Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cracked: the secret sauce

Continuing with my flour paste resist experiments. I  tried both wheat flour and rice flour. They were different, and each had strong points and weak points. This time around I tried a mixture of both rice and wheat flours in equal quantities.

I pawed through my stash and found this lovely piece of fabric. I don't know where it came from—perhaps one of my dyeing or painting experiments, or perhaps something I bought.

It is laying on my painting board. I had a good feeling about this round.

I glooped on my mixture of half rice flour, half wheat flour, mixed with enough water to make it about the consistency of pancake batter.

Using my small squeegee, it spread nicely and did not pull up in sections like the rice flour paste did.

I let it dry for about ten minutes until it would hold a line when I marked into it with a bamboo skewer.

I let this dry well, cracked it a bit and then painted it and let it dry. It dried with some dimension as the all-rice paste had and was nearly as easy to remove as the rice paste. I removed most of the paste dry. Here it is with most of the paste removed. I really love it.

I will let it cure a bit, heat set the paint and then wash out the residue of the paste. This is my favorite. The combination of rice and wheat flour had the best properties of both—the spreadability and elasticity of the wheat flour paste and the bolder pattern and easier to remove qualities of the rice flour paste. I will take both kinds of flour to our retreat and let my friends choose. I will certainly recommend the mix.

Answering some comments:

1. In response to Gerrie, who commented that thickened dye might work better. (Unfortunately I deleted her comment accidentally—one of the hazards of moderating comments on my iPhone) Back in my batik days I used dyes with flour paste resist and they worked great! For this project I was looking for a way to achieve good results on our retreat without the mess and longer process of dyeing. With the exception of the paint that I diluted too much, I am pretty happy with what can be done with paint.

2.  Del wondered why I was using acrylic paint instead of dye or fabric paints. Regarding dye, see above. Regarding acrylic paint—fabric paints are acrylic paints. Fabric paints supposedly have some additives that keep them softer than traditional acrylics. I have both and mix and interchange them without noticeable differences. The paints I used for these experiments include both.

3. Jean S. suggested a bench scraper would be a larger working scraper than a credit card for removing the dried paste from the fabric. Since fabric is not a solid surface for scraping and dried paste is not as malleable as greasy goo, the scraping process is a little different. I found that even my credit card was a little too large to work very efficiently and the best tool that I finally settled on was a spoon, using the edge to scrape. It is a matter of finding something that will catch the edges of the cracked surface and pop those pieces off the fabric. Most tutorials and instructions I found recommended soaking the pasted fabric in water and scrubbing the softened paste off. I tried that and it was icky messy and difficult to get it out of the fabric once it was wet and sticky. The rice flour does not stick as tightly as the wheat flour, so it is relatively easy to crack off most of the dried paste, then scrape off the more persistent chunks.


  1. thanks for the processes you have been showing. I tried the wheat flour one before and have a piece very similar to yours. on cotton lawn it was easier to get off than from calico(british calico) which has a rougher surface that the paste clung to. It took ages to get off.

    I am glad you showed the consistancy of the batter. Our pancake batter is much thinner (for crepe like pancakes) so it took forever to dry. This gives a better idea of consistancy - none of the other instructions I have seen show a photo.

    Speaking of drying. can you state how long the different ones took to dry? I guess you get as much humidity as we do from your previous posts about rain. Did you have to run a fan on it? also, did you pin the edges into a surface to keep it taut or did you leave it to shrink up on it's own?
    sorry for so many questions!
    Sandy in the UK

  2. Thanks for sharing your experiments Terry. I've tried this technique on a couple different occasions with "not so fabulous" results. I was using only wheat flour. I will definitely be keeping this in mind when I attempt to try it again.

  3. All the machinations aside..and I love torturing the cloth - the first image quite stopped me in my tracks! I though you'd unearthed a wonky Rothko and were announcing your find!

    Then, on to the last one. I came to mine (http://www.lacativa.com/RUBRIC.html) via a different method but love your cracked up results.

  4. MMMMMM: I'm liking how this one is looking!


  5. Anonymous7:55 AM

    Thank you Terry! I have wanted to try flour paste resist, but have been a little scared of it. I love how you explained how you did all the samples and the pictures to see the results. Now I have an idea of how the resists behave and what kind of results I might expect. Thanks for blazing a trail. Diane

  6. Love this piece that you made with the combo.

  7. Jean S.9:36 AM

    Sorry, I wasn't clear Terry. I meant the bench scraper for when you have the wet gooey stuff to take off. I can see where a smaller rigid implement would be best for dried material. Just for curiosity, I might try a rubber hammer to break up the dried material before scraping. Just a thought.

  8. Sandy, the drying time varied. During a rainy spell it took a couple of days for the paste to dry. The next round I set the wet paste pieces in front of my little wall heater and they dried overnight. The last round was done during a couple days of warm, sunny weather and they dried overnight. Our retreat will be in a much drier area of Central Oregon and unless it rains, they should dry overnight, but I am sticking a hair dryer in just in case.

    Jean, the hardened paste breaks up pretty easily just by crumpling it up in your hands, then shaking off the loosened pieces, re-crumpling, etc.

  9. Great results from your process. The result is a beautiful piece of cloth.

  10. thanks Terry,
    I will hope for a good summer and have another go at it.
    Sandy in the UK

  11. Hi Terry,
    Did you soak your already dyed piece in soda ash before you applied the resist?

  12. I'm glad you found a good solution. Thanks for doing the leg work on this one and sharing the results. I want to try it sometime, too.

  13. Hi Terry, I've popped over to your blog from your dinner at 8 interview. It's Lovely!
    I did some flour paste resist too, recently, practically the same time frame as you did. fun huh?