nails into a piece of wood at 1″ and 1/2″ spacing, but you can also make them by sticking (gluing) toothpicks into the cut-open end of a piece of corrugated cardboard. (The cardboard is nice because the corrugations naturally space the toothpicks at precisely regular intervals.)
- Mix up enough methocel size to fill your marbling tray 1.5-2″ deep. I got mine from Dharma Trading Co.
- Thin out the fabric paints and add flow releaser (also available from Dharma Trading Co) if necessary. Test your paints by dripping a little bit on a bowl full of methocel size; if it spreads out nicely and doesn’t sink to the bottom, it’s perfect. If it sinks, add more water.
Here is the empty marbling tray full of methocel size. In the background are the tubes of paint (we used centrifuge tubes because we had them on hand, but baby food jars work well too). Notice that we have covered up the left-hand side of the tray with single sheets of newspaper. That's because we only wanted to print half the tray, and the newspaper keeps the paint from spreading across the unused portion.
Here the marbler is applying paints to the surface of the size. She's dipping a broomstraw brush into a tube of thinned-down paint, then flicking the brush to release lots of small droplets that spread out on the surface of the size. If you click on the thumbnail for the larger photo, you'll be able to see that there are already paints floating on the surface, and that the flicked droplets are starting to spread.
Here the paints are starting to spread across the surface.
And here is the finished version after the paints have finished spreading. Notice how much bigger the splotches of green have gotten - this is typical of paints applied early on. They spread a lot.
Here the marbler is raking the paints with a skewer. Notice how the splotches get distorted as the skewer is dragged through the paints.
The completed design, ready to print.
Now the fabric is laid down over the paints. This is a two-person job; it's important not to jiggle the fabric or trap air bubbles as it's laid down; otherwise the print get distorted.
As the fabric goes down over the paints, it picks up all the paint adhering to the surface. You can see the design through the back of the fabric.
And voila! The marbled fabric.
Into a bucket for rinsing. After a gentle rinse, the fabric is hung to dry. Later, it will be ironed to set the paints, then washed again to remove the last traces of alum and methocel. And then it's done!
Paper can also be marbled (in fact marbling originated on paper). Here a photo mat is being marbled; to the left, a large sheet of watercolor paper.
Another series of photos, this time showing the effects of a 1-inch-tine rake. Here is the photo before the rake is applied.
Raking the paints with a twist of his wrist. Notice the spirals that appear!
The finished swirled product!