I could easily while away a day—or a weekend—turning plain white fabric into a range of beautiful hues through fabric painting and dyeing. And after the Quilting Arts team’s successful experiment in parfait ice-dyeing, I’m itching to try a way of fabric painting based on the ancient technique of marbling.
Paper marbling for surface design can be traced back a thousand years to artisans in Asia and the Middle East. It started gaining popularity in Europe in the 17th century, when travelers to the Middle East brought back samples of marbled papers and used them to bind books.
According to Internet sources, when English maker Charles Woolnough published his book The Art of Marbling in 1853, paper marbling became a widespread craft. In the book, Woolbough describes how he adapted a method of marbling onto book-cloth.
Further developments in the art were made by Josef Halfer, a bookbinder of German origin, who discovered a method for preserving carrageenan–the substance used to thicken the water and support the paper or cloth in the marbling process.
Today, paper marbling is a craft the youngest preschooler can do, with supervision. It is also a surface design method that art quilters can use to create stunning, one-of-a-kind fabric.
I have long admired Jo Fitsell’s marbling technique for painting on fabric. Using a few simple ingredients—primarily fluid acrylics, water, and carrageenan—she creates stunning designs. She demonstrates the process in her Quilting Arts WorkshopTM “Marbled Fabric Surface Design.”
What amazes me is how simple this fabric painting technique is; little of the basic process has changed in the centuries since it was invented. Yet with Jo’s hints and tips in “Marbled Fabric Surface Design,” you can achieve intricate, layered patterns that are beautiful on their own, or when enhanced by stitch.
Yes, I could definitely spend a weekend, or more, on this fabric painting technique.
P.S. Have you tried marbling on paper or fabric? How did you like the results? What are your hints or tips?