Painting Fabric by Hand

Making these cushion covers has been a long saga, one that began last year with the idea that I wanted to make my own ombre dyed cushions. I had a ton of canvas dropcloth left over from a previous project and so I first had to sew them into covers. I was debating between a zipper closure and an envelope closure and decided to go with the latter because I didn’t want to take the time to learn how to sew zippers (my sewing machine skills are very basic). Once they were sewn up, I had to decide what colour they would be and the dying technique I’d use. Originally I had my heart set on black ombre cushions, but as I looked into how to do it, I realized it would take more time and effort than I was willing to commit. I also considered shibori dyeing, which I just discovered, but that also required a fair amount of effort. Finally, I decided on the easiest technique: using fabric paint. Of course, I agonized over which colour to go with, and at the end I finally decided on yellow because I find that I’m really drawn to yellow these days. But I did paint one pillow using black (I couldn’t resist!). So the cushions ended up looking wildly different from my original plan of black ombre cushions. Still, I’m so pleased with how they turned out.

So here are the steps for how I made the cushions.

Cushion covers made out of 100% cotton
Fabric paint
Disposable plate or shallow bowl for fabric paint
Foam brush
Paintbrushes (smallish and biggish)
Painter’s tape (optional)
Water soluble fabric pencil (optional)
Newspaper or dropcloth to protect the surface you’re painting on

First make sure to launder your cushion covers as this will make the paint adhere better to the fabric. For the pillow with the black lines pattern I used Jacquard Textile paint in black and a foam brush that was 2 1/8 inches wide. Using the fabric pencil, I marked the cushion cover every 3 inches so as to ensure that I painted the lines evenly spaced apart more or less across the pillow.

Lay some newspaper or a dropcloth on the surface you’re working on. Additonally, place a layer of newspaper inside the cover so that the paint doesn’t seep through to the back part of the cushion.

Pour some of the fabric paint onto your plate or bowl, dip the foam brush in it, and paint away! The Jacquard Textile paint is quite thick so a little goes a long way. I also used a yardstick as a guide to help me paint the lines evenly.

Ta da! So easy and it looks so good. Let the paint dry and then heatset using an iron according to the fabric paint’s instructions.

For the yellow striped cushions I used Jacquard Dye-na-flow, which is a very watery fabric paint. I used a regular paint brush to apply the paint initially.

Use the painter’s tape to mark the stripes you want to paint and then paint away. Peel the tape away and then use a smaller paintbrush to paint the edges of the stripe to make the lines look a bit jagged. ¬†If you prefer you can skip the tape and freehand it.

Another couple of progress shots. Don’t forget to heatset the paint once the pillows are dry.

Voila! Because the Dye-na-flow paint is pretty watery, when it dries it doesn’t make the fabric too stiff.

This project was so easy to do that now I’m inspired to paint more fabric. I have a few ideas floating around in my head, and hopefully I will share the results here.

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