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Embellishments: Paint on Knits

Threads #204, Aug./Sep. 2019

Knit fabrics are comfortable and easy to wear because their stretch enables them to move with the body. The same stretch presents a challenge for stitchers who love to embellish, because many decorative techniques inhibit the fabric’s elasticity. However, there are methods that can work.

I’ve had great success with dabbing lightweight liquid paint onto knit fabrics to create intricate designs. I’ll show you how to do it so the fabric is not distorted or stiffened in the application process and the new details dry quickly. The paints are easy to mix into a variety of colorful tints and hues. The design possibilities are myriad. With proper care, the paints are permanent and can be machine-washed as well as machine-dried on a low-heat setting.

woman in a dress with painted embellishments
Create original designs that do not affect the fabric’s hand. Pattern: Fit for Art Tabula Rasa Knit Tee & Tunic, Clever Crossing Variations. Fabric: rayon/spandex knit, FitForArtPatterns.com.

Choose materials

Along with a paint that flexes with knit fabrics, you need appropriate fabrics and patterns for successful painted embellishment.

Painting Supplies

supplies to paint on knits
Fluid textile paint, brushes, daubers, and stencils enable creativity when painting on fabric.

My favorite paint to use on knits is Artistic Artifacts Fluid Textile Paint. It comes in a variety of colors and amounts. The paints blend easily to create different hues. If you use a different paint, look for water-based paints that are thick enough to control with a brush or stencil. Use a shallow plastic lid or plate as a palette. Foam stipple brushes, daubers, or sponges work for this technique. Make sure you have one for each color, to limit unwanted color mixing.

Stencils are helpful if you prefer to paint consistent motifs rather than freehand designs.

Garment-Making Supplies

This technique requires smoothly knitted yardage such…

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  1. User avater
    passionfashion | | #1

    Absolutely adorable! Great work

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Sewing With Knits

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