Alter Fabric with Transparent Paints

18 01 2015

Creating or altering fabric with paint allows you to tailor your feature fabrics or backgrounds to exactly what you want for your project. It is also incredibly quick, easy and fun.

Paints come in many forms. Different brands will be described and marketed in different ways and it can be confusing to know which product is optimal for which technique. The reality is that most of them are interchangeable and there is no single product that has a single use. What can be the greatest separation between types of paints is viscosity and transparency. Some paints, like Lumiere, Golden and Liquitex are thick and generally opaque. Some paints like Dye Na Flow and Pebeo Seteo Transparent are very liquid or runny and generally more transparent. It is these more liquid paints I want to show you this week.

I use Dye Na Flow.  Of all the fabric paints and inks I have used, I find this paint effects the hand of the fabric the least.  It is the closest surface to a dye I have found in a paint.  Paint does not become part of the fibre like dye does, so will always sit on the surface in some way.  Fabric paint is generally a form of acrylic paint, made up of the pigment (colour) and a bonding agent/carrier.  Dye Na Flow are very saturated in pigment and can easily be diluted with water to make softer colours and a softer hand.

Transparent Paints will go on any surface, but are best on fabrics. As they have a light hand, these paints are terrific on silks and other sheer fabrics as well as all natural and most synthetic fabrics.

Transparent paints can be painted, sponged and stenciled directly onto the fabric like any paint.  However transparent paints make fabulous watercolour, washed backgrounds, can be altered with salt or alcohol solution and can sun print.  Because these paints are transparent, they can be seen through so you can use the paint to change the colour of something but keep the pattern or detail.

Here is an example.

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Any transparent paint can be used for sun printing.  When you use paint like Dye Na Flow, it is richly saturated but very fluid.  To sun print with these paints, you dilute them with water, paint the diluted paint onto a wet surface and then lay items on the wet paint to create patterns.  The faster the paint can dry, the crisper the image will be, so this works best on a hot sunny day, but the truth is sun printing can occur on rainy overcast days too.  The piece photographed below was made with Dye Na Flow paint, salt and a plastic mask in the shape of a tree.


Here are instructions on this technique and a colour wash effect:  sun salt and screens

Dye Na Flow comes in 30 colours, all of which are able to be mixed to make new colours.

dye na flow colour chart

you can find them on my website here:

Here is an example of a project where I painted the background with Dye Na Flow.

from this                      bird on the wire 1

to this                           bird on the wire 3

Give these paints a go.  They are exceptionally versatile and easy to use.

Painted Fabric transformed?

6 10 2014

In a couple of weeks, while I am teaching in Houston, I am have been invited to take part in the Open Studios programme.  I am doing two, two hour sessions.  One is on developing dimension, depth, movement etc with painted fabric backgrounds and the second is about creating and using monoprinted fabric in your projects.  I decided that I need some new samples.  I started with the first session, so have painted up half a dozen fat quarters of homespun with Dye Na Flow paint.  Now I am working into turning them into something.  The focus is, of course, the painted backgrounds, but it is about how they set a great framework for art quilts and other projects.

Here is the fabric I started with:

bird on the wire 1

I then auditioned some fabrics to go with it.  I started with a black fabric that I had gelli printed with golds and copper Lumiere Paint, added some rich, rust, hand dyed velvet and slate silk georgette.

bird on the wire 2

I stitched the power poles onto the background surface, put some gold/orange novelty yarn into the bobbin to ‘couch’ the electrical wires, created a focal point bird silhouette on the ground and three, ephemeral, transparent birds flying in the top right corner.  Basic quilting carries the eye along the line of the power poles.

bird on the wire 3

I am tempted to put two more silk georgette birds in the top left, but am resisting that for now.

Incorporating Gelli Printing into Quilts

31 08 2013

I love creating my own fabric, whether that is by painting or dyeing and it is great to be able to use one off fabrics in projects.  That way you know no one will ever have anything like what you do.  Sometimes I meet in the middle of the unique one off and the commercial by incorporating elements of both.  Today I have taken some fabrics I monoprinted with the Gelli Plate and then stencilled the fore ground and incorporated them into some very basic patchwork using batiks and hand dyes.  The stencils are both commercially available.  The feather is from The Crafter’s Workshop and the ballerina is a Stencil Girl stencil.  Both will be very recogniseable in a range of different projects.  The batiks are Tulis Textile fabrics and the hand dyes, all my own.


