Friday, January 24, 2014

FAQs: Wholecloth painting

Want to try wholecloth painting, but don’t know where to start? Here are answers to the questions I get asked most frequently.

What paints do you use?

PROfab Transparent Textile Paints by PRO Chemical & Dye
To paint on fabric, you need soft-bodied acrylic paints.  These paints are the consistency of runny sour cream. The acrylic paints in tubes are much thicker, and will need to be thinned with a medium to make them more liquid, such as fabric medium. (This is a lot of work, and I don’t recommend it!) In craft or art supply stores, look for paints that come in bottles. Some will be marked for use on textiles.

The paints I use most often, and highly recommend, are  PROfab Textile Paints by PRO Chemical & Dye. This company is based in Massachusetts. The quality of their paints is excellent, and the price is better than many other paints I’ve used. And their customer service can’t be beat.

I mostly use the PROfab Transparent Textile Paints and the PROfab Pearlescent (Metallic) paints. They are a nice, consistent texture. The containers are very easy to use, and the paint pours nicely from them. The shape makes it easy to get the last little bit of paint out.

I love their Base Extender, too. You can use it to make a glaze, or a paler or more transparent color. It also helps keep paints more fluid, so I add a dab if my paint starts to dry out, or if I need to keep the paints in my palette fluid overnight. They make different extenders for their Transparent, Opaque, and Pearlescent paints.

If you want to try painting on fabric and don’t want to invest a lot of money right now, I suggest purchasing the PROfab Transparent Textile Paint Sampler (SINK1), which has one-ounce jars of red, yellow, blue, green, black, and white; and a two-ounce jar of Transparent Base Extender. As of January 2014, the price was $6.95 plus shipping.

I also use and recommend Jacquard Textile Color and Lumiere (metallic and pearlescent). They cost more than than paints by PRO Chemical & Dye, but their quality is also excellent. Some of the Lumiere paints have a “halo” effect that makes them look iridescent.

When I taught recently in Australia, we used Texcraft Dual Purpose Fabric Paints and Opulence paints. They were great. The Dual Purpose paints tend to be a bit thinner than either the PROfab or Jacquard paints, and we used a tiny amount of thickener sometimes. 

When I taught in the Netherlands in 2012, I used Stewart Gill paints. These are very high quality paints made in Scotland, and they are available in most of Europe. They are more expensive than most other brands. Colourise is their Translucent/Semi-Opaque paint I use most often. Pearlise, Alchemy and Byzantia are fabulous pearlescent/metallic paints. They make many specialty paints, so if you are looking for a product to provide a specific look – bling, sparkle, crackle or zing – you should check them out.

PRO Chem paints transferred into squeeze bottles
When I teach, I sometimes transfer my large bottles of PRO Chem paints into plastic squeeze bottles. It is easier to dispense paints to students, and to squirt out a small quantity of paint, when you use these bottles. They come in various sizes. I ordered them from SKS Bottle and Packaging. They only sell wholesale, so you have to purchase in large quantities (usually 12, 24 or 48).

What’s the difference between transparent, semi-transparent, opaque, pearlescent and metallic?
For realistic subjects, I prefer transparent paints. I can layer them (usually darker colors over lighter ones) to achieve a lovely sense of depth.  

Opaque paints tend to look flatter, and they more completely cover the fabric. If you are painting on dark fabric, and want solid coverage, go for the opaque paints. Opaque paints work great for stamping, stenciling and screen printing.

Some paints say that they are semi-transparent, which means that they are probably somewhere between transparent and opaque.

Pearlescent and metallic paints have shimmery bits in them that reflect the light. I use them to paint objects that reflect light, or need to appear wet (like my fish below).

Why do I need a palette?
A palette with wells makes it easy to mix multiple colors, shades and tints of paint. It also makes it much easier to store your paint if you need to stop working. There are many types of palettes available. I used coated paper plates when I first started, but soon realized that a palette with multiple compartments was worth the price. You can find a variety of palettes at craft and art supply stores, or online.

