I wanted to show my friends Dianne and and Becky how simple this was to do. I will give some of the directions at the end as well as a bit of the problem solving (although I have a LOT to learn still in this sphere.
This was my favorite of the pieces I did and is a little different from what I have done before.
This was a smaller piece done to test one of the "sizes" I had made.
One of my favorite color combinations is demonstrated in this piece.
This could have been a nicer piece if not for the air bubbles. I am not sure whether they are air bubbles or just "stuff" left because I forgot to clean the top of the size with the newspapers after the previous piece.
I suspect this one was a second print but don't know that for certain. It is really beautiful.
Okay, now for some directions!! (My first marbling class was with Judy Simmons whose blog is featured in my blog roll, but since then have taken two classes with Elin Noble.) A lot of the information shared is from Dharma's website and a bunch is from those two teachers as well as my personal experience.
1. You can use any kind of fabric (although I think the natural fibers were best as they are naturally absorbent) but you need to wash them first and then do a soak in a solution of Alum and water (8 tbsps/gallon). These need to be LINE DRIED not in the dryer. These then need to be cut into pieces that will fit into your marbling tray comfortably. (You, of course could do the cutting first).
2. You need to make the marbling size at least a half an hour before marbling. I have been using Methylcellulose as my thickener. I used slightly warmed water. To make the size, you use 1 1/2 tbsps of Methycellulose to 1 gallon of water. You also need non-sudsing ammonia and use 1 tbsp per gallon of water. First add the ammonia and stir. Then slowly add the Methylcellulose, using a whisk to stir it in, constantly stirring for about five minutes. It will be slightly cloudy. Occasionally stir over the next half hour. IMPORTANT NOTE: The size and the paints both need to be about the same temperature so if the size is still warmer than room temp, you need to add a couple of ice cubes to cool it down (ask me how I know this!!) That is why you really need to make the size well ahead of time and keep it in the same area as you paints.
3. I find it helpful to have a second smaller tray to test my size and paints before roaring ahead.
4. I line my trays with either white or clear plastic bags so that I don't ruin the trays. This also helps with cleanup. I pour in the size and clear off the bubbles with strips of ripped newprint (save those newspapers, determine the grain -- yes they do have a grain -- and rip strips about three inches wide and the width of your tray). Drag these strips across and capture all the bubbles -- a bubble equals a white spot on your print. Keep a trash can handy as you will be doing a lot of this dragging of newsprint strips.
5. The paints -- any acrylic paint will do but there is a lot of testing here as well. Some work better than others. I prefer Golden Liquid Acrylics which are about the highest pigmented acrylics on the market and they don't have a lot of binders. It is also good to have either GAC900 (Golden paints auxiliary that keeps the paints open longer for working on fabric), airbrush medium or Synthrapol. The first step with the paints is to add water to the paints until they are about the consistency of whole milk. I drop the paint on the size to see if it spreads. If not, I may add a bit of the GAC900 or airbrush medium. I keep fooling around with each of the paints I am using until I get some predictability. If you don't have the GAC900 or the airbrush medium, you can use Synthrapol but very, very very cautiously. I make up a solution of a few drops at most of the Synthrapol in a cup of water. Add to the paint. If it still doesn't float, add a few more drops of the Synthrapol to the water. Too much Synthrapol (a strong surfactant) will eventually hurt your size. The most frustrating part is that even paints of different colors from the same manufacturer will act differently. After a while, like in dyeing, you get used to what paints need what. I have also found that it is best to not use opaque paints until you are almost finished with your size as these tend to make things fuzzier Opaques are great for working on colored fabrics though.
6. Now comes the fun part. You drop the paints gently onto the size and watch them expand in circles. You can use eye droppers (but don't let soap anywhere near them) or brushes made by putting elastic around a half to one inch bundle of broom straws. The first colors you put down will contract and each paint will contract as you add a new layer. I tend to like to put lots of paints down but some do less.
7. Once you have the top of the size covered, you can use rakes (for more traditional marbling), pins, anything you want, to swirl the paints around. The options are only limited by your imagination.
8. Next you gently lay the fabric on the size. I hold the fabric on diagonal sides, holding until it is pretty level and then gently drop onto the size with the middle hitting first. Doing it evenly is important for an even print. Then after I have completed the print, I put into a bucket of clean water and get as much of the size and alum out as I can without doing too much manipulation. Then it goes on a clothes line or rack to dry completely.
9 After it is dried, I iron it gently as this will set the paints. You can just wait a week or bake in the oven or any other method of making sure the paint is set I prefer ironing as I am inherently impatient!!
10. After the paint is set, you need to launder the pieces. I use regular laundry detergent and put on the gentle cycle. It is VERY important to not fold the fabrics before putting the into the washer as paint lies on the surface of the fabric, unlike dyes which chemically bond. This is also why I recommend line drying the fabric after you wash it. I have used the dryer for a bit to get the fabric a little dryer so I can iron the rest of the way. You could also wash out thoroughly by hand. It is important to get any residual alum out of your fabric (especially silk) as it will just rot it. Now you iron your fabric again and figure out why you made this fabric.
My uses for marbled fabric:
I have made probably close to 150 yards of marbled fabrics in 1/2 yard and 1/4 yard pieces since I took up marbling. Some are quite beautiful. A lot are not so much!! They are tricky to deal with however as the design is best seen close up, not from a distance. So I have been experimenting on uses and here is my short list.
1. Use as main or accent fabric in a jacket.
2. Make small items such as fabric wallets, cosmetic bags, book covers, needle cases -- something that you are not going to wash a lot,
3 Panels in purses,
4. Stand alone pieces that you just quilt.
5. Background for applique.
6. Features in small wall quilts that you look at close up.
There must be many more. I have used the marbled fabric like just regular fabric in a couple of my pictorial quilts.
All this being said, the more you do of this (and it is addictive if you like serendipity), the pickier you get when looking at your results! The pieces that I really really like, I photograph and have Red Dog Enterprises reprint for me. They are like Spoonflower but the owner is a friend in my Rochester art quilt group.