Painting on Fabric for Quilters

You’re a quilter, not a painter or textile artist. What can someone like you do with fabric paints? Actually, you might be surprised by all the ways a touch of paint can enhance a quilt.

Have you ever made a quilt top that includes one fabric that just doesn’t look right? Instead of hating the top forever or spending hours ripping out seams, you can alter the color of the problem fabric with a little paint and turn a disaster into a quilt you can be proud of.

Butterfly fabric altered with an all-over wash and "coloring inside the lines"

Butterfly fabric altered with an all-over wash and "coloring inside the lines"

Fabric paint is also a quick and easy way to add little details to a quilt. My very first experience with painting on fabric was when I added stars to the night sky in a landscape quilt. For a handwork-challenged quilter like me, dotting the stars on the sky with a brush was a whole lot easier than embroidering them.

My night sky with painted stars

My night sky with painted stars

What’s an easy fabric painting project for a quilter to start out with?

Start out with something that’s quick and inexpensive, so you won’t be afraid to experiment and make mistakes. Old or recycled fabrics are ideal for painting. Here are a few ideas to get you started:   

  • Use fabric paint to embellish the back pocket of an old pair of jeans.
  • Make a painted fabric postcard with a solid-colored fabric on the image side. Spray the fabric lightly with water, then brush it with several colors to create an interesting blend.

    How-to image from "Embellishing with Anything, by Gladys Love

    How-to image from "Embellishing with Anything by Gladys Love

  • Spatter paints on a t-shirt or sweatshirt.
  • Use a Blank Canvas Book to paint a homemade storybook for your favorite child.
Ready-to-Go!® Blank Canvas Book, painted by Diane Moore

Ready-to-Go!® Blank Canvas Book, painted by Diane Moore

  • Take your ugliest quilting fabric (you know the one – it’s the fabric that screams “Why did you buy me?” whenever you see it in your sewing room). Paint over the pattern to make it better looking. You’ll be surprised how much better a little paint can make it look.

    Yellow fabric before and after painting

    Yellow fabric before and after painting

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This article is part of our Basics of Painting on Fabric series.

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