When choosing a palette, consider the size and complexity of the piece you will be painting. If you will need to mix a lot of colors, you will need a palette with a good number of compartments. If you are working on a large piece, the compartments need to be large and/or deep so that you can mix enough of the colors you will need.

The palette I use when I will be painting over several days and don’t want my paint to dry out is the one below by Mijello. It is plastic (when I travel, lightweight is good), and has multiple compartments. But the best feature is a snap-on lid that seals out air that can dry out the paint. I got mine from Jerry’s Artarama.

Mijello palette with snap-on lid

A smaller Loew-Cornell plastic palette with snap-on lid
Ceramic palettes are wonderful and easy to clean. But they are heavy, and they break if you drop them. They also usually don’t have as many compartments, and they don’t have lids, so you have to cover your paint with plastic wrap or foil if you have to stop painting for a while.

When you are first getting started and don’t want to make much of an investment in your supplies, you can purchase a cheap plastic palette like this one:

How fast does the paint dry?
Most fabric paint dries in 5-10 minutes on fabric. Pearlescent or metallic paint takes a bit longer. If you need to stop, tightly cover your palette (see the question above) and place it in the refrigerator. Do not freeze paint.
What kind of brushes should I get?
You need a brush with synthetic, short, stiff brushes for detail work. For very large surfaces (such as backgrounds), consider using foam brushes. I’ve tried a ton of brands, and for a long time, I used these (now discontinued) brushes by Loew-Cornell:

Loew-Cornell discontinued my favorite brush, the scrubber #226, in 2016. I am now using these brushes by Tulip:

This 5-pack contains the following small-size round barrel brushes:
  • 10/0 Liner
  • 1 Liner
  • 5 Round
  • 4 Liner
  • 6 Liner
These brushes work pretty well, but I really wish they included a very small brush in this pack. If you need a teeny-tiny brush for extremely detailed work (like cat’s whiskers!), consider a detail brush from a hobby store. They are usually sold in the area with paints for model trains, planes, cars, etc.

Tulip also makes a 3-pack of large-size angled brushes (shaders) with flat barrels, and a 5-pack of multi-size angled brushes (shaders) with flat barrels. All of the brush packs retail in the $8-10 range, and are usually available on

What kind of fabric do you use?
I mostly use these two fabrics:
Style 100 Bleached Mercerized Cotton Sheeting by PRO Chemical & Dye. You can find it here on PRO Chem’s website. This is a very nice quality fabric that is tightly woven and has a high thread count.
Robert Kaufman Pimatex PFD (Prepared For Dyeing) fabric. Look for it, and ask for it at your local quilt shop. They sometimes carry it for dyers. If your local shop does not carry it, you can find it through internet sources. I started painting on Kona Cotton, but switched to Pimatex for several reasons. First, it has a high thread count and tightly woven fibers, so it is smoother to paint on than Pimatex, and leaves less texture after it is painted. Second, it is fairly see-through, which is a must for my process.

Do you wash the fabric first?
Not if I use the two fabrics listed above; they are ready to roll! But if you purchase white fabric other than PFD, you should wash it and dry it without fabric softener. This will remove the finishing chemicals from the surface, and prepare the cotton fibers to accept the paint.

How do I keep the paints from bleeding?
The paints I’ve mentioned in this post should not bleed unless you add water. After cleaning my brushes, I take care to rinse them, and then wipe them on a clean rag until they are pretty dry. If you dunk a wet brush into paint and then start to paint, it will bleed out into the fabric, and you won’t get crisp lines. (Of course, you can add water to get a water-color effect, if you wish.) If you want a sheerer, paler color, you can add base extender to avoid bleeding.

In this piece, I encouraged bleeding by adding more water:

“Pink Phalaenopsis” (detail)
What surface do you paint on?
I don’t have a “wet studio” where I can leave large painted pieces out to work on, or to dry. For this reason, I often use the peninsula in my kitchen, which has old laminate countertops that clean up with a soft abrasive cleaner like SoftScrub.

