Flour Resist: For Surface Design, It’s Irresistable!

OK, I apologize for that bad pun.

After several days of either staring at the TV or holed up in my bedroom with only a chugging steam vaporizer and damp magazines for company, I pulled out the fabric and set off to make some cloud-themed fabric for my new art quilt.

Flour resist is a great, cheap way to get excellent results when it comes to designing fabric. I love it. I first read about it in the February/March 2008 issue of Quilting Arts magazine, and then again in more depth in a fantastic book by Jane Dunnewold, “Improvisational Screen Printing”, which I got myself for Christmas last year. I think I like this technique because it’s quick. Sometimes I get tired of the idea that art has to take forever!

I painted a mix of one part white flour, one part water onto cloud shapes I drew onto fabric:

If you don’t pin down the fabric at the time you apply the flour paste, the fabric scrunches up like this:

However, this didn’t bother me because I wanted an uneven, scrunchy surface, because that would make the dye pool in unpredictable ways when I applied it:

Technically, I think you’re “supposed” to apply paint or at least thickened dye…..because of course the more wet the pigment, the quicker the flour resist will break down. I think though that if you want an impressionistic design, or if you’re theme is organic–like plants, sea, sky–some unpredictable breakdown could be really attractive.

Here’s what it looked like the first time around; because, of course, I knew I’d have to over-dye it a few times to get the result I wanted:

So, I did the whole thing over again, applying paste and then squirting on dye with an eyedropper and letting it set in the warm sun for an hour….

After the second time around, this is what the clouds looked like:

The weather kind of took  a nose dive, and I wanted a bit more distinction in my cloud shapes, so for the third time I stapled the fabric down to keep it even, painted on the resist, and carefully sponged on dye, this time in my dining room with a lot of drop-cloth fabric on the floor and heater on to make sure it was nice and warm for the dye to set:

This is the finished piece; it’ll be the top bit of the quilt:

I’m piecing together all the screen-printed and dyed fabric today that will be the “quilt top”; and from that point on, the reverse-applique and applique will begin!

8 thoughts on “Flour Resist: For Surface Design, It’s Irresistable!

    • Catherine–Hey, thanks for your great comment. I TOTALLY encourage you to try using flour resist. It’s so simple, and the materials are so democratic. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Jane Dunnewold, but she’s got a lot of good stuff to say about this medium. Good luck to you in your creative projects!

  1. Thanks for the excellent post. I had just recently tried the flour resist and was feeling that although the texture I initially got was kind of neat, it still needed to be over-dyed. Then I began doubting myself. Thanks for the validation. Your persistence on yours was well worthwhile :-).

    • Kay, thanks for your post. Yes, I’ve found with flour resist that multiple applications of flour paste and dye are what’s needed for the best results. In fact, when I’m dyeing fabric for a specific outcome (as opposed to dyeing fabric for a “palette” for a project) I usually dye the fabric 2–3 times. It just makes for a richer design with more depth. Also, by applying lighter color dyes I have more options for future dyeing.

      I have a photo of a quilt called “Queen of the Night” which you can see on my “Art Quilt” pages; the part of the piece with the luminous moon/exploding star shape is a good example of fabric I had to dye 3 times to get the desired effect. I may have actually dyed that 4 times.

      Good look with your work. Thanks again for your feedback!

    • I’m a delinquent blogger due to a recent bout of back pain. Thanks for your comment; I’m glad you found the flour resist post informative. I’ve tried using other cheap household resists–school glue, potato flakes–but flour really gets great cool results. It’s so democratic and inexpensive, too.

      Keep on making art!

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