How can I dye shirts with a marbled effect by floating dye on the surface of water?

Name: Lynn


Jacquard marbling starter kit

Jacquard Marbling Starter Kit

Create colorful, funky swirl patterns on paper, fabric, and more! The traditional art of marbling is a great way to apply beautiful colors. Each application is one of a kind! The Starter Kit contains six 0.5 oz (15 ml) colors: Black, Blue, Green, Red, Yellow, and White. Washable and non-toxic.


Procion mx fiber reactive cold water dye

Procion MX Dye

mix with cheap shaving cream for marble-like foam dyeing

When mixed with soda ash, Procion dyes are permanent, colorfast, and very washable. You can easily create a palette of brilliant colors ranging from light pastels to deep, vibrant hues.


Country or region: Michigan, US

Message: Good morning, I found your site through google search, I have to say it's amazing. I'm trying to figure out how to dye shirts(cotton tank tops or wife-beaters) by floating the dye on the top of the water, to get a marble effect. I've tried every search I can think of and I'm getting nothing. Is there a name for that type of dying? Do you have any idea how to do it? I want it to be similar to the Easter egg kits you can get, the dye floats on the water and you put the egg in and it comes out marbled. Hope you can help, we are looking to do this for my daughter's baton team and I want it to look just right.

What you're looking for is, in fact, called marbling. You cannot do marbling with dye, because dye is water-soluble and just mixes with the layer below; instead, you use the right sort of fabric paint. The fabric paints are floated on the surface of a thick mixture of carageenan in water, then swirled around in the characteristic marbling patterns, after which you lay the fabric down flat on top of the layer of paint. Dharma Trading Company provides a good tutorial for marbling fabric, complete with links for ordering all of the materials.

Alternatively, a completely different form of dyeing, foam dyeing, gives effects rather similar to marbling, and is suitable even for use by beginners. Start by soaking 100% cotton or rayon in the same soda ash presoak that we used for tie-dyeing, one cup of soda ash per gallon, then line-dry the garments so that they still contain the soda ash, but no water. Then use the cheapest brand of shaving cream, mixing it with a strongly concentrated solution of Procion MX dyes in water. Spread the different colors of your dye/foam mixture out in a tray and manipulate them to make your design, then lay your soda-ash-treated fabric on top of the dye foam. I first learned of this technique from John Choma on the DyersLIST mailing list in 1997, but it has since become very popular. Again, Dharma Trading Company includes directions for foam dyeing with Procion MX dyes now, and they are easier to understand and follow than Choma's ever were.

With both of these techniques, practice is required for better results, so be sure to try some test pieces before you start your daughter's team's project.

(Please help support this web site. Thank you.)

Posted: Tuesday - June 26, 2012 at 09:50 AM          

Follow this blog on twitter here.

Home Page ]   [ Hand Dyeing Top ]   [ Gallery Top ]   [ How to Dye ]   [ How to Tie Dye ]   [ How to Batik ]   [ Low Water Immersion Dyeing ]   [ Dip Dyeing ]   [ More Ideas ]   [ About Dyes ]   [ Sources for Supplies ]   [ Dyeing and  Fabric Painting Books ]   [ Links to other Galleries ]   [ Links to other informative sites ] [ Groups ] [ FAQs ]   [ Find a custom dyer ]   [ search ]   [ contact me ]  

© 1999-2011 Paula E. Burch, Ph.D. all rights reserved