Top Shelf Dyes Part 2

In Part 1, I shared a snow dyeing project I did last week (Sherri in Texas said it almost made her wish for snow). It was part of an effort to use up some discontinued Procion H dye concentrate. This week, I’m starting a piece from one of the fabrics I altered by printing and painting with Procion H mixed with shaving cream.

Shaving cream is great for faux marbling, which I like to do with Dharma Pigment Dyes. I can’t remember where I read about mixing dye with shaving cream for screen printing, but I wanted to sample it.

So I mixed the Procion H concentrate with a little chemical water, added a bit of dissolved soda ash, then combined that mixture with shaving cream.

On half of a pre-dyed sheet (part of my 9 sheets for 5 bucks collection), I sampled two kinds of printing. First, I screened on a text element and one of my floral collage designs using Thermofax screens I made in a workshop with Stephanie Lewis Robertson at Sievers. Then I applied the shaving cream-dye mixture with a foam brush to a plastic tray (saved from one of my late mother-in-law’s craft containers) and used that to stamp the fabric.

Then I folded the other half of the sheet over what I had printed, and just stamped it. While I was at it, I stamped a stray piece of plain white fabric.

After steaming, rinsing and washing, here’s what the sheet looked like.

The sheet was slightly damp when I printed it, so the slight blurriness and color separation at the edges of the printing was what I expected. Most of the time, I prefer text that isn’t readable, so I’m quite happy with this slapdash print job. If I wanted crisper edges and finer detail, I could mix up sodium alginate and thicken the dye with that instead of the shaving cream mixture.

The plain white fabric was completely dry when I printed with the shaving cream mixture. Here’s how it looked after steaming, rinsing and washing.

Maybe I’m easily pleased, but I’m happy with the results here. Since it was so simple to print with the shaving cream mixture, I know I’ll do it again.

On another pre-dyed sheet, I printed with two different Thermofax screens and the shaving cream-dye mixture. The first screen is one I made from a graphite pencil rubbing of the electric range burner in the Walter Studio at Sievers. Prints from the second screen, from a photograph of a tile wall, blurred quite a bit (this sheet was also dampish when I printed). On this piece, I also applied some of the shaving cream-dye mixture by piping it like cake filling from the snipped corner of a plastic baggie. Here’s how it looked before steaming.

After steaming, rinsing and washing, it’s not my favorite fabric but there are areas of interest that I can definitely use.

My favorite piece of last week wasn’t one of the sheets. It was a piece of rayon from a long-ago ho-hum shibori attempt. Using the shaving cream-dye mixture on dry fabric, I sampled a slapdash Pellon stencil/screen idea. I won’t bore you with the details because that was a total flop.

In no time, the Pellon soaked up the dye mixture. Oh well, I figured I couldn’t mess it up worse than it was. So I started making marks with the shaving cream-dye mixture using the edge of a squeegee, then progressed to finger painting with it. Here’s what it looked like after steaming, rinsing and washing.

That’s the piece I’m going to work on this week. It has flaws, but I love it. So I’m going to make myself work fast and not get too invested in the piece. I need to just get back in the studio groove for the new year, and too-precious fabric is a hindrance rather than a help. At least, for me: Your mileage may vary.

Even with the extra steps to wrap and steam fabric printed with Procion H, I really do like the shaving cream-print method. I’ll do it again. But jeepers, I just made a dent in the collection on that top shelf.

Got any wild-hair suggestions on other techniques to sample with it?

Add your voice to the conversation at

Published by

Donna Kallner

fiber artist, teacher and explorer, inspired by ancient fiber techniques and all the ways contemporary fiber artists give old ideas a new spin