This first one is monprinted and stenciled then stitched together with Tulis Textile Batiks.  Here is some detail of the priniting:


This second one is long and skinny.  I see it as a great growth chart or to decorate a narrow and long space.  Not that it will be either of those things, but it will be lovely as a simple demonstration for the Show stand or the Pop Up Classes.


And here is some detail:


I love this stencil.  One more sample to put together with Gelli printed backgrounds and then I can move onto something else.  What do you think?

Unique Fabric Art in Perth

22 04 2012

The Perth Quilt and Craft Fair is only about four weeks away.  Running from 23 to 27 May in the Perth Convention Centre.  We will be there with the usual array of dyes, paints, fibres, felts, fabrics, magazines, books, silks and more.  This year I will have my new fabrics – hand dyed cotton Sateens and the some of the gorgeous 50%cotton, 50% silk Radiance as well as lengths of silk georgette and cotton scrim.

As part of my stand, I will have the Unique Stitching Studio.  The studio will have five textile art classes running each day of the show:  2 dyeing – one with Procion dyes and one with Indigo dye; 2 mixed media – one using Angelina and Lutradur, the other using TAP, Angelina, Lutradur and Kunin felt (shown); and one doing mono-printing with the fabulous new Gelli Plates.

You can pre book the classes on my website now at or you can book on the day.

For the fuller descriptions go to the website or you can find them here: Perth Studio Classes

If you join me, we will have a lot of fun and probably learn a heap too.

12 Days of Christmas Project 10 – Covered Canvas Fabric Art

17 12 2011

Oh well another better late than never effort here, but hopefully the adaptiveness of this project will make up for my tardiness.  We have had some unexpected visitors in the last two days and when you have not seen people for twenty plus years it seems a bit rude to say, ‘love to chat but I need to blog – 2000+ people are waiting for today’s entry’ – rude and pretentious.

Now, I am going to show you one option for creating fabric wall art, but I hope that you will take the ideas and adapt them because the sky is the limit really once we break down the steps.  I recommend three basic parts, each which can be varied:  a surface designed background, padding or bulk in the middle, which can be quilted if you like; and a focal point.  I have used the silver leaves because it works with my theme but you could use applique, collage, photos, anything.

So for the first step, I used a fat quarter of black hand dyed sateen and two deColourant Mists – one clear and one dusty rose.  I also used some leaves from the garden.  Ferns work really well for this technique, but we don’t have any, so use any leaves you like the size and shape of.  The more interesting the better.

lay your leaves on your fabric, push down to keep fairly flat.  Lightly spray the surface with the uncoloured deColourant mist.  Spray from the top down rather than from an angle to ensure you are not getting under the leaves.

Remove the leaves and let the fabric dry.

The pattern will start to show up once it is ironed but you can start to see the complexity of the pattern already.  Steam iron with a hot iron.

Once ironed, replace your fabric and lay the leaves on at a different set of angles.  Spray, allow to dry and then steam iron again.  Spray your fabric for a third time, but this time use the deColourant Plus.  This has colour added to it.

Both the deColourant gel and mist come in deColourant Plus versions.  These not only remove colour but also leave a new colour in its place.  I love these on dark fabrics like the black and the blue I am using in this project. anyone notice the blue photos turned black?  Seamless aren’t I?

So, for the third spray, use the deColourant plus.  In the photo below you can see the colour on the leaves.  Spray fairly heavily to get an even coverage.

Again allow to dry and steam iron.  Your background fabric is now ready for the next stage.

You can do anything for your background.  You can use prepared commercial fabric, you can paint instead of discharge, you can use stencils or masks.  A mask is just something that prevents the colour getting to the background by masking or resisting.  The leaves I have used are a mask.  There are a heap of fabulous commercial ones available or you can use items from around the house.

For the second stage, you need to prepare the frame or canvas that you are going to mount your piece into or onto.  I am using an artist canvas which is readily available and cheap.  I have cut some wadding to the same size as the canvas and glued it to the surface.

Next, I am going to wrap my fabric over the wadded surface around the sides and, tucking in the corners, staple the fabric to the canvas to hold it in place, keeping it taut.  You can glue, stitch, thread or staple at this stage.  You might choose to take the glass out of a cheap frame and wrap the fabric around the backing card.  In that case you may not need nor want the bulk of the wadding.

If your focus point is applique or something you need to stitch through, don’t attach the fabric until you have completed that – obviously it will make it hard to applique if the fabric is already stappled to a frame.

This photo is a bit light, but you get the idea.

The third element is your focal point.  For that you can do anything.  Choose a theme that suits the decor of the person receiving the piece and tie it in with your colour selection and surface design patterns.  I continued the leaf theme.

