Facebook Email Pinterest Twitter X Instagram Tiktok Icon YouTube Icon Headphones Icon Favorite Navigation Search Icon Forum Search Icon Main Search Icon Close Icon Video Play Icon Indicator Arrow Icon Close Icon Hamburger/Search Icon Plus Icon Arrow Down Icon Video Guide Icon Article Guide Icon Modal Close Icon Guide Search Icon

Conversational Threads

textile painting

mimi | Posted in Fabric and Trim on

I am making my daughter’s wedding dress and need help figuring out the best way to paint on silk chiffon.  She wanted a very simple dress and I have made one from silk charmeuse and two layers of silk chiffon.  The problem in that her future sister-in-law was married over the Memorial Day weekend and her dress bodice was heavily embroidered; now my daughter want something less “simple”.  We have settled on painting the chiffon godet panels with a leaf and flower design but I am unsure how best to go about this.

I have painted fabric in the past, but I am afraid that if I use my usually embroidery hoop “stretcher” to get a pucker free design, the fabric will stretch too much.  I plan on using Jacquard textile paint in white.

Does any one have ideas or solutions for me?



  1. sueb | | #1

    Hi Mimi,

    when I have painted on silk scarves in the past I usually use painters tape to stretch the fabric taut to a surface covered with plastic.  Is the dress already assembed or are you working with the raw uncut fabric?  If so then then you could use stretcher frames to hold the fabric taut while you paint on it. 



    1. mimi | | #2

      Sue:  The dress is assembled and almost finished.  I still have to hem it and attach the straps.  I was thinking of maybe using a 12 inch wooden embroidery hoop and gently stretching the chiffon over it [with all my fingers crossed :) ]  Do you think that would work?

      Wedding is at the end of September.  A friend of mine who has been sewing for almost 50 years told me that I will either be crying with relief at the wedding or mumbling @#%^& under my breath!

      1. sueb | | #3

        well you may want to test it on a scrap piece of fabric first just to be sure that the hoop won't leave any marks.  you might even try a piece of tissue paper underneath to give it a little padding in the hoop.  If  you work relatively fast and remove the hoop as soon as you're done it shouldn't leave a mark.

        the dress sounds like it will be quite the work of art - be sure to post a picture if you can.  I'd love to see it !

        1. mimi | | #4


          The tissue paper idea is great!  Thanks for your help and I will post a picture when the dress is finished.


      2. carolfresia | | #5

        Mimi, when you test to see if you can successfully hoop your fabric, try this: cut 1/2-3/4-inch wide bias strips of fabric (muslin or batiste will do), and wrap them around the inner hoop to cover it completely. This will provide a softer surface and a little more friction to hold the fabric in place. When you place the outer hoop over the fabric, be sure it's quite loose; then stretch the fabric by hand as much as you feel is necessary, and tighten the outer hoop.

        You probably know this stuff, but I thought I'd post a reminder just in case!


        1. mimi | | #8

          CAROLFRESIA:  Thank you, that is an excellent idea!  mimi

      3. LolliePop | | #12

        Mimi -- I think your friend is absolutely correct. Frankly I wouldn't start painting a finished wedding dress unless it was something I bought 2nd hand to experiment on. Generally painted embellishment should be done before the garment is constructed -- especially if it's a finished wedding dress. Also paint on chiffon will be tricky.Why are you looking at painting? Because it seems quick and easy? Quick yes - but not easy under these circumstances -- just risky. Instead of paint have you considered a bit of handwork embroidery? You might want to consider silk or rayon embroidery thread, or perhaps narrow silk ribbon in a warm off white, perhaps accented with with a scatttering of small freshwater pearls. Test these materials out on scrap of the dress fabric first. Sketch out your leaf and flower design . Make a couple of copies of your sketch and pin it on the chiffon godet panels to get the ideal placement. When embroidering the real thing work with a light hand and catch only the top layer of fabric. (or, depending on the dress design, you could emboider the underlying charmuse and put some pearls on the chiffon if the design will show through the chiffon.) You might not even need to need to hoop it if you don't tug or pull the tread tight. Your daughter will likely be pleased and you won't have exposed the dress to the rather permanent ravages of paint. Plese do let us know how it goes.Best,

        1. mimi | | #14

          I have enough scraps of chiffon left over to experiment on, I think I will do that next. 

          In the past I have done ribbon embroidery and enjoyed it but have had no luck finding the ribbon kits or even the ribbon lately.  I don't know if there is enough time to hand embroider the dress, since the wedding is in three months :)

          We found a stencil we really liked from the Stencil Library (http://www.stencil-library.com) and it arrived from England yesterday.   I suppose I could adapt it to ribbon embroidery.  Hmmmm!


  2. fabricstockings | | #6

    If you keep the tension on the grain lines, you will avoid stretching issues. Also, a light steam press afterwards will 'undo' any mistakes, but be careful not to apply too much heat or steam or you will shrink the chiffon.

