Fabric Painting

A couple of people emailed to ask about the handpainted fabric I used in Ellie’s She-Mootah, so i wanted to provide a little bit of information.  This is a MESSY process, so I don’t have much in the way of in progress photos or a formal tutorial, but I thought I would comment on some of the things I do.

I start with some hand-dyed fabric.  I’m very fond of PFD (prepared for dye) kona cotton.  It’s nice and it keeps its hand when painted.  I crackle dye my fabric for starters (my tutorial on crackle-dye is linked at the top right-hand corner of this page), but I use a tonal range — maybe just two colors and in pale values.  The fabric I’m using here was done in a yellow ochre and a soft brown with just a hint of green in it.

Tonight I used a lot of different stamps and some punchinella on my fabric, but you can stencil, free-hand paint, foil, emboss — the range of techniques you use depends on the use you are going to make of the fabric.  Since this fabric is likely to be washed and dried, I used techniques that could be set and my favorite fabric paints, Lumiere’s from Jacquard.

I start with a piece of about 2 yards of fabric, and I tend to visually divide it, very roughly, into either thirds or quarters so I will have coordinating fabrics to work together.  Sometimes I use a totally different color palette on the different areas, but tonight I decided to use essentially the same one in all areas, thinking I would use coordinating solids and stripes with the fabric.  So here I am, already in progress and I snatched up the camera for a sec.


Although you can’t tell here, I started by stamping, using different stamps, in white all over the fabric.


After the white layer, I used different stamps in different areas, starting with fairly large stamps, then going to medium ones.  Usually I try to mix up the sizes of stamps and colors, because I like that sort of unique, different placement effect you get with random stamping, but the sizes seem to unify the fabric.

Tonight I stamped a lot until there was good coverage, sometimes I have a lighter hand.  The point is to just keep going and do whatever pleases you.  I tend to conceptualize it as being a lot like doing a background on a canvas.  At this point on a canvas I would probably glaze over it and them overstamp before doing the collage work.  Here, I can either leave it at this point, or dry it and set it, and then put it in a light overdye bath for the glaze effect and more stamping.

Here are my finished, at least for now, quadrants.  The lighting is awful because I was snapping these around midnight in the very low lighting in my dining room, but you can get some idea of the design, if not of the colors.


Coffee Cups




Fruit Slices (this one looks great in real life, sorry about the dreadful picture)



Posted in Art

4 thoughts on “Fabric Painting

  1. Joyce, the fabric looks wonderful and the photos and description of the process are very useful. I may have to try this.

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