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How to Make Marbled Fabrics for Quilts and Other Projects

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Introduction to Hand Marbling
Learn to Make Marbled Fabrics

Swatches of a few hand marbled fabrics. Far right and bottom: the Get Gel pattern, the pattern you'll make first.

© Janet Wickell

What is Marbling?

Marbling is the art of floating paints on top of a thick solution, called size, manipulating the paints into patterns, then transferring the pattern to an object by gently placing the object on top of the paints. You can marble anything, but we'll focus on hand marbling your own unique quilting cottons.

Carrageenan and methyl cellulose, sometimes called methylcel, are two different products used to make marbling size. They are non toxic and both are used as thickening agents in the food and pharmaceutical industries.

Carrageenan is a seaweed extract, and is the traditional marbling size. Some marblers prefer it over methylcel, especially those who work with watercolor paints on paper. They feel it gives them better control and results in more precise patterning.

I like both, but often use methylcel for fabric marbling. It seems to have a longer storage life than carrageenan, which spoils quickly in hot or humid conditions. Carrageenan also tends to become contaminated by acrylic paints after several "prints" of fabric. Try both types to see which you prefer.

Step through the following pages to learn how to make size, mix paints, create patterning tools and choose and prep fabrics.

Marbling Supplies

When you get to Page 2 you'll find a fairly long list of marbling supplies. Many of the things you need are already around the house, but others are more specialized.

Consider taking a marbling class before you invest in lots of supplies, or buy an inexpensive marbling starter kit (sold by several companies).

Related Video
How to Marble Color in Container Candles
Hand Quilting Techniques
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