Three fabulous ways to use Foils on Fabric

This page will explore three different ways to get a fabulous metallic or opalescent effects on your fabric with metallic foils.  There is always a time when you will want to get some ‘bling’ into your work whether it is to add texture, light or a focus point.  Metallic Foils are a great product to put a little or a lot of metal in your project.

Metallic Foils are a thin layer of colour on a cellophane like release paper.  The colour can be transfered to almost any surface.  You just need a glue or adhesive to attach it.  I use Vliesofix (or other double sided web) more than anything else, ‘cause that’s what I have and it works best for fabric, making the transfered colour water proof and washable.  Double sided sticky tape works as does a clear drying, non absorbent craft glue.  You can get special foil glue, as well.  The glue needs to sit on the surface of the fabric, not be absorbed into it.

You can apply this foil to fabric, paper, plastic, metal, wood etc.  It is a great way to dull down a surface if it is too strong or to age a surface.   This tutorial shows various applications on fabric.

So how do you do it?

The first option is to cut out large ‘appliques’ of double sided web and transfer large amounts of foil onto your fabric.  This works best if you are using repeated images with different textures and mediums.  Or, as a large background of colour.  Here are some examples and then I will tell you how to do it.

The large tear drop on the left is foils. The rest is a range of fabrics from lutradur to velvet

Foil can be used in large sheets as a background or focus point

To do this, trace the shape you want to transfer onto your doublesided web on the paper side.  Cut the shape out exactly on the line.  Iron the shape onto your background fabric and then peel the paper off exposing the shaped glue. 

cut out the shape on the lineiron in place and peel the paper off exposing the glue

  Then, lay the foil over the glue, colour side up.  Place an applique mat or some baking paper over the top and iron with a hot iron.

Leave it to cool and then very gently peel the cellophane off the bonded colour.  You can get an even coverage by ironing the piece well to ensure even activation of the glue and allowing the foil to cool well before peeling apart.  Conversely, if you iron for a short time and/or peel apart while the glue is still hot, you will get an aged, tarnished look.
Option two uses much the same technique, but gives a more random scattering of colour across your piece.   Take scraps of your doubles sided web and peel the paper off.  Cut the web into different sized slivers or shards and scatter them across your fabric.  Apply an applique mat and iron onto the fabric.
Place the foil over the shards of web, coloured side up, cover with an applique mat and iron the foil on to the shards of glue.  Like the previous example, leave to cool a little and then peel the cellophane release sheet away.  This gives you this sort of effect.

This piece shows shards of gold foil on lutradur over a painted surface.

The third option gives you a different effect again.  This is much more subtle and can create some fabulous drifts of sprinkled colour.  To do this, you use Bonding powder instead of the double sided web or a glue.
Bonding powder is like particles of glue in a salt shaker.  Each particle is heat activated, which provides a strong bond to your fabric.  This is the powder I use, but there are other brands.

The bonding powder I use

 To apply, you can either lightly wet the area that you want the powder to sit in or just sprinkle the powder where you want it to be.  You don’t need much, though you can add a fair bit if you like.  If you wet the surface you can shake off any excess and use it again.  Moisture is not essential though.

So, sprinkle some powder onto your fabric.

sprinkle the powder where you want it

As before, you place the foil over the glue, cover, iron and let cool a bit.  Then when you peel the cellophane off you will have a sprinkled effect of twinkling metallic light.  The colour only stays where each particle of glue has sat, so it can be very, very light.

Colour transfers in little particles.

This is particularly good with a multicoloured foil or the opalescents on dark backgrounds.  Try placing a stencil on your fabric, brushing the stencil with a light coating of water and then sprinkle the bonding powder on the damp stenciled shape.  You will get a nebulous shimmer in the shape of the stencil which can be terrific as a shadow or a background.
There are dozens of variations of these three techniques, so I hope you have a play and see which you like using.

8 responses

9 01 2011
cathy smith

thanks Cecile! I’ve never seen the point of bonding powder before – now i will go to your website and order some

9 01 2011

Hi Cathy
the other thing that it is very good for is bonding sheers when you don’t want to either stiffen them or see the webbing behind the sheers. Or if you want to glue down something very small and fiddly.

2 09 2011
kate tremul

whaaaaaaaaaaaaaa I want to learn learn learn can’t you please move to Bundaburg Queensland rather than just visiting next year

8 01 2013
Becky Click-Rex

Lovely idea using the bonding powder with the foil!

29 09 2014
Lucretia Wright

Awesome and sounds like fun

13 12 2015
14 04 2016

can we use fabric glue

14 04 2016

yes, some fabric glues work. What you need is a glue that is gummy when partially dry, then it will work with foils.

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