Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Make // Design Your Own Textiles

Last year my kids brought home art smocks that they had made at camp. They looked like very colorful batik, but instead of using wax, kids school glue was used for the "wax resist". And instead of using fabric dyes, acrylic paints were used. While it was very pretty and colorful, the acrylic paints made the fabric stiff and prone to cracking. I know I didn't want stiff fabric, but I also didn't want to use messy, toxic dyes, so I had to do a little homework and find some alternative materials.

Last weekend I finally got around to trying out this technique and am pretty happy with the results!

Faux Batik using Kid's Glue

materials needed:
cotton fabric - I used cotton napkins
kid's washable no run gel glue* - I used this one by Elmers
kids washable white glue*
fabric dyes - I used this non-toxic, pre-mixed tie-dye set**
parchment paper

* The difference between White washable glue and Gel washable glue:
The no run gel glue holds the pattern of your design better and does not run as much as regular glue. It is good for making precise designs like tracing an outline, letters or geometric shapes (see grey and blue fabrics).

The white glue is more watery and does not hold a precise pattern as well.  However, it is good for a design that you want to look imperfectly perfect (see green fabric).

** An alternative to the tie-dye set would be mixing acrylic paint with this fabric medium. I haven't tried it yet, but it seems pretty straight forward and is also non-toxic.


Cover your workspace with parchment paper and lay out your fabric. The parchment paper will protect your work surface from any glue or dye that soaks through the material.

Draw your design. As mentioned above, if you want a more precise design, use the No Run Gel Glue formula. And if you're going for a more whimsical look, try out the White Glue. Make sure that the glue that you use is Washable. 

Let your glue design dry overnight.

Now it's time to paint your fabric. For the fabric dye, I used this pre-mixed tie-dye set that I had left over from a previous project. It's non-toxic (no smell), already prepared and, when dry, the material is soft. The bottles came with a spray, but I wanted a watercolor-look so I just poured a little dye into a clean, empty jar and brushed it on.

As mentioned above, an alternative to the tie-dye set is to use a fabric medium. You can then choose your colors and use paints that you may already have on hand.

Have fun and experiment with technique. For a look with strong brush marks, I used a dry paint brush. To get more intense color and a blurred look, I brushed water on the fabric first, before brushing on the color.

When you're finished painting, let the fabric air dry.

To heat-set the dye, you can either run a hot iron over the fabric or throw it into the dryer for 20 minutes. I tried both methods. I didn't have any problems with the glue getting into the dryer, but if you have any concerns, I would just stick to the hot iron.

Rinse out the glue. Use water and a drop of mild dish soap if necessary. The glue is "slimy" when wet, so when the slime is gone your fabric is glue-free.

Throw the fabric in the dryer, iron if necessary, and you're done!

Pretty, custom textiles...

I haven't decided if I'm going to use mine as gift wrap or as our everyday napkins...