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Dyeing with wallpaper paste

Another technique, similar to dyeing with wax, is dyeing with cold-water wallpaper paste. This gives both texture and stiffness to fabric, and has added bonuses in that the paste is both inexpensive and easy to apply.

The glorious aspect of this technique is that the stiffness of the finished result can easily be altered, as the paste can be repeatedly softened and removed with water.

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Spread the clean, dry fabric on a large, flat surface. Mix up the paste, which should be not too thick roughly the consistency of jam. Using a wide wallpaper-hanging brush, apply the paste and leave it to dry. At this point, immerse the whole piece in a bath of cold-water dye. The colour will be absorbed by the paste. The fabric is slippery at this stage and, before the paste dries again, you can run a dry brush or stick across the surface to make patterns and create texture. The fabric, still pasted, can be left to dry now, resulting in a fairly stiff, textured cloth. Alternatively, if, after drying, you immerse it again and this time remove all the paste while it is still in the water, the cloth will retain its patterned surface but be softer to the touch.

Calico or lightweight canvas is ideal for dyeing with wallpaper paste. Working with these fabrics is a little like using papier-mache, in that you can ‘sculpt’ with the pasted, stiffened cloth. You could try wrapping a side-table (obviously not an antique piece!) in the wet, pasted fabric and folding and draping the fabric to get a snug fit. When the fabric dries, it will retain its shape.

Richly coloured fabrics can make a decorative scheme come alive. While the rest of the colours in this conservatory are neutral and understated, the cushions’ rainbow hues create a feeling of warmth and informality.

4 Customizing plain fabrics with paint allows a great deal of scope for creativity. The designs embellishing this stone-coloured bed-linen resemble charcoal sketches or plasterwork mouldings, and create an unusual trompe-I’oeil effect.

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