Glue as Fabric Resist: I’ve Been Schooled

School Glue (i.e. glue that kids can use because it washes out of everything) as a resist is something I’ve wanted to try for a while. Jane Dunnewold recommends it in several of her surface design books.

Just make sure you use school glue. I used Elmer’s School Glue.

I took a simple prickly pear cactus design I’ve used for other projects, reduced it and drew it onto a piece of transparency plastic, then used my overhead projector to draw the repeated design onto a piece of cotton sateen. I first gave the cotton a coat of Jacquard’s No-Flow, a starchy liquid you can put on fabric, which when dries allows you to apply thickened paint/dye with little or no bleeding.

I applied the glue with a dental syringe. I bought a case of syringes from a dental supply company; they have a curved tip, which makes it easier to apply paint/dye. Here’s the glue-as-resist before it dried:

Dried glue on cotton is visible once it’s dry; but I also did the same thing to a piece of rayon/silk velvet (I’ve never used this fabric before, wanted to give it a try), and the glue was practically invisible on that fabric once dried.

I then added some liquid dye concentrate I made from my Procion dye powders, then added a small amount of the liquid dye to print paste to which I added some soda ash….which automatically makes the dye ready to “fix” to whatever natural fiber to which the dye is applied.

There was little bleeding of dye, and this is how the cotton fabric looked once I’d painted it with thickened dye:

The yellow “sun” was unintentional, that was a blob of yellow dye that landed, luckily, in a convenient spot.

This is how the silk/rayon velvet looked:

Once washed in hot water, I lost about 50% of the color in the cotton piece, though it still looks pretty cool:

But I lost less with the silk/rayon:

The velvet had a somewhat frustrating nap to it, and I had to kind of push the pigment into the fabric…so I wound up applying more dye. I applied less dye to the cotton, as it had a smooth surface.

I think the combination of No-Flow AND a resist agent was a bit of over-kill. I think next time I’ll use one or the other, but not both.

I want to use less print paste next time, and thus get more dye–and less paste, which carries the dye but offers no pigment–into the fabric.  Without the dye bleeding.  Also, I may just soak the fabric in soda ash water ahead of time, pin it to a work surface, let it dry and then maybe apply a dilute solution of No-Flow with a sprayer.

I think dye sticks to fabric better when the fabric has already been treated with sodium carbonate. That’s usually how I dye fabric, when I’m applying dye to fabric to create an intentional design (as opposed to creating yardage, then my dyeing strategy is slightly different, or when I’m screen-printingt: in that case, there’s a lot of force applied to squeeze print paste onto fabric, much more force than a mere paint brush).

I find that when I apply dye to fabric already treated with sodium carbonate, my finished piece–once it’s out of a hot-water spin through my washing machine–has lost little of it’s original color.

Plus, when you add dye to print paste with sodium carbonate already in it, the dye starts “fixing” immediately, regardless of whether or not it’s been applied to fabric. So, if you dilly-dally, you might spend a lot of energy painting with thickened dye that’s exhausted.

This was my first time using glue as a resist. I like it.  It held up well.

I plan to over-dye both of these pieces soon. I’ll try to use glue or No-Flow but not both. We’ll see!

Author: Clareannette

I love working and making art in the Sonoran Desert!

One thought on “Glue as Fabric Resist: I’ve Been Schooled”

  1. Cool! I tried glue before and I didn’t like it, however, I didn’t use a syringe. That’s a good idea.

    I paint with thickened dyes and I treat the fabric, let it dry, trace out my design if I need to, then paint.

    I use sodium alginate for the thickener and it worked great. No bleed. It takes a while for the consistancy to reach it’s thickest, so you have to be careful when you mix.

    I only worked on cotton.

    See Goo Goo to see how it turned out.

    I love seeing how you work!

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