Marbled Fabric Painting – Ancient, Yet Modern Surface Design

I could easily while away a dayor a weekendturning 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.

marbled fabric painting jo fitsell
Jo Fitsell’s marbled fabric painting.

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.

jo fitsell marbled surface design fabric
Jo Fitsell with her marbled surface design fabrics (on the table).

I have long admired Jo Fitsell’s marbling technique for painting on fabric. Using a few simple ingredientsprimarily fluid acrylics, water, and carrageenanshe 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?

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Fabric Painting & Dyeing, Quilting Daily Blog

7 thoughts on “Marbled Fabric Painting – Ancient, Yet Modern Surface Design

  1. I have taken Jo’s class and it’s fabulous and so much fun! She is a great teacher, clear instructions and creative suggestions. I can’t wait to get the DVD.

  2. I’ve been watching all kinds of youtube videos about marbling this past week. Kind of spooky that I started researching it right before this dvd is coming out! Why do you always make me want to spend my money?!? 😉

  3. I did a Class on Marbleing Fabric and paper about 18 years ago and it was so much fun. I made a small but beautiful landscape wallhainging with my some fabrics and did some caligraphy on the paper.
    Allow lots and lots of Time. If is very addictive.

  4. It is surprising how many materials can be marbled. I offered a marbling project to my 4-H youth enrolled in crafts. We marbled sunvisors, 98-cent flip flops, cards, and fabric. We put glitzy rhinestones on the flip flops and made pillow covers with the fabric. One 4-H’er received a champion ribbon on her marbled fabric pillow cover. The fluorescent acrylic paint was popular with the kids. My youngest 4-H’er was a kindergarden Cloverbud and the oldest is in middle school. Later in the year I will work with adults at the senior citizen center.

  5. I marbleized fabric and paper 10 years ago. But I no longer have the room to do it. It was so much fun. I assume the products are the same today as they were then. I hated the cost of the carrageen .
    I was always surprised at the way turquoise spread out faster and farther than any other color!

  6. I purchased the downloaded version of this video and have been marbling for about 2 weeks with some good results and some blah results. The process is simple but tedious and getting the paints to float is the trickiest part ever!