A piece in progress on my kitchen counter.
For smaller pieces, I often use foamcore. This is available at craft and office stores, and comes in different thicknesses and sizes. I tape my fabric down to the foamcore so that it is taut, and paint. One of the advantages to using it is that you can turn your piece around to avoid dragging your hand through the paint.

For slightly larger pieces, I’ve found that I can use the back of an old cutting mat. I now have one that I use only for painting. 

Do you have a video on wholecloth painting?
Yes! My DVD about wholecloth quilting is a Quilting Arts Workshop called Dynamic Quilt Design: Paint Meets Stitch. I cover the tools you will need, and walk you through every step of my process. Learn how to choose the right photo, trace the design elements, enlarge your drawing and print it out. There is also information about basic color theory and instruction on mixing paint colors, shades and tints. The last section covers free-motion stitching on painted surfaces.

It was produced by Quilting Arts/Interweave, and is available on my website for $19.95 plus shipping. If you live outside the U.S., and don’t want to pay for shipping, consider an electronic video download; you can purchase it from Interweave.

This is the quilt I work on during the Workshop:

and this is me on the set, shooting the Workshop:

Do you heat set your pieces?
I don’t, because I’ve found that they are very permanent after a few days. But I don’t wash my pieces, as they are art that will hang on the wall. If you are planning to wash yours, you should definitely follow the paint manufacturer’s instructions and heat set your piece. This usually involves ironing for a fair amount of time, or putting your piece in a clothes’ dryer for a long time.

I don’t like the way paint changes the hand of the fabric. What else can I use?
You can use acrylic inks; brands to try are Daler Rowney’s FW Artists’ Acrylic Inks and Liquitex Acrylic Ink. These can be used at 100% strength to paint on fabric. They work great in calligraphy pens for writing on fabric, too. Or they can be diluted (which causes them to bleed out into the fabric, acting more like dye). I used them to color the sky in this piece:

“I See the Moon” (24" x 60")
Tsukineko All-Purpose Inks are very fluid inks that can be painted on fabric, or used with a sponge applicator for more sheer, subtle effects.

Dye-Na-Flow is a Jacquard paint product that acts like a dye or ink. It bleeds out into fabric, and can be used to create the look of hand-dyed fabrics without using dyes.

Have a question I haven’t answered here?
Please e-mail me at, or leave me a comment after this post!

Win a copy of Diane’s “Digital Surface Design” DVD

My friend Diane Rusin Doran has a new Quilting Arts Workshop! It is available on DVD or as a digital download, and is called Digital Surface Design: Simple Techniques for Hand-dyed Fabric Effects and More. Here’s your chance to win a copy of the DVD: keep reading, and then leave a comment at the end of this post.

This post is part of Diane’s Blog Hop Giveaway. There will be six winners. Each of the five blog hostesses (including me) will randomly select a winner from the comments on her blog. That person wins a copy of Diane’s DVD. 

A sixth winner will be randomly selected from all the remaining entries to win four fat quarters of fabric Diane designed using techniques from the workshop (oooooh… aaaaaah…):

Win these fabrics made by Diane by commenting on  blogs in this bloghop--see the link below.

This is the first one of Diane’s quilts that I saw in person, in Houston in 2010:

Return of the Grackle by Dian Rusin Doran
I was absolutely blown away. It is called Return of the Grackle, and was created by collaging elements in Photoshop. Because it was printed on silk before quilting, it shimmers, and the colors look very iridescent. One of the things I like best about Diane’s work is that it has great visual appeal from a distance. Luminuous colors, great design elements, movement, depth, and layering … and then you get up close and you are seduced by the wonderful quilting.

Return of the Grackle (detail) by Diane Rusin Doran
This quilt was awarded Third Place in the Digital Imagery category at the 2010 IQA Judged Show in Houston and Third Place Innovative at the 2011 Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza.

