Fabric Printing with Common Household Items

Sometimes I feel like paint and fabric go to together like peanut butter and jelly, like magnets and refrigerators, or like my kids and spiders. It is just a natural fit. 🙂

Especially when I am looking for a simple way to add interest to fabric. Sometime I am making an art quilt and need to solve the problem of too much solid background. Fabric paint is an easy and interesting solution. Here are a couple examples of fabric printing for texture:

A quilt I made for my daughter’s wall. The background is the print from the top of a cork.

Sunflower art quilt. I have been posting about recently. As you will get to see in this tutorial, I used jars, cans and some dabs with a chunk of corn broom fibers to make this background.

Now, lest you think this “paint, fabric, texture scenario” is only for art quilts…. it is also a great way to add interest to a tote bag, zip pouch, pillow, scarf…..you name it. Lots of solid color fabric accessories could benefit from some paint and a cork or rim of a jar!

So, here is the super, short, and simple process for printing on fabric. I also included a nifty little chart of printing materials I have tried.

Supplies

First you need to gather your paint and fabric supplies:

  • Paint Tray – clearly, the more used and loved, the better!
  • Paint Brush
  • Palette Knife, or just a plastic knife or spoon for mixing
  • Fabric Paint – Here I am using Setacolor Transparent Paint. I have used other fabric paints a well with good results. I just like the consistency of this paint.
  • Lightening Medium (optional, depends on what you are making). I like to use this to make colors lighter and more transparent without adding white. This is especially helpful with I am trying to do add subtle texture in similar colors as the fabric. I used in in both the circle print shown here and in the bird quilt example.
  • Fabric – you will need both the fabric you want to print and sample fabric. As I have mentioned before, I am a big fan of making samples before diving into “the real thing.” A when trying new techniques!

Next you need your printing materials:

In the tutorial below, I used cans and jars to make circles on the fabric and the corn broom bundle to add a bit more texture, but lots of other things around your house make great printing materials too!

Here is a list of items I have recently used, with pictures of the texture that may result:

Location and Time:

You need a table top to spread out on and get a bit messy for about an hour or less – preferably with nearby access to water. I usually opt for an animal-free and semi-kid free table in my sewing room. I use the term “semi-kid free” because this is what I was tripping on while printing my fabric.

Skills

Low – This is even a good project to try with kids. Stamping with jars on fabric spans all ages and skill levels. 🙂

Process

  1. Prep your printing area by covering your table with cloth or felt. Not only does this protect your table, but I find that I get the best printing results when my printing surface has bit of give to it.
  2. Mix the paint and test your colors on a swatch. With a test swatch, I can make sure the color is just what I want. When printing this green fabric, I had to add a lot more lightening medium than I originally expected to get just the green I wanted.
  3. Apply paint to your printing item and test it out on your practice fabric. One thing you will probably notice, as you practice your printing, the amount of paint you apply to your printing item will have a big effect on the end result of your print.  How you apply the paint will depend on what you are printing. Things like jars, corn broom, balls of yarn and corks can be easily dipped in the paint. I find using a brush or a roller works best with bubble wrap. For the sponges, I try to only apply the paint lightly at first with either a brush or dabbing it in a thin layer of paint. Those sponges will soak all the paint up if they can!Just look at the difference between the circles with lots of paint and only a little paint. It can make all the difference between a bold graphic print and a subtle print that just fades into the background.
  4. Now it’s go time! Grab your fabric and print to your heart’s content.
  5. Let it dry and heat set your fabric according to your paint’s manufacturer’s directions. And you are done!

How easy was that? Enjoy!

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