Experimenting with Paste Resists on Fabric

Experimenting with Paste Resists on Fabric

I have tried flour paste resist before and even wrote a tutorial about how to use the resist on silk scarves. My local group decided we wanted to try some experiments again with flour paste resists. If you are wondering how you could use this technique, it would work great for making patterns on silk fabric used in nuno felting. If you want to learn the full process, click on the link above.

Because we were going to try this in one afternoon, I had to do some prep work. It takes at least 24 hours x 2 for this process to dry. I started with hand dyed fabric and used a variety of colors and a variety of types of fabric. I started out trying to document the process but the documentation fell apart in the middle of the process. So, I can’t tell you exactly which pastes were used on which fabric. But I did figure out what works and what doesn’t work so well.

So I pinned the fabric down and applied different pastes. Instead of just using wheat flour (which I know works), I also tried potato starch, amaranth flour, corn meal, and coconut flour. I could tell after applying some of these, especially the potato starch, that some of the pastes were not going to work as wheat flour does. After you apply the paste, you let it dry and then crackle the surface. The corn meal pretty much fell off the fabric and didn’t stick at all. The only alternative flour that worked well was the amaranth flour.

After the surface of the paste resist is cracked, then paint or thickened dye is applied. I used black textile paint. You can see that I left some of the pieces unpainted, as these would be used by my group during our afternoon get together.

If it’s working, you can see on the back side of the fabric, the paint comes through the cracks on to the fabric. This example is wheat flour resist and overall, it definitely works the best. I think if I had mixed wheat flour with some of the other alternative flours, it might have worked better and still given different crackle results.

Here are some of the results of the pastes that didn’t work so well. The fabric is still useable as the results were still very organic but it was not the crackle look expected from this technique.

Here are the two that worked the best. The one on the right is from wheat flour paste and the one on the right is from amaranth flour paste. It is really interesting how different the crackles look between the two. I’m not sure what I will do with these samples yet but I’m sure eventually, they will get used in some project.

If you try flour paste resist, we would love to see the results. You can upload your photos here.

13 thoughts on “Experimenting with Paste Resists on Fabric

  1. The two pastes that worked give such different results – surprising!
    The orange one reminds me of trees and the blue one reminds me of bubbles in water and I think they would both look good made up in pieces large enough to make a garment!

    1. Thanks Lyn and Annie! It is surprising what different results occurred. That would be a lot of paste mess to make a garment but I agree, it would be a nice pattern for clothing. Sadly, no garment sewing for me, as I have never mastered that skill.

  2. This looks really interesting Ruth. I’m glad I remembered to go back and look at the tutorial before I commented. It saved me from asking questions that were already answered!
    I like the blue piece. I like the ones that didn’t work properly too, especially the yellow one. I can see you using this for a slow stitching project.
    Presumably you can do a sort of “batik” with this paste by only covering part of the fabric with it by painting a design, or using a stencil?
    I had never been a fan of the batik Crackle effect, but now I can see that some fantastic effects can be achieved with several applications and different coloured overdyeing. Just the thing for my workshop in the summer, it’s in the conservatory so usually too hot to work in during the day. It should dry the paste in super quick time though. Obviously with the wet fabric and paste on a polythene surface it will take time to dry naturally, but I wonder if, once the paste has been started to dry with a hot gun or hair dryer, you could unpin it and hang it up?

    1. I’ve just had another thought – why put the black (or whatever colour dye you are using) over the whole of the piece, won’t it work if you only paint over the cracks? That must surely save paint/dye.
      Also, do you need to thicken the paint/dye or can it go on just as it comes?

    2. Thanks Ann, You could use the paste through a stencil or other methods. It is like batik in that it is a resist. And yes, you could use several layers of application and over dye etc. The reason I don’t hang them up is that the paste shrinks and curls the fabric and it’s very hard to work with after that. It’s better to let it dry stretched out on the table with pinning. In regards to painting the entire surface instead of just over the cracks, it is hard to see where all the cracks are, especially the smaller ones. For me it is easier and takes less time to just paint the entire surface. Yes, there is some wasting of paint, but it saves time which for me is often more important. You would need to thicken your dye as it will be too runny otherwise. I thinned the textile paint a bit so it would go through the cracks of the paste resist. If you try it, I would love to see your results!

  3. I love that this is so achievable, and different results can be obtained by the randomness of the scrunching. I read the tutorial too, and it is really great to know which flours work best. Thanks so much.

    1. Thanks Marie, a little messy but definitely a simple process. I’m sure that there might be more flours out there that might work, I even have more in my cupboard that I haven’t tried.

  4. Very cool, Ruth. I wasn’t sure about the way pastes, and other textures would be used, but now I get it! It’s all about what they do to the surfaces of your fabric, and how you can create what you need for a particular project. For me, it was your photos that made me understand. What a great use for the (old) odd flours I need to throw away in my pantry!


  5. Having looked again at your tutorial, I followed a couple of the links at the end and came across this one https://ruthlaneart.com/2017/11/24/back-to-trees/ and for the first time read about acrylic skins. I was fascinated – another way to reuse something that might otherwise be thrown away. Could we use them with felt do you think? Another rabbit hole!

    1. It was fun making the acrylic skins but I had a hard time finding a good use for them. I have used them in mixed media projects mainly with paper. They are so shiny that I have a hard time incorporating them with my work. I did try them as an inclusion in felt and it worked. I’m sure that there would be more applications and they are a nice contrast with the matte quality of the felt.

  6. It looks like fun Ruth. I tried it with a friend once but it wasn’t flour and it didn’t work well. I can’t remember what we used as a medium. I will have to try again.

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