Fabric Painting Advice From The Kemshalls

Note from Vivika: Today I've asked mixed-media fiber artist Jane Dávila, who is also editor of the eMags Quilting Arts In Stitches and the new Surface Explorations to share fabric painting tips she learned from Linda and Laura Kemshall. Take it away, Jane!

fabric paint surface design kemshall
Detail of 'Golden Tulips' by Linda Kemshall, in Surface Explorations.

The mother and daughter team of Linda and Laura Kemshall are two of my favorite rock stars of the surface design world! I consider their book, The Painted Quilt, to be essential to anyone who is interested in applying paint to fabric.

Their creative style and sense of design shows through everything they create, whether it's a collaborative or solo effort. In Surface Explorations I, they share with us thoughts on their working processes, collaborations, favorite techniques and much more.

Here are some fabric painting tips from this dynamic duo.

Linda and Laura's Tips for Painting on Fabric

Linda's tips:

1. Sample on a scrap of the fabric you intend to use before launching into a major project.

2. Use a decent paintbrush and look after ityou need one that will hold a good point and it is better to have one good paintbrush than any number of poor ones!

3. Test the fabric paint to see how much it spreads on the surface of the cloth. You need to have control of the edges of the wet paintif it is too thick and dry it will drag and if it is too thin and fluid it will bleed.

4. After testing, you may decide you need to add a little water or perhaps none at all.

Laura's tips:

fabric paint surface design kemshall
'Sound of Your Guitar,' detail,
by Laura Kemshall.

In order to successfully use a rolling of paint to pick up on stitched surface texture, there are a couple of key points to bear in mind.

1. The first, and probably the most important, is not to be heavy handed. Once the paint has been applied it is there for good.

2. It is best to build up the layers gradually until you get a feel for it. Rolled paint effects work much better on densely quilted surfaces, so don't skimp on the stitch!

3. Be sure to load the roller evenly with paint before applying to the quilt surface. After you've invested all that time in the stitching you don't want to go spoiling things with a big blob of paint.

4. I have found that as a general rule this type of effect works best with pale colors applied to a dark fabric base. The light paint will add a frosted feel whereas a dark paint applied to a pale fabric can just look dirty.

For more surface design tips from Linda and Laura, plus insight into their creative process, download the interactive digital eMag Surface Explorations I for your PC or for your Mac.

P.S. What's your favorite fabric painting tip? Or, if you haven't tried fabric painting, what's holding you back? Share your experiences in the comments section below.

Other topics you may enjoy:


Fabric Painting & Dyeing, Quilting Daily Blog

4 thoughts on “Fabric Painting Advice From The Kemshalls

  1. Great tips!
    I have been painting fabric for over fifteen years and I love it! I have homemade stretcher frames that allow me to approach the fabric more like a painter approaches a canvas and other times I do lay the fabric on a hard surface. Either way I love that there is a limited amount of control when the paint and water hit the fiber – there is almost always a surprise. As an artist I believe the more layers in a painted fabric piece the better – But as a quilter it sometimes is a challenge when I want the quilting to be on top of a painted piece.

  2. Hi I love the magazine and I am very inspired by it. However, I just opened my new copy of Quilting Arts and read your editorial. Although my stash of embellishments is important to me I was a bit upset by your use of Sophie’s Choice. In that story Sophie must choose between which of her children should go on the line that she knows is to the gas chamber and which will possibly have a chance to live. This was an impossible choice from a harrowing time in history and that choice haunts her till her death by suicide. Choosing which embellishments to save does not come anywhere near such a choice. Meg Singer

  3. I love their work and their book as well!
    I wonder if you could tell me how to find a lsiting of QA articles? I looking for one that i think I remember by Deborah borscert but can’t seem to find it.