    1. mimi | | #7


      Thanks, that's the kind of info I need!


  3. lovemyelna | | #9

    Hi Mimi,
    Why all the talk about hooping the material. You would only need to hoop the fabric if
    you are embroidering or adding some other stitched on embelishment. Maybe a better way would be to block it out by pinning it to foam core (can be purchased at a frame shop or craft store) or a a curved surface such as a extra large sewing ham for the bust area. You would
    need to do something for bleed thru in any case. This sounds like a trial and error adventure.
    Good Luck

    1. mimi | | #10

      alcledmu:  The foam is a great idea!  I was think "hoop" because I did not want the fabric to pucker when I painted on it.  Pinning the fabric to foam might even be better.

      Thank you to everyone who has given me such great ideas!  This is the first time I have ever participated in a discussion online and it has been a very good experience!


      1. HeartFire | | #11

        please post pictures of the gown when y ou are done! it sounds lovely

      2. lovemyelna | | #13

        Hi Mimi,
        Just an idea. If your really into painting the fabric, I saw a wedding dress once that was
        decorated with little pearls of opulescent puff paint. They looked just like real pearls.

  4. DeB_Beatty | | #15

    What paint are you planning on using?  That makes all the difference with the puckering.  Remember also, that paints on silk tend to run if they're too thin, so you might want to use a gutta as well.

    1. mimi | | #16

      DBD, I am using Jacquard textile paint in a opalescent white.


      1. stitchmd | | #17

        I think stencilling or stamping would give a good effect. Do practice on your scraps and do experiment with different ways of stabilizing and backing the work to absorb paint and keep the panels in position. You can put them over cardboard wrapped in old sheets, or with paper towels, or anything else you can think of.You need to read up on stencilling and stamping. For both you want to work with the minimum of paint. When stencilling you use a stencilling brush and blot the paint off until it's nearly dry, then use an up and down motion. When stamping you apply the paint with a fine textured sponge and blot off the excess.

        1. LolliePop | | #18

          Well if you have your heart set on painting and you're using Jaquard, here's what's worked for me:Tapy the fabric down on your work surface. Blue painter's masking tape works well because it is light tack and removes without leaving a residue or distorting delicate fabrics. You can find it at Home Depot or other hardware. If your work surface is non-absorbent and the fabric moves when you apply the paint, you may get smears on the back side that show through on the front side. A foam "paper plate" makes a good pallet. Those triangular shaped make up sponges (Walgreens, Longs, etc) are great for applying paint through a stencil. Pour a bit of paint onto your pallet and pick some up with the sponge. Blot the sponge on the pallet a few times before moving to the fabric. You're working almost dry. Make sure your stencil isn't moving about and blot the paint on using an up and down motion around the edges of the stencil first (it it's a large area) and then fill in the middle the same way. With this paint less is more -- you can always add more but it's difficult to excess paint from fabric if you apply too much. Layering colors in different parts of the stencil gives some interesting effects. If you want to do ribbon embroidery Laci's in Oakland CA does mail order and they have a great range of colors and widths last time I looked. I guess I like ribbon embroidery because it goes so fast and gives you some really cool 3 dimensional effects without a lot of work. Have fun!gwendolyn

          1. sarahkayla | | #19

            I paint on fabric as part of my work...


            i would not do it on a finished garment...especially a wedding dress, too much can go wrong in a permanent way...ask me how i know

            it is pretty easy to find silk ribbon for embroidery online..m+j is one place that carries it. doing a bunch of flowers in ribbon is relarively quick and easy and gives you a big bang for the buck.


            if you really do want to paint the chiffon i have a nother suggestion, paintchiffon yardage and then make it ointo an overlay wherever you want to place it on the dress...that way...you can just not use whatever is less than perfect.


            also - i tend to do my silk painting on sandpaper...it holds the fabric in place, use fine sandpaper

          2. mimi | | #20

            Sarahkayla:  Thank you for the professional advice.  If it was up to me I would leave the dress as is (since she wanted simple to begin with).  I am trying to talk her into a pearl trim along the neckline/straps.  She is coming up in Julia for her Dad's bd, and we will make final decisions then on the dress.  Part of the problem is that she lives in Atlanta and I am in Delaware!

            If I were to do this all over again...!


  5. 5speed | | #21

    Hi Mimi,

    You could "stretch" the area to be painted on a large, wooden picture frame and fasten the sides with masking tape.

    This will work. Just make sure the frame is larger than the area to be painted. Let paint dry while fabric is on the frame.And remove tape.

    Hope that helps you.


    Textile Artiste


    1. mimi | | #22

      Thanks, 5speed!  That is what I envisioned doing in the first place :)  It helps to have some positive reinforcement.  I will be doing samples of painting and ribbon embroidery to discuss with my daughter when she comes home for a week in July.  Long distance wedding-dress-making is for the birds!


      1. 5speed | | #23

        Glad to help. Send me some pix of your samples if you like.


