Make Your Own Fabric: DIY Fabric

I've been coloring some fabric lately, with a fun technique. The end result can be used in almost anything you want to make - and I chose to use some of mine in an art doll I've named Claramae. We'll get to Claramae later - first I want to introduce you to the technique.

Permanent markers, alcohol, and fabric. Here's a sample of the first step, permanent marker on cotton muslin. This is before the alcohol is added. Actually, it's Claramae...well, before she became Claramae.

One thing I've learned - but have a hard time remembering (besides my name) is that, with this technique, less is better. I have a habit of covering every available inch with color, beads, paint, ribbon, whatever. When doing this process, leaving spaces between the colors makes the colors bleed into each other really well. Marking all over the fabric (like I did) means you have to use more alcohol - and do a lot of blotting with paper towels. The up side to doing it "my" way is that you end up with some wonderfully colored paper (from under the fabric) and paper towels, ready to be incorporated into your next project.

This is a super easy way to make your own fabric/designs. I would not wash this fabric - I don't know how well it would hold up. It may be fine...but I just don't know. But anyone - kids and the "unartistic" - can do this. This doesn't involve nasty, caustic dyes or expensive fabric paints. And you know I'm all about the inexpensive art experience!

~ Muslin: washed and dried without fabric softener. This removes the fabric sizing and makes it easier to color.
~ Permanent Markers: Sharpies, BIC Mark Its, etc. Different nib widths works well - fine tips tend to leave more of a "line" on the fabric, while wide tips blend and bleed into the fabric better.
~ Alcohol: Either 70 or 90% works. (Or whatever numbers are close to those - I can't remember exactly what the percentages are.)
~ Eye Dropper, Spray Bottle, Q-Tips, Pipettes...anything that will transfer the alcohol to the fabric in an interesting way. I tend to use everything. Why limit yourself?

Draw on your fabric. If you're having a hard time with the fabric shifting, iron freezer paper to the back to provide a stiffer surface. Scribbles, lines, doodles, dots, scribbles, geometric shapes, scribbles...anything you want to draw. I would stay away from drawing actual pictures - they don't show up well. Unless you want recognizable lines, stick to loose scribbles (in case you didn't see that above) and blocks of colors. Like I mentioned before, leaving space between the colors produces a much different effect - coloring all over the fabric creates a lot of excess color that needs to be removed.

If you ironed freezer paper to your fabric, now is the time to remove it. (If you don't, this technique won't work.) Place paper under fabric - it can be newsprint, cardstock, whatever you want to use to catch the excess ink. Give some consideration to whether you want to use the paper in another project, and what sort of paper will be most versatile for you. I used 110# white cardstock - it's strong enough to handle the bleeding without tearing or leaking - but it's truly up to you and what you want to do with it. Just remember, this is permanent marker we're dealing with. You probably want to make sure you have a pretty absorbent paper under the fabric.Unless you want your table/desk/whatever to acquire a myriad of uncontrollable color.

Ok. So we've got the colored fabric on some sort of paper to soak up the excess we're going to spray, splash, spatter, dribble, squirt, flick, spritz, smear, pour, sprinkle, drizzle, trickle, mist, blob, atomize, scatter, drop, the alcohol onto the fabric. Whether you are careful or go for it with reckless abandon, you can't control the bleed. Keep adding alcohol, picking up your fabric and letting it run through the colors. Dab and blot with a paper towel or a piece of paper, when there's a lot of alcohol on the fabric and the color isn't moving any longer. Continue this until the colors disperse to your satisfaction. Lay the piece flat, smooth with your hands, let air dry. (The markers will stain your hands...and you want to let the fabric air dry, not your hands. You can always let your hands air dry, if you want...I don't care.)

Once the fabric is dry, I iron it to kind of heat set it. I don't know if it helps, but I do it anyway. Then it's ready for whatever project you want to use it on - and if you used decent paper and relatively strong paper towels, you've got those to incorporate into a project, too. Yay!

I won't be posting pictures of Claramae until Friday, since tomorrow is Thanksgiving and the Princess made something special for you. But don't miss Friday's post - when I'll introduce you to Claramae, the newest member of our zoo.


3 Royal Responses:

Ann said...

Wow this sounds like fun. I might have to give this a try, I know I've got some muslin around here somewhere.

FishHawk said...

Using this technique to decorating some underwear for your son might discourage him from wanting to wear his jeans so low. If that doesn't work, my wife suggested that you could buy him some with pretty pink hearts.

Caribbean vacations said...

Very nice......It will be fun doing it.

Thanks for the tutorial. :D

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