Quick & Easy Ways to Create Interesting Fabric

12 Aug 2010

Like you, I love fabric. Like you, I collect fabric. And, probably like you, I'm always itching to change the fabric I have.

Why? When there are so many beautiful fabrics out there, why do we art quilters feel the need to alter them? There are lots of reasons, but these are my top three:

1. It's fun!

2. It's a way to ensure your artwork is unique.

3. Let's face it, some fabrics actually need some help.

So, what are my favorite ways to alter fabric through surface design?

fabric dyeingOver-dyeing. One of the easiest ways to give fabric new life is by over-dyeing it. Over-dyeing can punch up a faded fabric or tone down a bright or crazy pattern. It's a great way to give depth and interest to vintage laces that would otherwise look too much like you just pulled them off your granny's sofa.

You can over-dye with dyes, of course, but tea, coffee, watered down fabric paints, and inks are also options, especially for small pieces. Be sure to heat set before using.

screen printingPrinting. Screen printing, gelatin monoprinting, even printing with paint and a chunky stamp can instantly alter fabric and put a personal spin on it.

I'm addicted to Thermofax® screens, but gelatin monoprinting is becoming a very close second. You can see a
gelatin monoprint demo on my Editor's blog.

stenciling fabric paintingStenciling with oil sticks. I've been using Shiva® Paintstiks® for several years now to add pattern and color to fabrics. But on Season 6 of "Quilting Arts TV," Julie Fei-Fan Balzer demonstrates how to add layers of design to fabrics with oil sticks and multiple stencils, and I'll admit I'm hooked.

Like all of Julie's techniques, this one is simple, but yields striking results. She uses texture plates, punchinella (aka sequin waste), drywall tape, prepared stencils, and a stencil brush.

Here are the basic directions:

1. Place a texture plate underneath the fabric and use the Shiva Paintstik directly on the fabric to create a rubbing.

2. Remove the texture plate.

3. Cover part of the fabric with punchinella, a pattern of drywall tape, or stencils. Using a stencil brush, move in small circles, picking up some of the applied color to blend.

4. Remove the stencil material and replace with another one, blending again with the brush for various effects.

Quick, easy, and fun! Makes me want to grab my paints, dyes, and paintstiks and alter some fabric right now.

What are your favorite ways of altering fabric? Leave your comment below.


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