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Painting Knits

Welcome to Sew! Let’s Get Dressed, a weekly blog that encourages you to sew successfully. 

Painting on knit fabric has been my fun summer experiment and I am pleased to report my recent results.  Over the past few weeks I have graduated from painting samples to painting sections of a Tabula Rasa Knit Tee.  It’s quite fun.

Ready to paint!

My knit painting experiment began with my trusty Shiva Paint Sticks.  You can see previous paint stick fun in my Painted Shirt posts and Quilted jacket posts.  I love them because they are neat and versatile.   On the knits, however, the paint was hard to distribute and the application process caused the fabric to became distorted.

Some experimentation with stabilizer and interfacing showed improved results, but it altered the nature of the knit fabric.

Part way through the process.

On a recent visit to Artistic Artifacts, a wonderful store in Alexandria VA, I was introduced to Fluid Textile Paint.    They are designed to be sponged or brushed on and the primary colors are great for mixing your own colors, tints and hues.  I bought a 4 oz bottle of blue, yellow, and silver/grey to try painting on some dusty rose rayon knit jersey I had in my stash.  I cut a few pieces for sample making using the paints and stencils.  I painted, heat sealed and washed the samples with good results so I decided to take the plunge and cut out my tee.

My sketch.

I chose 3 stencils from my collection of Laura Murray Stencils to use for my design and made a sketch to test my ideas.    It was helpful that I had a couple days to work on painting the unassembled pieces of the top.

First some green stems.

I worked with one or two colors at a time, cleaned the stencils between colors and created multi colored motifs in sections.

The infamous yellow centered flower.

The final morning of painting I filled in areas that looked too empty.  In one case I added an additional color to a flower that I did not like, too much yellow!

Stencil applied to change the paint.

I was very happy with the results, turning the center into a silvery blue color.


Watch the process here on the sleeve.  The simple steps, each taking about 5 – 10 minutes were spread over several hours.  First there is the initial stencil placement:

Here is how it looks with the first green then silver paints applied:

Then once the paint and stencils dried, the second motif was added with the stencil upside down.

Hopefully I will get the tee assembled to bring to the ASG conference later this week.  In the meantime, I will heat set the painted sections so the tee will be washable.

Have you done much painting on knit fabrics?  What types of paint and stabilizer did you use?  I am sure there are great combinations of products that would allow for different painting effects and I am anxious to try them.

Keep an eye on Facebook and Instagram for painted tee updates.  Join me on July 19 at Capital Quilts in Gaithersburg MD for some fun with paint and collage.

Happy Sewing, RAE

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4 thoughts on “Painting Knits

  1. I liked your results with stencils. For me, fabric is always more interesting and special with the additional patterns using stencils, stamps, drawing directly, etc. Good job!

  2. Amazing techniques – fun ways to add art and flair to your wardrobe!

  3. I’d love to hear how the finished article has held up to washing, etc. over time. Can you update us?

    1. Hi Cheryl, The painted tops go through the wash like champs if they are turned wrong side out and washed on delicate, cold water and hang dry. I do try to keep from washing them too often and perhaps they loose a tiny bit of luster over time, but they still look terrific. RAE

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