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Creating Your Own Design on Fabric

With all the choices at your local fabric store, why design your own? Because when you’re the designer you can personalize your fabric just the way you want it.

Need a summer tote bag? White cotton fabric with a brushed blue wave design or a simple sun motif provides that touch of personalization. For inspiration take a look through your mail order catalogs or online at home store web sites.

To get color on the fabric you’re either going to dye it or paint it. There are so many options for dyes and fabric paints and each one has its own methods, so you’ll need to read the directions carefully. You’ll also need to know what type of fabric you have. Not all dyes work on all fabrics and the dye packet will tell you which fabrics to use.

You can buy fabric “blanks,” that is, scarves, bags, or clothing already made in a light fabric and that you can add your own designs to.

If you have a couple of yards of fabric and want to use just one or two colors, dyeing will work the best. If you want to put a more detailed design on a smaller piece of fabric, use fabric paints. With fabric paints you can paint a design on fabric with a brush just like you would paint a picture. But that’s just the beginning. You can also spray paint, stamp, use stencils or a silk screen. You can wet the fabric and drip different colors onto the fabric where it will blossom and pool like a watercolor. You can make your own stamps by cutting “foamie” sheets and gluing them onto cardboard or foamcore blocks. There are an unlimited amount of stamps and stencils in your local hobby store that are not just for scrapbooking. Use them.

You may want to keep part of your design unpainted. This is when you use a resist. Depending on whether you are dyeing or painting, again, there are several choices to do this.

For dye baths, you will need a resist that will stand up to the immersion in water for long periods of time, as in a batik. You can buy special batik resists from the same suppliers who sell the dyes. If you are going to paint, you can use a liquid resist such as washable school glue or a flour paste (cornflour and water mixed to a thick liquid consistency). Once dry, these resists will keep paint from soaking into the fabric. Watery paints may bleed a little under a thin coat of resist. This isn’t always bad-you may like the effect. Other ideas for resists include masking tape and cutting your own designs from wax paper or freezer paper. These are not usually re-usable.

By personalizing your own fabric, you get to use the colors and motifs you want. It isn’t hard to do and you’re also stretching your creative and artistic muscles. And you can bet that no-one else will ever be carrying the same bag as yours.

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