Surface Design Expert Jane Dunnewold's Foiling Tips

You know how one piece of sparkly jewelry or a metallic accessory can enliven an outfit? Using foil in your surface design can do the same thing for textile art.

fabric painting foiling textile jane dunnewold
Jane Dunnewold uses fabric painting techniques, dyeing, and foiling to
create her complex cloth designs, this one with an expanded square motif.

You can use foil randomly or with stamping techniques, block printing, screen printing, and other applications. You can apply the foil with liquid adhesive or fusible.

Once you get the hang of it, foiling is easy and fun. To help you succeed, surface design expert Jane Dunneworld offers some advice

Tips for Foiling Success
By Jane Dunnewold

Choose an adhesive. Selecting the right adhesive for foiling is critical to your success. The glue must be water-soluble (not solvent based; you need to be able to wash it off your tools with water) and it must be permanent when dry.

Choose a fabric. Smooth, tightly woven fabrics are best for achieving a smooth, even result. Also, be sure to wash your fabric before foiling, and if you are going to dye or apply acrylic fabric paint, do so before foiling and make sure the color has stabilized before adding foil.

Apply the adhesive correctly. Adhesives have a consistency similar to that of fabric paints, and you can apply them in the same way, using stamps, stencils, through silk or Thermofax® screens, or directly onto the fabric with a brush. However, be careful to spread the adhesive evenly to avoid irregular application of the foil. Also, heavy glue applications can change the hand of your fabric. For this last reason, if you use fusible for foiling, you may want to choose a lighter-weight version.


  • Make sure the fabric is clean, dry, and ironed before applying glue and foil.
  • Glue must be completely dry before the foil is applied.
  • You must work on a hard, padded, stable surface, like a counter or table with several layers of muslin on top.
  • High heat is required (you may want to test to find the best setting on your iron, medium or high)
  • Work on small areas and in sections.
  • Remember to "see the color" (in other words: have the colored side facing up) to avoid the common mistake of turning the foil color side down onto your fabric. It doesn't work that way.
expanded square surface design motif dunnewold
Jane Dunnewold has explored the expanded square for surface design for years, most recently on the computer for printing fabric digitally.

Over the years, Jane has developed many techniques for create complex and beautiful fabrics with foiling, fabric painting, fabric stamping, and other surface design techniques.

More recently, she has been creating gorgeous, one-of-a-kind fabrics using a home computer and readily available tools. She shares her techniques in an accessible way through her new Quilting Arts Workshop video, Design & Print Your Own Fabric: Tips & Techniques for Successful Online Fabric Design, walking you step-by-step through designing the fabric and ordering it through the Spoonflower online fabric company.

There's no one better than Jane to teach you how to design and print your own fabrics.

P.S. Prefer a more hands on, rather than digital approach to surface design? Check out Jane's "Master Quilter Bundle" which includes her book Complex Cloth as well as her Quilting Arts Workshop video Surface Design Sampler.

Other topics you may enjoy:


Quilting Daily Blog