While I was discharging the fabric, I was dehydrating some of the leaves off the tree that I took my mask leaves off.  For information on how to dehydrate flowers and leaves, this website is very comprehensive –

These will be fragile, so I have painted them gently and sealed the back to give some reinforcement and strength.  The first lot I painted silver and tried against the black and the blue backgrounds.

I also painted some rust and teal ink over the leaves, but did not like that so much, though it was getting there.  It is worth experimenting to get the look you are after.

In the end, I aged some painted dried leaves with distress ink and embossing powder, but I will show you the final version after Christmas as the recipient is watching my sites hoping to see her gift.

Anyway, this suits my friend.  I hope that you can take the concepts and the techniques and tailor it to gifts for people you know.

12 Days of Christmas Project 6 – Painted objects – Lumiere and Shiva Stiks

11 12 2011


I have two projects, either of which that I wanted to use today but neither are quite there yet.  One because I can’t find the tool I need to finish it off.  Very annoying.  So, I am going to show you a super dooper quick and easy way to personalise and upgrade items you might have around the home or buy from the shops.  You probably have done something like this at some stage, but I want to run a brief primer on using paint or Shiva with a stencil to transform bland to fabulous.

All you need to do this is a stencil; some paint or Shiva Stiks;  either a foam brush or a stencil brush; newspaper to protect your surface; some sticky tape and items to stencil.  In this exercise, I used a hand dyed baby romper, a cotton apron and an oven mitt (finished above).  I have also stenciled onto bags, shirts, jeans, scarves and of course just onto fabric in the past.

Lets start with the paint.  To stencil, you don’t want a runny paint.  If it is too liquid, the colour will run under the stencil and you will lose the integrity of the design. I have used Metallic Gold Lumiere paint in two of the samples below.

The stencil I used is one of the 12 inch Crafter’s Workshop stencil called Merry Doodles.

So to get started, you need to put some newspaper or plastic or junk mail down on your bench to protect it.  Paint is not fussy as to what it sticks to and will colour everything.  Also, with an item that has two layers like a Tshirt or a baby’s romper, you want to put a wad of paper between the two layers to prevent colour transfering right through.

Take your stencil and work out which designs or elements you want to use.  In the first instance, I just wanted the Christmas Tree.  So to make sure paint does not end up where you don’t want it, you need to ‘mask’ the areas around the tree.  I just use sticky tape for this.  Tear off small amounts and place the tape over the areas of stencil around the Tree.  If you look closely at the photo below, you will see tape on the stars, ornament to the right, the gift to the left and the holly below the tree.

Wet the foam brush and wring out so that it is damp, not wet and definitely not dripping.  You want to create a bit of surface tension with the water so that the paint sits on the surface rather than get sucked all the way into the foam.  Dab a small amount of paint on the brush and carefully brush over the stencil, following the lines of the stencil.  Too rigourous an action will lift the stencil and leave paint where you don’t want it.

I like to hold the stencil down near where I am working to help keep the paint in the spaces, not under the stencil.

Once the whole area is well covered lift the stencil off cleanly.  Don’t drag it or you will smudge the paint.

Leave the paint to dry and then give it a good iron to heat set.

Neither the romper nor the apron has a perfect stencil, but it really does not make that much difference.  I find I have to do two or three stencils before I get my hand in with the right weight in using the paint and brush so if you do want a perfect transfer, practice a couple of time before starting on the items you will give away.

Here are the ornaments on the cotton apron.

When finished, wash the stencil and your brush in warm water and leave to dry.

Now lets look at the Shiva Stik.

Shiva is a high quality pigment in a wax and linseed oil ‘stik’.  They are designed for use on textiles, do not change the hand of the fabric and are colourfast when dry and cured (heat set).  The strength of Shiva Stiks is that they self seal so will not dry out significantly in your cupboard.  BUT that means that the first thing you must do is take the skin off before using them.

I have a heap of ends and well loved stiks that have been part of class sets.  Literally 1000’s of people have used some of these stiks and I have retired them from classes, but although they look shocking, they still work beautifully.

Here it is with the outer skin mostly removed.

I use a stencil brush with the shiva.

Get your stencil, mask around the area you are going to use and I also stick the stencil in place so it does not shift.

Rub the stencil brush over the exposed Shiva stik to transfer colour onto the brush and then, again following the lines of the stencil, brush on to your back ground.  Use firm strokes, but still be careful of getting under the stencil.  You will probably need to apply more colour onto your brush as you go.  Keep going until you have an even coverage over the whole area.

Gently lift the stencil away.  Leave the Shiva to dry for a day or two.  Once touch dry, iron and it will be colourfast forever.