Diane’s quilt below is called “California Dreaming,” and is part of of the Dinner at Eight Artists’ “An Exquisite Moment” exhibition (my piece “First Snow” is also in this exhibition).  

California Dreaming by Diane Rusin Doran
California Dreaming (detail) by Diane Rusin Doran

I've already ordered Diane's first video workshop...this new one has whet my desire to play!Diane’s first DVD is Digital Collage for Quilt Design from Start to Finish. You can see more of her work and read about her process on her blog, Ooh! Pretty Colors.
Diane’s new DVD focuses on how to create digital art cloth that she uses in her work. Just what is “digital art cloth”? Well, it is cloth created on the computer that is designed to look like it was created using traditional surface design techniques such as hand-dyeing, drip-dyeing, painting, low-water emersion dyeing, stamping, stenciling, discharging and screen printing. 

Diane walks you step-by-step through her process, using Photoshop Elements (the inexpensive version of Photoshop), so that even a beginner can achieve great results. I already know a fair amount about Photoshop, but even I learned some new tricks. My biggest revelation: there are things I’ve been wanting to try, but have shied away because of the mess and the chemicals. Watching this DVD made me realize that I can achieve these effects without the mess, a ton of practice, and stress. 

After you design fabulous original fabric, you can either print it out on your own printer, or have it printed at a service like

Want a sneak peek? Here’s a video preview!

I’m giving away a DVD download of Diane’s new Workshop. Leave a comment after this post and tell me a little bit about why you’d like to win. Please leave me a way to contact you! I’ll pull one name at random at noon, Tuesday, Jan. 28. The winner will be announced at the end of this post on that day. I’ll also pick a second person to be eligible to win some of Diane’s custom-designed cloth. (You can read about it on her post). That drawing will take place on Diane’s blog. Note: If your comment does not show up right away, please don’t freak out. Please post only one comment. I now have to moderate/approve all comments, because I was getting a ton of Japanese porn spammers leaving comments on my blog!

Here’s the entire Blog Hop schedule; leave a comment on each blogger’s post about the DVD for more chances to win.
Jan.14 – Candy Glendening - 
Jan. 16 – Sarah Ann Smith - 
Jan. 21 – Deborah Boschert - 
Jan. 24 – Susan Brubaker Knapp -
Jan. 28 – Diane Rusin Doran -

We have a winner!
Cathy in gorgeous Sonoma County has won the Workshop, and Debbie Jones’ name is going into the hat for a chance to win Diane’s fabric! 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

My new QA Workshop is available as a digital download now

Digital downloads of my new DVD, Fabulous Finishes: Seven techniques for binding, facing, framing and hanging a quilt, are available now in the Quilting Arts/Interweave store! The actual DVD will be available in early Feb. 7, but right now, you can pre-order it and get the digital download for free.

I shot this Workshop (my fourth for Quilting Arts) in September 2013, and I’m so excited that it is ready! I was was just getting ready to start publicizing this, and popped on over to the Quilting Arts store to see what was up. Imagine my surprise when I discovered I already had one review. One fabulous review:  
Wow, Wow and WOW! Review by Robin

This video was way more than I expected. I almost didn't watch the segment on "regular binding". That would have been a BIG mistake. Although I am happy with the technique I use, I will definitely be giving her technique a try.
Besides the various finishing techniques, Susan gives hints and tips. 'Skip this part and you will regret it.' 'Do this to keep blah from happening." Some videos leave me questioning, "But what do you do 'here' or if  'this' happens. I did not come away from this video with any of those questions. Susan answered them before I even thought of them!

There's a lot I already knew in this video, however what I didn't know and learned was well worth more than the price of the download. I can't wait to give all of her finishing techniques a try!

Robin Lancaster, Mint Hill, NC
(Posted on 1/22/14)

I am blushing, Robin! Thank you so much! 

Here’s the back cover and text of the DVD:

Learn the secrets of fine finishing and binding techniques that will improve the presentation of all quilts.

