Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Make Your Own Printed Fabric + Dress

Inspired by a J. Crew Factory dress (here), I looked everywhere for an embroidered fabric.  Not having luck, I pondered different ways to make my own.  I thought about renting an embroidery machine (too much hassle), sewing on embroidery trims (surprisingly pricey), stamping (most designs / stamps are too small), freehand painting (um yeah, I don't have that kind of talent), and finally the simplest method - painting via stencil.  See my first painted dress here inspired by Mondo's Rorschach dress.

DIY Printed Fabric Dress

Difficulty: Easy / Intermediate

Time: 3 days to paint (1 hour of actual painting) and dry.  ~3 hours for the dress.

Pattern:  My favorite bodice pattern McCall's M5972 (adjusted width this way, shortened torso to ribs in hopes of being big-lunch-friendly), self-drafted skirt (just a gathered rectangle), and tan pockets to minimize pocket show-through (nice tip from Kelly!)

  • Fabric (I used 100% cotton twill from Joann's here, 57" wide, 2 yards)
  • Tulip Soft Fabric Paint (here)
  • Paint sponge
  • Paint palette (I used a plastic lid)
  • Stencil - Martha Stewart "Tendrils"(here)
1.  Try your stencil, paint, and paintbrush out on a scrap piece of your intended fabric.  Try out different methods / materials / positioning until you find something you like.

2.  Cut out your dress pattern pieces.

3.  Position your stencils onto your cut pieces of fabric.  I taped the corners to make sure they didn't move around too much during the painting process.

Stencil Set-Up and Painting

4.  Lightly dip your brush into the paint and remove excess.  
Note:  With the Tulip Soft paint, I found you did not have to wet your brush prior to painting.  This actually made a giant mess and caused the stenciled design to bleed.

5.  Paint.  I dabbed my paint in to saturate the color, but use whatever method you liked from Step 1.  Per the paint directions, dry flat for at least 4 hours (mine dried overnight).  Fabric may be washed after 72 hours.

  • I highly recommend rinsing your stencils immediately after each use.  I neglected to do this and now have paint-gooped stencils.
  • I also recommend doing small sections at a time and then allow to dry.

Looking forward to finding more fun stencils for future projects :)


  1. How cool! When I was at a sewing store I saw some embroidery machines...yikes on the prices!!

    I especially like that the bodice stencil pattern is not symmetrical. It is a unique look. :) What are the washing instructions on this type of product?

    1. Thanks Michelle! They say to wash on gentle cycle, warm water, and then line dry. :)

    2. Thanks! Let us know when you do wash it if something bad happens! Lol! That paint would also be really neat to use on a little clutch or coin purse.

    3. LOL, will do! Must warn you that I'm a light launderer (read: lazy, unless it gets sweaty / stained / etc) so it might take a little while :D

  2. Gorgeous dress! Did you find that the Tulip Soft paint made the fabric stiffer? I did a T-shirt project with acrylic paint mixed with textile medium, and it came out a bit stiff ... I was wondering whether Tulip Soft would work better and not interfere with how a fabric drapes or hangs.

    1. I started with a pretty stiff cotton twill so did not really mind that it made it a little stiffer. The painted portions are still flexible and have some movement, so it's definitely not cardboard like or crackly. IMO, it probably wouldn't be the best on something that needs a soft Grecian-esque drape. I hope that helps!

  3. Genius!!! Seriously, you never fail to amaze me.

  4. Fantástico, muito lindo o resultado, parabéns!!

  5. i love it! you're so good at making dresses. :]

  6. Wow, that is so awesome! I can't believe you painted your own fabric! Such a creative idea! The finally result is beautiful.

    xo Jenny

  7. that dress is so beautiful! you did a fantastic job!


  8. The design looks really awesome on the finished dress.

    Do you know how the paint will hold-up after numerous washes?

    1. Thank you! Re: washing - I'm not really sure. I'm hoping that it doesn't start to flake off. I'm a very light launderer so tend to get a couple of wears on dresses before washing (so long as they didn't get sweaty / stained / etc.). Will have to update post washes!

  9. Great idea to stencil the design. Great tips to allow small sections to dry. Prolly a good idea so you don't get fatigued and make a silly mistake. Can't wait to see what other stencil projects you've got!


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