This is a compilation of QUILTNET postings about Marbelizing fabrics. All comments are the OPINIONS of the person who posted the message......................

Marbling is LOTS of fun. And I'll paraphrase Dharma, the place I order my supplies from: Marbling is easy in that you can get good results the first time you try it, and hard in that you get much better with a little practice. Basically you make a gel in a large flat tray, float paints on top of the gel, comb the paints into your pattern, lay the fabric on the pattern, pick it up again, and you're done! The gel is used over and over - I've made 30-50 different "prints" in a session. It works well with paper too. There is a lot of trial and error though. I could probably make several scrap quilts with my "experimental" fabrics. If you're interested, I recommend Dharma Trading Co for supplies. You can get a catalog by calling 1-800-542-5227. (I keep a catalog at my desk!) The catalog is fun to read and has a lot of fabric dyes and paints, plus cotton and silk yardage and clothing ready to be dyed or painted. ---Patricia

Before you marble the fabric, you pre-treat it by soaking it in an alum-water solution. The alum binds with the paints in the fibers so the design becomes permanent. (If you don't use alum, the design will smear & wash away.) The fabric you have has already been through the washing machine once, so it's colorfast. Always use paints, not dyes for marbling. Dyes won't float on the gel - they mix right in, so you'd have a beautiful gel but nothing on your fabric! I'm still experimenting with color intensity. The paints from Dharma turn out brighter, but they don't come in as many colors as I'd like, so I've been using Liquatex paints. Plus the Liquatex paint goes farther since it must be thinned, therefore it's lots cheaper. I think I would get brighter colors if I soaked the fabric longer in a stronger alum solution, but the alum does weaken the fabric somewhat so I make it as dilute as possible. I don't want the marbled fabric to disintegrate in a quilt before the other fabrics. The gel can be made from carrageenan, a seaweed extract, or a man-made substance called....hmmmm can't remember what it's called, but I don't use it. I've tried both and the carrageenan works better IMHO. In fact I had terrible results with the other stuff. One mistake to avoid - Dharma says to "dissolve the carrageenan powder in water". Do this with a BLENDER. You will stir all day and all night with a spoon before the stuff dissolves. I fill a blender with 4 cups of warm tap water, turn it on blend, then slowly add 1 tablespoon of carrageenan powder. Blend for about 30 more seconds, then pour it into your tray. I make about 1.5 gallons, or about one to two inches in the bottom of my 18x22" tray. The tray came from a photography supply place - it's a developing tray, white plastic. An oven roasting pan or kitty litter box will work fine too, or you can build one out of wood and line it with heavy plastic. Let your gel rest over night to get all the bubbles out. The paints are laid on the gel in what's called a "stones" pattern - basically just drops on the surface. I put my paints in plastic squeeze bottles - get these at hairdresser's supply places - and shake the bottles over the tray. The first color you lay will be compressed by the others into "veins", and the last will be more dominant larger circles. I use anywhere from three to ten, twelve? colors at a time. You can stop there, or comb the paints, swirl them around with a toothpick, or whatever. I made combs out of Fome-Cor board and toothpicks because I had them on hand. Make your combs the whole width or length of your tray so the whole thing gets combed at once. I have some with 4", 3", 2", 1", 1/2", 1/4" (you get the idea) spacing. There are some excellent books on making the different patterns. There are traditional patterns or you can make up your own. Marbling is very messy as you might expect. You need a source of running water nearby to rinse each piece as you complete it to wash off the excess gel. Everytime you use the gel, skim it with newspaper strips to get any leftover paint off before you start the next one. Use fabrics with natural fibers only. I usually use cotton, but silk gives very brilliant results. (I guess I want to practice some more before I buy silk in quantity!) Marbling is very forgiving. Quantities and temperatures, etc. can vary wildly and you will still get good results, just different results. It is very difficult to duplicate patterns! Your pieces can be as big or small as you wish, but it is hard to lay a larger piece smoothly on a tray by yourself. I think it would be fun for kids to do (I don't have any children :) ). I have not noticed any difference quilting marbled fabric. One nice thing about it is since you are using your own paints, all the fabrics you make can coordinate together even while they are different from each other - no worry about color matching. ---Patricia

Sorry to hear you're having problems. It is possible that you used the wrong type paints, but then I use acrylics also, so that shouldn't be it. You should be able to machine wash marbled fabric without any problems. Hmmmmmm.....the problem is there's so many factors that affect the final product. Let's see: Did you make your alum solution about 1/4 cup alum per quart of water? Did the alum dissolve nicely? Did the fabric get thoroughly soaked with the alum solution? I have had best results when I let my alum-soaked fabrics air dry on newspapers as opposed to drying them in the dryer. Some books recommend leaving fabric in the alum for several minutes, but I've never done that. Oh, did you pre-wash (with detergent) and dry your fabric to remove any sizing? I have read that pre-washing is essential and I think I forgot to tell you that in my original notes (sorry). Some paints need to be heat-set. If that is the case, I would rinse your fabric after picking it up from the size, let it air-dry, then iron it thoroughly on the cotton setting. Any of these things strike a chord? Let me know, and I'll keep pondering the problem. -------Patricia

About fabric marbelling, Kathy said: About 6-8 weeks ago there was some discussion on hand-marbelling fabrics. I couldn't resist and ordered a starter kit and couple extra paints from Dharma......The results were not always what I expected, but I liked everything...... Next, a question(s): After heatsetting the pieces of fabric, I waited 48 hours, then washed them, cold water, mild detergent, in the machine. Several of the pieces faded a bit. I was working from two sets of directions and one said to use 1/2 cup alum/gallon water, one said to use 3/4 cup/gallon. I opted for the 1/2 cup - should I try a stronger solution? One set of directions said let the printed fabric set for 2 weeks before washing, another said wait 24 hours. I waited 48 hours but some of the small pieces came out of the wash so fragile that they tore in my hand. Any ideas on where I messed up? Thankfully, the larger pieces seem fine. My fabric was new, 100% cotton muslin, quilting weight, unbleached. After I ran out of treated fabric, I was not ready to quit so I cut up some washed but untreated poly/cotton blends and printed them. When I rinsed them, the design lightened up alot, but is still there. I liked the subtleness of these, but I still haven't washed them. Have any of you tried marbelling "un-alumed" fabrics? After heat-setting will my designs still wash out?

