I mixed some up. It thickens dyes for printing, stamping and discharging. It’s made from seaweed. It’s very slimy and totally awesome. Here is the recipe.

There are two kinds -one for silk and one for cotton. All I have left is the one for cotton. It’s a bit thicker or something. Perfect for screenprinting on anything!

Mix 1/4 cup of urea with 1 quart of water.

Start with warm water, urea is liquid nitrogen I think, and makes the water cold. Urea holds moisture longer and helps with the batching process.

Put your urea water into a blender.

use a blender designated for your crafts, not your kitchen blender that you use for food.

While the blender is running slowly pour in 2 Tablespoons of Alginate powder. Run the blender and in a minute or two you will notice the blender making a kind of whirring sound. The alginate is mixed. Leave it in a container for a few hours or overnight until the alginate looks translucent and creamy. Now it is ready to mix with dye. I use procion and I soda soak my fabric before I print. Use twice as much dye as you would normally use to ensure bright colors in your stamps and prints.

This makes a pretty thick mixture, but you can always thin it with a little water later. Also the dyes will thin it. You can’t really mix dry alginate into water without a blender. It gets lumpy and crummy if you try. I have heard of mixing with alcohol first and making a paste and then stirring in water, but I have never tried this. I bought a really cheap blender at the pharmacy for $10 and that is what I use for all my chemical blending.

Rinse the blender out right away or you will have a mess on your hands!

Here is what it looks like before it’s mixed with dyes or discharge.

I dyed these scarves on Friday and they are ready for printing stamping and discharging.

I will let you know how they come out!

About Marjorie

I dye, print and sell my work here:
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16 Responses to Alginate

  1. Florence says:

    Fabulous post. tfs.
    Florence x

  2. I have mixed alginate without blender – and without problems. If you (have time to) leave it for a day or two it is perfect.
    What do you use for discharge?

    • marjorie says:

      Did you mix it right in the water? Or did you make a paste first? I had a terrible time without the blender but perhaps I was not patient enough! I use thiox and soda ash in alginate for discharging. What do you use?

      • I just mixed alginate and all water with a whisk.
        I have bought Formosul for discharging but never used it. I love discharged fabric and it seems to go along fine with shibori so I just have to try it now. I just don’t like all the safety parts of using it.

      • marjorie says:

        Yes I try to keep good ventilation and I use a respirator if I’m doing a lot it. I’ve never used Formusol. I mix one cup of alginate paste to 1/2 teaspoon thiox and 1 teaspoon of soda ash. This lasts all day and comes up very fast with a steam iron. I have done t-shirts and heavy linen pieces too. I usually screen print it on with excellent results. But I have to give it a few strong passes with the squeegee to get it nice and consistent.

  3. Donna says:

    OMG…..YOU are amazing!! Chemistry1000!!! Way cool!!

  4. Allison Green says:

    Good call on the blender! I’m going to have to go buy one. They taught us to use electric mixers but you have to stand there for so long waiting for it to thicken.

  5. Curls & Q says:

    Fabulous! Such vivid color. Thanks for the instructions, I will have to try this. As a chemist I have to admit I said, “EWWW” to the urea! šŸ˜Ž When I was freshly out of college and live in San Diego, I was up the hill from an algae processing plant. Talk about a horrid smell when the wind blew towards us! Curious if the alginate mixture smells horrid: urea and alginate what a combo. šŸ˜Ž

    • marjorie says:

      Ha Ha ! The urea I use doesn’t smell at all. It’s probably de-smelled in some way. and the alginate has just a light smell I don’t find offensive so that must be de-smelled also. When it goes sour though there is a strong smell of ammonia coming from it.

  6. tangerinekey says:

    I love that you posted your methods here as I find so much conflicting or confusing information.

    • marjorie says:

      I have taken classes with Kerr Grabowski and Sue Benner. Both are excellent teachers and I learned a lot from them about the alchemy of dyeing. Kerr has two great DVD’s out about her processes and I highly suggest the one about deconstructive silkscreen. It’s awesome!

  7. meta says:

    Yes, you’re right, using a blender is best. I once used my kitchen blender, but it’s very difficult to clean afterwards, so it’s a good idea to buy an extra one.

    • marjorie says:

      Yes and you can get one at a yard sale too. Doesn’t have to be anything special to mix up dye chemicals. just one or two speeds. Love to hear about how you use it!

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