You'll love this workshop if:
  • You are interested in learning different finishing techniques.
  • You want to learn how to bind and hang quilts that will meet the requirements of quilt show judges.
Join award-winning quilter, teacher, and author Susan Brubaker Knapp as she demonstrates the essential skills of finishing a quilt. In this workshop, Susan explains and demonstrates seven techniques that show not only how to bind and hang your quilts with perfect results every time, but also meet the requirements of quilt show judges.

Techniques Susan covers include:
  • Basic quilt binding with mitered corners
  • Satin stitch edging that lies flat and doesn't buckle
  • Pillowcase-turn method that allows finishing the edges before quilting
  • Facing a quilt for a clean and contemporary look
  • Framing a quilt in a shadow box for a professional presentation
  • Hanging a quilt using slats to keep it straight and flat
  • Making a quilt sleeve with space for a hanging rod
Prepare to hone your skills with these fine finishing techniques. You’ll be delighted with the professional results you can achieve with the tips and tricks you learn from this workshop.

Stay tuned for more details! 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Win Diane Rusin Doran’s new Quilting Arts Workshop

My friend Diane Rusin Doran has a new Quilting Arts Workshop! It is available on DVD or as a digital download, and is called Digital Surface Design: Simple Techniques for Hand-dyedFabric Effects and More. 

To celebrate, Diane’s hosting a Blog Hop Giveaway, and I’m participating! There will be six winners. Each blog hostess will randomly select a winner from the comments on her blog. That person wins a copy of Diane’s DVD. One winner will be randomly selected from all the remaining entries to win four fat quarters of fabric that Diane designed using techniques from the workshop. 

Here’s the entire Blog Hop schedule. Leave a comment on each blogger’s post about the DVD – on that post, that day – for more chances to win! So please come back to my blog and read my post on Jan. 24, and leave a comment.
January 14 – Candy Glendening -

January 16 – Sarah Ann Smith -

January 21 – Deborah Boschert -

January 24 – Susan Brubaker Knapp -
January 28 – Diane Rusin Doran -

Monday, January 6, 2014

“The Gift”

“The Gift” (20" x 18.5") by Susan Brubaker Knapp
Copyright 2014

“The Gift” is done. I call it “The Gift” because this is how I think about the sights and sounds I encounter on my morning walks. This piece is based on a photograph I took in the fall of a leaf on the sidewalk, when I was walking my dog. (See previous posts for a shot of this photo.) 

There are days that I feel incredibly blessed to be alive simply to experience these small gifts. It is a feeling I attempt to cultivate, because there are also many days that I can cave in and feel sorry for myself. I am a very emotional person, and feel things very intensely, as I imagine most artists do. I seek out beauty around me as a way of keeping myself sane, balanced and happy.

To me, there is something exquisite and yet breathtakingly tragic about leaves in autumn. They are going out with a bang, in an explosion of color and texture. Very soon they are completely dead, dry and brown, and then they are mulch. Like all of us, I suppose. 

Here are some detail shots:

“Every blade in the field – Every leaf in the forest –
lays down its life in its season as beautifully as it was taken up.” 


Friday, January 3, 2014

“The Gift,” coming along

I’ve been working a lot on my latest piece, “The Gift,” in the past few days, and I am pretty pleased with how it is turning out. It is based on a photo I took on one of morning walks in the fall. (You can see the photo in the previous post.)

The photo below shows the piece partially quilted. Where you can see the dark shadows – from roughly 4 o’clock to 11 o’clock – it is not yet quilted. I’m using a wool batting on this piece (I think this is Matilda’s Own batting).
One of the great lessons the fall of the leaf teaches, is this: do your work well and then be ready to depart when God shall call.

Here’s how it looked after it was painted, but not yet thread sketched or quilted:

With each piece I do, I am still amazed at how much the thread and the stitching transforms the painted fabric.

“Joy in looking and comprehending is nature’s most beautiful gift.” —Albert Einstein