I have done a bit of marbelling. Most of the directions I use are from "Marbelling Paper and Fabric" by Carol Taylor. For those of you who have not yet tried this, and for the purpose of contributing to a marbelling FAQ, here are the abbreviated directions: 1.First wash and dry fabric to remove sizing. If you do not do this, neither the mordant nor the paint will adhere to the fabric. 2.Treat the fabric with mordant (alum):this compound bonds with the paint to form an insoluble dye that adheres to the fabric. If you have too little mordant, the paint won't adhere to the fabric; too much, the paint adheres to the crust of mordant and both slough off when rinsed. She recommends 1/2 cup per gallon. (I have successfully used 2 ounces per 6 quarts of hot water. I do not know how that translates into cups per volume of water.) Soak cotton 30 minutes. Squeeze out excess solution, and dry in the dryer to prevent streaking that can result from non-uniform drying. Then press with an iron. We prefer a dry iron, as the tiny droplets of steam can change the surface of the mordant. 3. Cut the fabric to the size of your marbelling tub. 4.The "sizing" I have used is a product called "marblethix"; it is made by the Ceramcoat paint people. Others use carageenan, a seaweed product. Mix this up ahead of time (6-12 hours for Marblethix). This is the goop you float your paints on. 5. Mix paints (I use ceramcoat, or Deka fabric paints) with water to thin them. This way, they will float on the surface of the sizing. I add 2 parts water to 1 part paint. 6. Now the fun part. Drip paints onto the surface, make your designs, and lay the fabric, as smoothly as possible, on top of the design. The more paint on the surface, the darker your color will be. Lift the fabric off and rinse in cool water. Hang to dry. 7. Allow the fabric to cure for "two days to a week" (what Taylor says). Then tumble in a hot dryer 20 minutes or iron on the wrong side for three minutes to set dye. Now to answer questions: Taylor says that polyesters do not take color well, some poly/cotton blends are ok. But somewhere else, I read that poly satins do real well. Who knows? You will have to experiment with fibers. It would seem that un-mordanted fabric will continue to fade bacause what is "dying" it is only paint and not the dye that results from the mordant+paint combination; but I have no direct experience to back this up. Why some of the pieces became ultra-fragile is a real mystery. Most of ny marbelled fabrics HAVE faded a bit with washing. My newest experiences tell me that treating with Retayne might be a good bet to set any unset dye. ---Melissa

Have been reading the interesting discussion on marbelizing fabric and have something useful to contribute: The reason your fabrics are getting fragile is that they have been treated with alum. Alum is very harsh on fibers and will literally eat away cotton if left on for a month or two. It also destroys silk and rayon--don't know about polyesters since I never touch the stuff. When you plan to marbleize fabric, presoak your yardage in alum the same day you expect to do the marbleizing. Let your pieces rest for several hours, then gently rinse in cold water to release the alum. Then you can let the fabrics dry, heat set them with an iron followed by a good washing/drying in the dryer. The key here is DO NOT LEAVE THE ALUM ON THE FABRIC ANY LONGER THAN NECESSARY. One other thing that really struck me about the instructions in the posts was the large quantity of alum. I've been marbling fabric since the early 80's and use 5 TABLESPOONS PER GALLON. Using a half cup or more of the stuff is really risking fiber damage. One of my students experimented marbling WITHOUT alum. She marbeled the fabric, let it dry completely, ironed it, then washed it. She said it looked great, but the definition of the marbling lines was fuzzier than the alum-ed pieces (she actually preferred the fuzzy effect). So you *can* marble fabric without alum, only expect different results. You can also use things like acrylic paints to marble fabric for more intense colors. -------Judy

This weekend I marbelled some fine textured polyester grey fabric. The results were striking. Very subtle, but very crisp designs. I'd love to try silk, but I think I'll wait till I'm more confident.

>>Mary Beth (can't remember her last name - begins with a B - of the red >>coats&clark thread fame) suggested that the fabric weakness was due to not >>rinsing well enough. That makes sense since one of the pieces tore in an area >>that turned a little yellowish during the heatsetting (I used an iron). I'll >>bet the fabric speed-rotted under the heat. So when I marbelled the next >>batch I rinsed obsessively and had no problem. ----kathy

Some paints need to be heat-set. If that is the case, I would rinse your fabric after picking it up from the size, let it air-dry, then iron it thoroughly on the cotton setting. Most of the paints I've used for marbling need to be heat set. The recommendations are to allow the fabric to dry on newspapers over night. Iron on the worng side at the hottest temperature the fabric can take. Let the fabric sit for two weeks, iron again and then wash to remove the alum before it eats the fabric. I didn't follow these rules exactly the last time I marbled- and my favorite piece faded a lot when I washed it. I've had good results when I have followed the directions. Corrie and I held a workshop in my kitchen before Chrsitmas for members of our guild. We decided to try it again, during the summer when we could work outside with a hose for water and not have to worry about painting my freshly laid tile floor:) I've only ever used the carageenan, but Corrie has used the methyl cellulose as well. We couldn't decide if the behavior differences of the paints from her batch and my batch were due to paint differences, or due to the size (the stuff you float the paints on) difference. -----Denise