I have marbled with paint which gives great control, and I have dyed with fiber reactive dyes which give good color and hand, so now I was keen to see if I could combine the best of both worlds and try marbling with fiber reactive dyes. I started out writing this post with all the recipes and directions thinking that someone might want try to do this too. But by the time I reached the rinse out stage at the end of the day it was clear that all I produced was a big bucket of fail. I put my resources and recipes at the end though in case anyone wants to avoid my mistakes.
In preparation for my marbling experiment, I mixed up a batch of carageenan size on which to float the dyes, just as I would have for regular paints. I made thickened dye paints using information gleaned from the internet. I used two recipes for comparison. One pretty standard, one with a little oil used to keep the thickener from clumping (which I thought might also help with that whole floating on water thing one needs with marbling). The dye paints are a mixture of dissolved Procion dye powder, Print Paste, and water mixed with urea. I dripped a few of these on to my carageenan water and they seemed thick, so I let it all sit overnight with the plan to thin the paints with more urea water in the morning. On marbling day, I soaked my fabrics in a solution of water and fixative, then hung them to dry.
To start, I thinned my basic dye paints with a little urea water. They sunk. I increased the urea water, but the paints still sunk. I tried the dye paints with oil and had more floating and less sinking the first time, but the colors were blotchy due to the oil. At this point, I laid a piece of fabric on top to see if the dyes would even transfer and to my delight, they did! Unfortunately, when I switched to marbling with the dye paints with oil, they all decided to sink just like those without. Looking back, I see in my Dharma catalog a wetting agent called calsolene oil. I wonder if I could float concentrated (but unthickened dye with calsolene oil on my carageenan size. Hmmmm…….
I vaguely remembered seeing instructions for dye marbling with shaving cream that recommended leaving the fabric a few minutes before removing it from the size, so I kept that in mind when I was testing my fabrics. However, after less than a minute the fabrics started to sink so I had to take them out. After sitting on the sidelines about 10 minutes, even the faint pattern they had disappeared. So, after all my variations of thinning and oiling failed, I thought I might as well just go ahead and try the shaving cream method.
I went back to my undiluted dye paint (the batch with oil since I wanted to save the standard batch to paint with directly in case of complete catastrophe) and added shaving cream to it thinking that this wasn’t too far from the formula on the Dharma instructions. Certainly this technique is easy — especially if one doesn’t go through the exercise of making up the now unnecessary print paste the night before. The carageenan size was a complete loss, though I did contemplate saving it to use with paint. I decided I’d rather just make a fresh batch if it came to that.
Marbling using the shaving cream technique went pretty smoothly and the results batched in the sun under wraps for a good five hours. I really hoped the colors would be as vivid when done as they looked while wet. Washout does not look promising though.
Because I had taken the trouble to make up the dye paints, I decided to do some painting directly on the fabric. Painting went pretty well, so I handed over the operation to the Jr. Redhead. About half way through her painting the table tipped and everything came crashing down around her. We saved the red paint, and she emerged unscathed and undyed except for some black splodges on her hands. I cleaned everything up while she shakily painted a few red hearts on her fabric.
The reason people marble with paint is because it works. Perhaps I need to experiment not on dye versus paint, but on better fixing my paint with more time under the iron or in the dryer. Marbling on shaving cream is fun and easy to do. I’ve seen pretty nice, if grainy, results online, but my attempts look like the black is a complete blur. I have high hopes for the pieces we painted on directly, but they have no marbling, which was the whole point. Now I have to decide whether I want to return to traditional marbling with paint tomorrow, or order new supplies and try unthickened dyes, perhaps with calsolene oil. If I have to order though, I may be cutting my time too short for the 12×12 deadline.
The Recipes (if you really want to keep reading):
DISCLAIMER: I am not a frequent nor expert dyer. The following is merely an experiment put to digital paper as reference mainly for myself. It is an accumulation of advice from many places such as a dying class taken from Dijanne Cevaal, fabric marbling with the book “The Ultimate Marbling Handbook” by Diane Maurer-Mathison as guide, and online resources such as Prochem and Dharma Trading Company.
My base or size on which to try floating the dyes is a mix of 3 Tablespoons of carageenan to each gallon of water. I mixed enough, with my immersion blender, to have at least 2 inches of size in my designated tray. I use this when I marble with airbrush paints. It is mixed up the night before so it could properly thicken and the air bubbles could subside. In a perfect world I’d use distilled water, but I am too lazy to go buy special water for a project.
To make the dye paints I followed various tips found online as follows:
First, I mixed urea and water: 1 cup warm water to 7 teaspoons urea.
For the print paste, I mixed 3 cups warm water, 6.5 Tablespoons urea and 8 teaspoons sodium alginate thickener. I mixed this all up and allowed it to “rest” for several hours. I also made a batch in which I added 1 Tablespoon canola oil to the sodium alginate to minimize clumping. This was intriguing because since oil and water don’t mix, I thought it might be helpful for floating the colors on the carageenan water base. Other results notwithstanding, adding the oil definitely helped decrease clumping. Many recipes also suggested adding water softener to the print paste. I did not have any, so I skipped this step. It may be something I regret.
To make the dye paint itself I dissolved my Procion dye powder into just enough of the urea water to make a paste. I used 1 tsp powder for the red, pearl gray, and light black (which due to powder formulation should be a different grey than the pearl grey). I used 1 tsp yellow and 1/2 tsp red to make orange, and I used 4 tsp black since all sources said black needs more. To the blacks, I also added a teaspoon or so of table salt. I did not see reference to salt online in conjunction with dye paints or marbling, but in my class with Dijanne we used quite a bit in immersion dying and my new Dharma catalog had a small reference to use salt with blacks in tie dying so I did. Then I added a generous glug of print paste to each jar, duplicating some of the colors but using the print paste with oil just for comparison. I topped off each potion with enough urea water to make 1/2 cup of dye paint.