Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Catch of the day: dyed fish

Here's my second dyeing project in which I tried out uncooked flour resist.  That's what created the background of crackle lines and splotches.  This is from the book Off-The-Shelf Fabric Painting: 30 Simple Recipes for Gourmet Results by Sue Beevers.  Within chapters on Simple Free-Form Techniques, Background Textures, Print Techniques and Resist Techniques, the author demonstrates and explains clearly how to achieve results similar to the beautiful examples she has created.  She uses acrylic and textile paints, but I'm sure most of these techniques would work with thickened dyes – dye concentrate mixed with print paste – which is what I used.

I was intrigued by the uncooked flour resist, a 1:1 mixtures of flour and cold water.  After whisking them to a smooth paste, I spread it fairly thinly on my fabric, then raked through it with a notched plastic trowel.  I didn't achieve the pronounced pattern she shows in her example because it was a bit difficult to rake through the thin paste while keeping the fabric flat and unwrinkled.  The next day the resist had dried to a hard, brittle surface  which I crinkled up here and there to all allow the dye to penetrate.  I was somewhat cautious in my crinkling, unsure of how much dye would go through.
dried resist
dye on resist
first result

What next?  I remembered some very simple fish stencils from Stencilling by Lynne Robinson & Richard Lowther which seemed just the thing.  In their book, the fish are stenciled "swimming" across the front of a piece of furniture, the lighter colored large fish reading as a shadow of the darker large fish, which I don't think is obvious on my top, although I quite like the fish as design elements. I tried out placement by cutting the designs out of construction paper first, then I stenciled the fish and the arcs by dabbing on three related colors with small natural sponges.

 Here they are freshly stenciled, much darker than before they are cured, washed and dried.   I thought I was done, but after what should have been the final washing, the background looked too light, so I did another round of flour resist and dye, using a bit darker colors and being bolder in my crushing up the paste-covered fabric to let more dye through.  Last little touch was to dot on fish eyes of metallic fabric paint. And, of course, sew up the top. 

I'm already planning my next adventure in dyeing and surface design.  If you've ever had the urge to try it, just do it!  Make something you can wear or use, and have fun.  Just keep in mind, it's only an experiment; do the best you can, but don't let perfectionism (my bugaboo) deter you.  You'll be amazed at what you can create.


  1. Beautiful creation. The design is so captivating. Thanks for the dyeing lesson. It's a whole new world for me, so your thorough descriptions are extremely inspiring.

  2. Julia, this is awesome-I want it and better yet, I want to make something similar.

  3. This is beautiful - I can't believe you produced this using flour and water resist. Very clever and such a wonderful design.