      2. carolfresia | | #24


        I didn't even think to mention to you that you could try the ColorHue dyes that are sold by http://www.silkthings.com. These dyes don't need to be set, and don't change the hand of the fabric.

        Here's as very cool application that the Things Japanese people demonstrated at one of the sewing expos: spray a mound of shaving cream onto a plate (don't use the gel kind--Barbasol or Colgate will do perfectly), then drip in a few drops of ColorHue dye. Blend the dye in thoroughly with a coffee stirrer, spoon or whatever suits you, till you have a pretty, pastel blob of foam. This foam works fantastically well for silk-screening, but you can also use it for stencilling if you're careful about keeping the stencil closely pressed to the fabric. Try using a spatula or credit card or other flat, flexible object to scrape the foam over the stencil, depositing a thin layer on the fabric. If you apply it lightly, you'll get a very soft shade of color, and the shave cream itself kind of disappears, leaving just a rather pleasant scent. You set the dye by ironing it.

        For some really lovely silk screens, go to http://www.photoezsilkscreen.com. We used them with shaving cream to embellish silk charmeuse scarves, and they were quite wonderful.


        1. mimi | | #25

          Carol:  The shaving cream application sounds very cool!  I will try that on some scraps as soon as the wedding is over.

          I have decided not to paint the wedding dress after all.  A very dear friend sat me down and plied me with gin and tonics until I agreed to give up this very risky venture.  Since she has much more experience than anyone I know in fiber arts, I decided to listen to her and the gin!

          I am going to do silk ribbon embroidery on the skirt of the dress, probably in tonal colors.  This is something I know how to do and am comfortable with :)  My dear daughter is arriving from Atlanta tonight and we will go over details and approaches in the coming week.

          I thank you and all of the lovely people who came to my aid with solutions and cautions!  Gatherings is a wonderful community.


          1. carolfresia | | #26

            I think you chose the safest route, which is a good way to approach a wedding, esp. with the dress already otherwise done. But if you get the chance, you and your friend should mix up some more gin and tonics and try the ColorHue/shave cream thing. It's a lot of fun and not particularly messy.


        2. MaryAnnD | | #27

          This sounds like a really fun thing to try.  Thanks for telling us about it.

          1. carolfresia | | #28

            I'm kind of paranoid about anything to do with dyes and paints, because I'm sure that I'll be a klutz and get blotches everywhere and weird runny messes. This, though, was as benign as could be, clean-smelling, easy to handle, and because the shaving cream somewhat dilutes the dyes, the end result is pretty soft (though you can adjust this by adding more dye). Even I obtained wonderful effects, and liked the process better than fabric painting or even stamping because the finished fabric is quite soft and supple.

            Because there's a certain cash outlay required for the dyes and silk-screens (unless you make your own), this is an excellent project to do with a class or group. The dyes go a long way--even the small bottles, and if treated gently the silk-screens last nearly forever, so you can share the costs.

            Incidentally, these are the same dyes we used to dye the organza strips for the ripply scarf on the cover of issue 119. A few drops in a paper cup of water and you're good to go!


          2. sarahkayla | | #29

            One of the things that I have discovered workig with dyes is that dye permeated hands can be cleaned with rubbing alchohol.  counters wash up well with water and or a dilute bleach solution.. if you follow up the alcholol on the hands with a heavy duty moisturizer...like bag balm your hands are none the worse for wear. occasionally if you need more serious dye removal on your hands a mixture of coarse salt and cooking oil leave your hands smooth and clean.

            after  rinsing my daughter's sdyed blue hair without plastic gloved..zout..got my hands back to their actual color.


            as for drips and blobs on fabric... sometimes a modification of the design is in order. if you are painting on fabrc with a brush..use a dryish brush and be sure your arm is supported to keep in steady...like anything else...practive really does help as does being relaxed.

            as you get better you can really get away with stuff that you really could not have dreamed of. skill isn't something that any of us are born with...you have to work at it until it feels natural. if you try to go for something hard edged and machine like...you are probably not going t succeed very vell...it isn't the nature of the medium...paining on silk is like doing watercolors..the sorts of wonderful effects that you can get doing watercolor on paper are the easiest to get on fabric. trying something crisp and graphic is bound to get you into trouble.


            sarah in nyc

          3. carolfresia | | #30

            I wish I'd known about that dye removal trick back when I was in high school. I was involved in a batiking project, and dyed my fabric bright yellow as the first step. WIthout rubber gloves. You can imagine how my hands looked! I had to babysit that evening, and my little charges were quite horrified, and wouldn't have much to do with me. I felt awful about it, but they did go to be right on time!


This post is archived.

Threads Insider

Get instant access to hundreds of videos, tutorials, projects, and more.

Start Your Free Trial

Already an Insider? Log in

Conversational Threads

Recent Posts and Replies

  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |

Threads Insider Exclusives

View All
View All