I’ve been really busy making lately. My amazing artist friend Angela (see her amazing work on her instagram) is part of a group shop for local designers and she suggested I join too. I’d been planning to start a new label next year, but this was such a great opportunity I had to say yes. No time like the present, right?
I am so pleased with the first two pieces I’ve made. A hand embroidered and printed t-shirt with a cute cut out at the back. And an A line skirt that I’ve hand painted and hand printed. Painting and printing the skirt was such a fun process I wanted to share a tutorial about it.
Painting fabric is a great way to personalise fabric, to give it character that store bought doesn’t have. I picked up about eight metres of a lovely medium weight canvas new and unused in an op shop. It's a white fabric with a grey scale floral print by Ikea, I really liked the artwork but the colours were a bit plain for my liking, it definitely needed a bit more personality - some quirk, some colour and some fun.
Before you start
Fabrics are often treated with chemicals that may prevent the ink from being absorbed, so new fabrics and garments need a good wash and may also need an iron to get them ready for printing.
What you need
Fabric printing ink
A paint shirt or apron
Plastic dishes and trays for the inks - plastic food trays and dishes work well
Drop sheet to protect your work surface
Fabric stamps, bought or made (see this post, carving stamps for fabric printing)
A nice flat surface to work on is a must, and so is a drop sheet to protect the tabletop. I usually paint and print outside, but if you’re printing inside you might want to put a drop cloth on the floor too.
I’m using fabric printing inks because I know that they will work well on canvas material and will stand out against the print. Fabric dyes are also great for a project like this, they're great for finer fabrics where you don't want the stiffness of the fabric ink spoiling the drape of the fabric.
Use some scrap fabric and try lots ideas and colour combinations, have some fun with it and spend a bit of time getting something with your happy with before starting a project.
I started out doing lots of colour washes, that is putting a small amount of ink in a container and thinning it right down with water. I wanted the colour to bleed around the flower motifs and to add some colour but still have the original print show through.
The colours dried a lot lighter than when they were first applied so I ended up adding layers of colour washes and then using just the ink with no added water to create areas of more saturated colour.
I was happy with how the painting looked on my fabric but it needed a bit of something else, so I got out my fabric stamps - some I've made and some bought to add some more pattern.
Stamp printing is so much fun, I won't go into it too much here, check out this post here for a tutorial.
I added a random pattern of flowers, leaves and butterflies, which looked pretty good, but it still needs more colour!
After the print had dried I got out the paintbrushes again and added more colour washes. This time with a colour wash in the centre adding lots of water around it to disperse the ink and spread the colour out. Making a 'stain' effect.
Lay out your fabric to dry in a non-windy spot or hang them on the washing line.
Once they’re nice and dry, heat set them according to the instructions for the ink that you’ve used. I have a small second hand electric press that I was lucky enough to have been given and it's perfect for heat setting my projects. Whether you’re using a press or a hand iron, use some light coloured, heat resistant fabric like cotton calico underneath and on top of what you’re heat setting to stop ink getting where you don’t want it to go.