Quilting – Out of the Blue (part one)

Out of the Blue

Each year as spring arrives, I think paint. What could be more exciting in the world of fiber art than not knowing what the alchemy of fabric paints, salts, gels, powdered pigments, sponges, brushes, and a little time will render? It’s a surprise every time and I love it!

For this fiber play, you will need some white Kona or pima 100% PFD (prepared for dying) cotton fabric, a sponge applicator, a dimensional plaster (or metal) decorative wall ornament, a bottle of Pebeo Setacolor transparent fabric paint, rubber gloves, plastic wrap, and some rock salt.

Fabric Painting Supplies

Commercial fabrics are often treated with finishes that will resist the absorption of paint. If you’re not sure whether your fabric is PFD, wash it first with Synthropol or a small amount of laundry detergent. Do not use fabric softener in the rinse water.

Additionally, fabric paint can permanently stain your clothing, so it’s a good idea to wear a protective cover over your clothes or older clothing designated just for this purpose.

When fabric painting, I use a foamcore board purchased from an art supply store as my base. It’s lightweight and easy to cover with a drop cloth, large trash bag, or vinyl. I also keep a spray bottle (filled with water) and paper towels handy.

A book on mixing colors is also a helpful aide. There are many on the market from which to choose. I like Mix Your Own Acrylics by Jill Mirza and Nick Harris (published by Walter Foster Publishing, Inc). There is a short section on color theory followed by color galleries filled with easy ratios to follow in your own paint mixing.

Paint Mixing

I purchased the decorative wall ornament at T. J. Maxx, but I’ve seen similar home decor pieces in numerous stores. You shouldn’t have any trouble finding these.

Decorative Wall Ornament

Now, let’s get painting. Prepare a level surface along with your foamboard by covering them with a drop cloth or plastic sheeting. Place your decorative wall ornament on top. Cover it with plastic cling wrap (such as Saran Wrap) to protect it from the paint.

Covered Block

Next, drape your cotton fabric on top of the ornament and mist it with water until damp (about the dampness of clothing coming out of the washing machine).

Damp Fabric

Put on rubber gloves and pour a small amount of fabric paint (I used ultramarine) on a damp sponge applicator. Quickly spread the paint across the surface of the fabric, making sure you leave no white areas. Paint the fabric a little beyond the edge of your ornament.

Wash you sponge applicator immediately and set aside. Now take some rock salt and sprinkle it on top of your painted fabric.

Painted Fabric

Begin pushing the fabric down into the crevices of the ornament, allowing rock salt to fill the little valleys and hold the fabric in place.

Salted Fabric

Leave your work to dry. On hot days, this could happen very quickly. Conversely, on damp days it could take hours. As soon as your piece is dry, remove the salt and shake the fabric. Sometimes little pieces of salt stick to the fabric. These are easy to remove by hand.

Setacolor paint must be set by heat to be permanent. Cover your ironing area with an old towel or piece of scrap cloth and iron your work at the cotton setting for a few seconds. That’s all it takes to fix your colors.

Flower Form

Hopefully, you see the faint impression of your decorative ornament. In part two, we will define the lines and fill our painted fabric with stitches.


N. Rene West
Time Treasured


  1. Corina said,

    March 30, 2007 at 8:20 pm

    I can not find the proper words, not in English, to tell you how much I like it! A friend of mine just took a course with Dijanne (from Australia), with all kind of special methods for painting fabrics. That was also interesting to see!

  2. Dora said,

    March 31, 2007 at 3:52 am

    Thank you for sharing this! It’s very interesting. I love to paint my own fabrics, but I have never tryed with salt.
    Your blog is wonderful, congratulations!

  3. Emmy said,

    March 31, 2007 at 11:34 am

    yes, I agree with Corina. it is great to know how it is done. thank you very much

  4. fembellish said,

    March 31, 2007 at 5:32 pm

    You are all very welcome. And thank you for taking the time to comment on this project.

  5. April 14, 2007 at 1:55 pm

    Incredible. I am going to have to try this and pass this on to my customers!!!

  6. Gloria said,

    May 21, 2011 at 7:25 am

    Great effects with this technique. Thank you for sharing it. I see these type of wall ornaments often…even have a few around the house. Fun!!

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