Nothing New Under The Sun

I love to dye cloth, but it can be seriously messy. So I’ve been exploring different ways to paint cloth. My search for ideas led me to an old (published in 2004) book, “Off-The-Shelf Fabric Painting: 30 Simple Recipes for Gourmet Results” by Sue Beevers. I was drawn to two concepts apparent in the title – cheap and easy.

Beevers gives an easy to understand introduction to different types of fabric paint and color theory. She covers the best fabric to use (a fairly dense white rather than natural or off-white cotton) and suggests equipment that you probably already have or can buy at a dollar store.

I found I already had everything recommended except brushes. Besides cheap foam brushes, Beevers uses three: a #3 outliner, a 1 inch mop brush, and a 1/2 inch flat watercolor brush. I spent a lot of time trying to decipher all the different brushes at the local craft store and finally found a mop brush. (Exactly what do you use a filbert brush for, anyway?) It’s amazing to see the price range though I was clueless as to which quality would be sufficient for fabric painting. The mantra usually says to buy the best possible tools you can afford, but I didn’t know if I cared to apply that to a choice between a $3 and a $30 brush.

Beevers covers free form techniques that require virtually no prior experience with fabric painting; background textures like sun printing; print techniques like stamping and stenciling; and resists like folding, sewing and gutta.

I hope to try some of these techniques at a fabric retreat in June. Here are some likely candidates.


Beevers2 As you can see, for each technique there’s a supply list and a tip to make the technique work better. Yes, I realize it’s only sensible to use fresh leaves that aren’t dried up, but I can see me cutting leaves the day before and then wondering why the print isn’t successful.


Some techniques are also used in dyeing, especially the resists. All are useful for what I’ll call background fabric that will be cut up or printed, drawn on, painted more.

Beevers’ book doesn’t break new ground, but it presents many painting techniques in one place. Rather than try to remember which issue of Quilting Arts had the article about making thin lines I can just go to this book.




Filed under Books

8 responses to “Nothing New Under The Sun

  1. one more though. if you are brushing on.. and want to go cheap.. you can try elmer’s glue for a resist. just put it on, make sure it saturates, and let it dry before you put on the paint. It works.

    I also think it’s funny that we all used to call it fabric folding and dying and now they call it shirbori. I guess it sells more books to give the same old thing a new name. Wish I was more of a marketing genius.

  2. I have great success using air brush paints. I dilute them sometimes 20/80 with water (usually 50/50 though) and use them like dye. You can even use chunky salt and get that same mottled effect. Plus they heat set too. So you can layer and not have previous colors run. If you dilute them, they don’t make the fabric stiff.

    • I recall hearing that about air brush paints somewhere. It’s good to know if you have access to them. One aspect of painting fabric I’m coming to see is that a lot of different types of paint will work with some sort of dilution.

  3. Judy

    Oh heavens, everyone knows a filbert brush is for painting nuts. For sun painting I harvested fresh leaves and pressed them with wax paper. That preserved them and still allowed for the veining to show. Works a charm.

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