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My Fabric Painting & Printapalooza Weekend

31 May 2011

I confess, if I didn't love Quilting Arts so much, I'd throw in the towel and spend all of my time painting and dyeing fabric.  You see, some day when I finally grow up, I want to be Jane Dunnewold (or Kerr Grabowski).  I save any kind of surface design work for the summer when I can work outside on my driveway, which I can't quite do over the winter months. See what I mean?

But at long last, the temps are in the 80s, the sun is finally out, and my portable table that I keep loaded with fabric painting and dyeing supplies in my garage, is ready to be lugged out onto the pavement.

fabric dyeing supplies

I adore fabric dyeing most especially, but when you're out of practice for a few months, it can be a little overwhelming to jump into right away. After all, there is so much prep work and things to remember like soda soak solutions, Synthropol, urea, and if you like to deconstruct screen print, add dye thickening agents, screens, squeegees, etc., to the mix.

So I often launch surface design season with a little fabric sun printing activity--a one-step, easy process to get color on fabric to achieve faux batik effects. And with such an easy process, I try and exercise my color mixing skills, which get rusty over the winter months. Last week I placed an online order at Pro Chemical & Dye, ordering PFD fabric and five colors of Setacolor paints: red, yellow, blue, black, and white. (If you have these five basic colors, you can produce any color imaginable.)

If you've never sun printed fabric before, you need:

Setacolor paints by Pebeo (regular fabric paints wont work)

Foam brushes

Small plastic containers


Fabric (preferably PFD)

Spray bottle filled with water

Print board

Stuff to print with (leaves, stencils, household items, etc.)


1. Pin your fabric to your print board so it's taut.

2. Spray the fabric with your mister. (This is so that the paint will move a little when you apply it.)

3. Pour about two tablespoons of each of the colors into your plastic containers, and splash each with water. (I usually have a 1:1 ratio, but I'm not very exact about it.)

4. Paint your fabric with the various colors using the foam brushes.

5. Place objects on top and allow fabric to dry before removing them.

This time I tried sun printing using my stencils from the Crafter's Workshop. I love 'em...

stencils for surface design

A  few fabrics created using these stencils for sun printing:

sun printed textile dyeing

I then got a little more adventurous and gathered items around my house to see what everyday gadgets I could try. Here are some of the things I chose...

There's "Vintage Spool" fabric:

sun printed textile dyeing with spools

"Show Me the Money!" fabric:

sun printed surface design

 "Come on Baby, Light My Fire!" fabric:

dyeing fabric with light resist

"Don't Get Clipped!" fabric:

printing fabric

"Airing Your Dirty Laundry" fabric:

printing fabric

"Fabric for Fido" fabric:

printing fabric

Which Louie felt he needed to guard closely while the fabric was drying...

fabric dyeing

All in all, a fun and productive weekend!

fabric dyeing results

This is just the beginning stages for the fabrics, as I'll add some Thermofax-screened images and perhaps some foiling:

screen printing fly

If you are heading to Long Beach for the International Quilt Festival and Make It University!(TM) in July, I'm teaching an all-day Printapalooza class. Weather permitting, we'll do some sun printing outside as well as Thermofax screening, stamping, and stenciling. It will be a fun time!

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quilties wrote
on 31 May 2011 12:53 PM

Ooo, very cool. I would like to see how the fabrics turned out from some of those "household objects" experiments.

Lindy101 wrote
on 31 May 2011 1:14 PM

You are so much fun to read!

on 31 May 2011 1:51 PM

Love all the photos and ideas you had of items to print with!  So wishing I could come take your class!  Thanks for sharing!

on 31 May 2011 9:24 PM

Nice!  Sounds like a very fun class Pokey!  I love how crazy you got with finding objects around the house to sunprint with.  I have a bag of keys I've used for sunprinting.  I'll have to try some of your ideas as well!

MellyT wrote
on 1 Jun 2011 9:59 AM

Wow! An all day class, fantastic job! Love the stencil prints. The fly fabric is GREAT. So glad your companimals are keeping track of your forays too!

dfmrobinson wrote
on 1 Jun 2011 5:49 PM

Handsome GQ Louie and laid back Dickens...   :)

dfmrobinson wrote
on 1 Jun 2011 5:50 PM

Handsome QC Louie and laid back Dickens :)

CarolineA wrote
on 1 Jun 2011 9:22 PM

That looks like so much fun - now I just have to wait for summer to hit the southern hemisphere! Love the cat! I have one that looks very similar, except she would be climbing the drying fabrics - not at all well-behaved!

Linda@114 wrote
on 2 Jun 2011 9:35 AM

I love your dog bone treats idea.  I wish it was sunny here today I'd run outside right away.  I have used the setacolor paints before and have just finished a large quilt with a landscape background using these paints.  However, I have also used Liquitex Acrylic Paint in a variety of ways and one of these is sunprints.  I used wildflowers and it worked just great.  I'm really turning to these paints for all sorts of uses as they don't have to be heat set and once dry you can add other colors on top.  I love your magazine.  Keep up the good work.

2Victory wrote
on 2 Jun 2011 2:39 PM

i love this! a friend and i are going creative camping and i am so excited about this idea as a project. my only question is about setting the paint. will the fact that it is out in the sun be enough to set it or will we need to iron it? i will be using the setacolor paints.

coollabtech1 wrote
on 2 Jun 2011 7:53 PM

Love the sunprinting. I have done some with the Setacolor paints too and they worked great. I also tried the transparent Liquitex Heavy Body acrylics since they have a wide range of colors and they worked nicely too(although they do change the hand of the fabric). Love the bug stamp and I definitely need to order some of the stencils. I found that an office supply store is a great source of items for sunprinting, with my favorite being spiral paperclips!

Linda@114 wrote
on 3 Jun 2011 7:18 AM

Re Liquitex Acrylic Paint I used the Soft Body paint and not the Heavy and mixed 50% Liquitex fabric medium with the paint.  The medium also makes the paint go further, plus I add up to 50% of water as needed for flow etc.  This will not change the hand of the fabric and it will be as soft as using the Setacolors. The liquitex paint does not need to be heat set, but the Setacolors do need to be ironed to heat set them, or put in a dryer for 30 mins.  I also use primary colors and mix them for both Setacolors and Liquitex, although I like to use warm and cool primary colors.  i.e. lemon yellow and golden yellow.  Suns out here today, maybe time to paint!

lahma wrote
on 4 Jun 2011 11:19 PM

wow...i like that...tou are gorgiuse


corimaria wrote
on 14 Jun 2011 12:05 PM

thank you I can not wait to try this.

patrichter wrote
on 24 Jul 2011 8:17 PM

So cool to do and beautiful results

Hoorshid wrote
on 13 Aug 2011 6:47 AM

I am Hoorshid and I love your work. Thank you for sharing.

on 1 May 2013 1:03 AM

Where I live in New England, it gets dark at about 4:30 p.m. in the depths of winter. So when Daylight Savings Time kicks in and the snow banks start to melt, I'm itching to get outside and do some fabric painting and dyeing.