Flour Paste Resist Technique – Tutorial

I have been using this flour paste resist technique in a few projects recently to give my fabric a crackled texture.   It is pretty easy and all of the supplies are probably in your kitchen, with the exception of the fabric paint. When finished, the fabric has a distressed, worn and organic look to it.  It is a great way to add a character to a sewing project or quilt.

Supplies:

  • Cotton Fabric – this can range from quilting cotton weight to something heavier like canvas or duck.
  • Fabric paint – I used Jaquard textile paint.*
  • Wide paint brush
  • White flour
  • Water
  • Whisk
  • Mixing bowl
  • Something to spread the flour paste.  I start with a squeege, but end up using my hands most of the time.
  • Skewer or toothpick if you want to draw or write on the fabric
  • Putty knife or old credit card

* A note about color choice – if you check out my finished samples, you will see that the color you choose makes a huge difference in the look of the fabric.  A dark color or a color that contrasts a lot with your fabric will show up best. You will be able to see every fine line and crack (like on the  fabric with black paint).  On the other hand, a color that is similar to your fabric color will give it texture, but will blend more with the fabric.  On the lime green fabric, I used yellow paint – a color close to lime green on the color wheel.  So, while you get the feel of the crackled texture, it is not as prominent as it would be with a darker or more contrasting color – like red or black.

Location:

A flat surface where you can leave the fabric for a couple of days to dry.  Nearby water is helpful since you will need to rinse fabric, and wash off paint and flour paste.  My location of choice is a folding table in the basement.  And if you have pets, try to work somewhere they won’t find you. Otherwise this will happen….

Time:

The actual working time is less than an hour, but there are two long drying periods.  I usually do this project over 2 to 3 days, or even over a week, to let the flour and then paint dry completely.

Skills:

Low.  If you can stir, pour, crumple fabric and cover fabric with paint, then you are good.

Process:

  1.  Make your flour paste  –In your bowl, mix 1 cup of cold water with 1 cup of white flour.  Whisk or stir until smooth.  The term flour “paste” is a bit misleading.  You do not want this paste-like at all.  More like paint, thick paint.   The mixture should coat your finger when you dip it in.  You want the mixture thick enough to spread and coat the fabric, but not so thick that it will not spread smoothly.
  2. Lay your fabric flat and pour some flour paste at one end.  Use your squeegee (or hand) to evenly spread the mixture over the fabric.  You want a somewhat thick even coating over the fabric ~ thick enough that you can barely see the fabric through the paste.
  3. At this point, if you want to add text, a pattern, or drawing, use your toothpick or skewer to draw into the paste.  On my sample, I drew some random patterns with both the thick end of the skewer and with the point of a toothpick to experiment with the difference that line thickness makes in the final fabric design.
  4. Now comes the waiting…  Let everything dry overnight or until  the fabric is stiff as a board.
  5. Once it is completely dry, it is time to crumple!  Now about the crumpling…. You have a bit of  control over how the fabric will look.  If you are very enthusiastic and wad the fabric into a ball, the lines will be thicker and more prominent – like on the green fabric with black paint.  If you only do bit of crumpling and just bend the flour coating to make some cracks in it, the intensity of the distressing will be like the blue fabric with white paint – fainter and thinner lines.  On the green fabric with yellow paint, I did a bit of both ends of the fabric crumpling scale.  Also, when you have text or markings on the fabric, you may not want to crumple the fabric as much.  As you can see from my sample with the black paint,  I crumpled the fabric a lot and you can barely see the markings in some parts of the finished fabric.
  6.  It is time to prep the paint. Pour your paint color into a cup and add a little water if necessary.  The consistency of the paint should be runny.  You want the paint to be able to seep into the cracks and give the fabric that distressed look.
  7. Coat the fabric with the paint.  Check the back of the fabric to gauge how much paint is seeping through.  If you want to see more coming through, use your brush to work the paint into the fabric a bit.  Don’t spend forever on this.  The flour will start to soften after a while.  So, paint and just let everything dry.
  8. Okay, it is time for the messy part.  Once the paint is dry, soak it in hot water for about 15 min., until the flour has softened.  To remove the paste, I have tried many methods and the cleanest seems to be to just scrape it off. Place the fabric on a hard surface, grab a putty knife, old credit card, or old spatula and start scraping.  Try not to agitate the fabric too much while removing the flour and rinsing.  Fabric paint is not permanent until it is heat-set according to the manufacturers directions.  So, some of the paint will be removed through this soaking and scraping process.  I think this lends itself nicely to a distressed worn look, but if you are looking for a cleaner, more saturated look to the paint cracks and markings, you could use a thickened dye paste or maybe even a product like Jacquard Dye-N-Flow.
  9.  Once the flour is off the surface of fabric and you have given the fabric a light rinse, let is dry and then heat-set according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  I usually need to rinse the fabric again with lots of agitation, to get any additional flour out.  Let your fabric dry and then it is ready to use!

Here are some close ups of my three samples:

I hope you give this technique a try and make some unique distressed fabric of your own!

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