The Rit Studio: Marble Dye with Shaving Cream

How to Marble Dye with Shaving Cream

This technique for marbling fabric is based on the Japanese technique of suminagashi, which means “ink floating.” It is generally done on paper or fabric and involves floating ink or paint on a thickened liquid base. When using Rit dye, shaving cream is used as the base. The liquid dye is applied to the shaving cream and then swirled with a comb or bamboo skewers made into a rake. To transfer the dye to the fabric, wet fabric is laid down on the swirled dye and gently hand-pressed in place. After the dye transfers, the fabric is removed and heat set in the microwave. Marbling is best done on small pieces of fabric that can be turned into napkins, coasters, scarves and fat quarters for quilt blocks.

Prep, dye and clean up time: 1 hour

You’ll Need

  • Fabric to dye
  • Rit Dye, liquid or powder
  • Rit Dye Fixative
  • Shaving cream, not gel
  • 18″ x 22″ cardboard
  • Garbage bag
  • Medicine droppers
  • Comb
  • Bamboo skewers
  • Small squeegee or cake spatula
  • Small plastic cups
  • Plastic wrap
  • Latex gloves
  • Old towel
  • Plastic table cover
  • Paper towels
  • Microwave

Step by Step

  1. Cover your work surface with plastic. Gather your supplies. Here’s what we used. Be sure to use shaving cream, not the gel. Marble Dye-supplies needed

  2. You can make your own “rakes” for swirling the dye by taping bamboo skewers together between manila folders. We used 6 skewers and preferred the one with the skewers spaced closer together. Marble Dye-bamboo rakes

  3. Decide on the size of your fabric. Napkins are generally 18″ x 18″, fat quarters 18″ x 22″, scarves 15″ x 60″. This marbling technique works best on small pieces of fabric. Cotton, linen or silk fabric is recommended with the traditional Rit liquid dye. Use white fabric for a white background; colored fabrics can be used, but the dye will mix with the colors to create a third color.

  4. Cut a piece of cardboard 18″ x 22″ or slightly larger than your piece of fabric.

  5. Insert cardboard into a plastic garbage bag.

  6. Spray shaving cream on plastic garbage bag about 1″ – 2″ thick and about the same size as your fabric. (The garbage bag makes for easy clean-up.)Marble Dye-shaving cream layer

  7. Spread shaving cream evenly using a small squeegee or cake spatula. When spreading the cream, use paper towels to clean the squeegee, as needed.Marble Dye-shaving cream squeegee

  8. Select your Rit dye colors: When marbling, it’s traditional to use 3 colors that will blend well together or are next to each other (analogous) on the color wheel. We used Apple Green, Evening Blue and Violet. To get started: Shake dye bottles and pour dye right out of the bottle into small plastic cups. Medicine droppers are used to apply the dye.

  9. Using a medicine dropper, drip and drizzle Rit dye randomly over the shaving cream using all 3 colors. The more dye that’s applied, the more color there will be.Marble Dye-use eye dropper for dye

  10. TECHNIQUE 1: To make horizontal and vertical lines, as shown, use a bamboo skewer “rake” as directed below. (Technique 2 will be a swirly pattern made with a comb.)Marble Dye-rake the dye

  11. Gently move the bamboo skewer “rake” across the shaving cream in a horizontal direction. Use a light touch – it’s not necessary to rake all the way to the bottom. Repeat several times until you are satisfied with the pattern. When necessary, clean off your “rake” with paper towels between each rake so colors don’t blend together too much.

  12. Then “rake” vertically down the shaving cream crossing over the horizontal lines. This creates an interesting up and down marbled pattern.

  13. Dip fabric in warm water. Squeeze out the excess water so fabric is just damp. Shake out the fabric so it’s flat and smooth. Place “wet” fabric, right side down, on top of dye. Press down gently with your fingers, all over the fabric. Let set for 1 to 2 minutes minutes.Marble Dye-press fabric to dye

  14. In a separate area, overlap sheets of plastic wrap slightly larger than dyed fabric. Then, remove the dyed fabric and lay it flat, dye side up, on the plastic wrap. Do not disturb any bits of shaving cream that may remain on the fabric. If too much shaving cream should stick to fabric, carefully remove it with a cake spatula.)

  15. To help improve color retention and reduce color bleeding, immediately spray dyed fabric with Rit ColorStay Dye Fixative. Let set for 20 minutes.

  16. Then cover the dyed fabric with plastic wrap, sealing the outer edges. If necessary, fold to fit in microwave. Place in microwave and set on high for 1 minute. Check often to be sure plastic does not melt. Turn and heat again for 1 minute.Marble Dye-microwave fabric

  17. Remove from the microwave. Let cool. Rinse fabric in cold water until water begins to run clear. Then wash in warm, soapy water and rinse. Lat flat or hang to dry. Here’s the final marbled “up and down” pattern.Marble Dye-final rake pattern

  18. TECHNIQUE 2: To make swirly curved patterns, as shown, use a comb as directed below.Marble Dye-comb pattern

  19. Don’t throw away the shaving cream just used. Simply spray more shaving cream over the dye and spread it out flat and smooth with a squeegee.

  20. Reapply Violet, Evening Blue and Apple Green dye with medicine droppers randomly over the shaving cream.

  21. For more dramatic swirls, we attached “drip” tops to the Rit dye bottles and squirted swirls of dye in all 3 colors over the drops of dye. This will add more dye and more pattern to the swirls.

  22. To create a swirly pattern, move a small comb horizontally across the shaving cream in a swirly pattern. Use a light touch – it’s not necessary to comb all the way to the bottom. Repeat several times until you are satisfied with the pattern. When necessary, clean off your “comb” with paper towels between each swirl so colors don’t blend together too much.

  23. Then comb vertically down the shaving cream in a swirly pattern, crossing over the horizontal swirls. Repeat several times until you are satisfied with the pattern.

  24. Dip fabric in warm water. Squeeze out the excess water so fabric is just damp. Shake out the fabric so it’s flat and smooth. Place “wet” fabric, right side down, on top of dye. Press down gently with your fingers, all over the fabric. Let set for 1 to 2 minutes.

  25. In a separate area, overlap sheets of plastic wrap slightly larger than dyed fabric. Then, remove the dyed fabric and lay it flat, dye side up, on the plastic wrap. Do not disturb any bits of shaving cream that may remain on the fabric. If too much shaving cream should stick to fabric, carefully remove it with a cake spatula.)

  26. To help improve color retention and reduce color bleeding, immediately spray dyed fabric with Rit ColorStay Dye Fixative. Let set for 20 minutes.

  27. Then cover the dyed fabric with plastic wrap, sealing the outer edges. If necessary, fold to fit in microwave. Place in microwave and set on high for 1 minute. Check often to be sure plastic does not melt. Turn and heat again for 1 minute.

  28. Remove from the microwave. Let cool. Rinse fabric in cold water until water begins to run clear. Then wash in warm, soapy water and rinse. Lay flat or hang to dry. Here’s the final marbled “swirly” pattern.Marble Dye-swirl comb pattern

  29. If you are making napkins or fat quarters for quilt blocks, you can place another piece of fabric over the dye for a second dye transfer. This impression will be lighter than the first one but this is not objectionable. It just adds an interesting dimension to the project, creating an ombre effect.

  30. Here are the light and dark swirly patterns hanging side by side. There are so many creative possibilities for these fabrics!Marble Dye-swirl comb pattern

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