To clean up the Shiva you need something that breaks down oils.  I rub dishwashing liquid into the brush and once all the way through wash out in warm water.  Sometimes you need to do this more than once.  Spray and wipe or warm soapy water can be used to wash your stencil.

Here is the finished oven mitt again.

12 Days of Christmas – Day 3 – Hand Painted Scarves

8 12 2011

Today’s project is literally an ‘oh my goodness, I have an hour to go to the Christmas party and no gift’ gift.  Very quick and easy and can also be adapted to many items other than scarves.

This project uses paints to alter the colour of and/or embellish a scarf.  In the pictures below, I have used Dye Na Flow paint in the first example and Lumiere paint in the second, but use what ever fabric paints you have.  Fabric paint is great in that it does not need to be ‘fixed’ and can go on any fabric, whether natural or man made, light and flimsy or solid like denims and cords.

Dye Na Flow is a semi transparent paint, so it blends and creates layers like a dye can.  Lumiere is an opaque, metallic or opalescent paint.  You can’t see through it to the background so it is sensational for covering patterns or colours you don’t like.  Now, I am not encouraging you to ‘regift’ per se, but if you have a fabric item that you don’t like the colour of or you want to change the look of it in other ways, fabric paints are your answer.  Or if you pick up bargains at the second hand shops, fabric paint can be a great way to modernise or refresh an item.  I am barely scratching the surface with these two examples.  A little imagination and a few tubs of paint and you could have a whole new wardrobe in a matter of hours without leaving the house.

Anyway, to the projects.  In this first one, I have used a raw silk scarf as the base, but you can use anything.  Don’t forget, synthetics, cottons, silks, blends.  Paint will stick to it all.

I sought a blended finish, so worked on a wet scarf scrunched in a bowl.  If you want colour to stay seperate, work on a dry scarf, have the scarf open and laid out and control the amount of colour you add.

So, I wet the scarf thoroughly and wrung it out so that it was wet but not drippey and popped it in a small bowl.

I then selected three colours of Dye Na Flow paint; orange, yellow and purple.  I was after a rust orange, with a hint of brown/purple through it.

Pour a small amount of the first colour over the scrunched scarf.

Pour some of the second colour over the top.  You will get blending starting to happen straight away.

Finally add the third.  Remember this is not how this is going to end up as the colours are going to blend into each other because it is so wet.  If I wanted this look, I needed to use a different method.  Poke and prod it a bit to make sure there is colour everywhere then hang it somewhere to dry.  Hang it outside on grass ideally, paint will stain concrete, carpet, tiles, your feet and everything else it comes in contact with.

Once it is dry, give it an iron to heat set it. Here is my finished piece.  You can use this as a base and put more paint on, embellish, needle felt, bead etc or you can use it as is.

I lost a lot more of the purple than I was expecting so I will probably go over and add a bit more.


The second project started as a hand dyed scarf which I just wanted to add a bit of zing to.  I used the Lumiere paints and a wet sea sponge to add splotches of textural colour and shine all over the scarf.  Again, you can do this on any fabric.  Put some news paper, plastic or other similar thing down to protect your table surface.

You only need a tiny bit of paint to get started.  Wet your sea sponge and wring it out.  If you work with a dry sponge, all your paint will end up in the centre of the sponge, not on the surface where you want it to sit.

Now, just ignore the change of paint colour from this photo to the next.  I could put it down to lighting, but I don’t think you would believe me.

Lightly dab the sponge in the paint and with a light hand, dab this across your scarf.  Do a couple of practice dabs on the edge of the bowl or a piece of fabric or paper.

Sponge randomly over the whole surface.  You will see the texture of the sponge transfering with the paint.  Also because you have a bit of water now being added, you will get a slight splitting of the paint which in itself creates an interesting texture.  Keep going until you are happy with the surface coverage.

Hang this out to dry.  It won’t be as runny as the first one, so you are less likely to get paint everywhere but still think about where you hang it.  Don’t hang a painted item on the line next to your good work gear (or worse, your partners good work gear) on a windy day.  Paint will spread while it is wet.

Once dry, iron again to heat set and you are ready to go.  Again this can just be the first stage of a more embellished piece but it will look pretty smart at that Christmas party secret santa as is.

This was a way easy project.  The next few will be a bit more complex than the first three.  We are moving into the weekend and I figure you will have more time on your hands or at least that is my story and I am sticking to it.  Also, I am building a bit in the complexity so you can choose the effort you want to put in as we go.  I hope you are enjoying this series.




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