Fabric Design Made Easy

Learn How to Make Your Own Fabric Designs

A recent afternoon spent trying to organize my sewing studio confirmed a long-held suspicion I’ve had: my fabric stash is slowly taking over my house. I have fabric stored everywhere—cupboards, shelves, even under the bed. This should come as no surprise considering my love of fabric necessitates frequent visits to my local sewing shop as well as scouring flea markets for vintage pieces to add to my stash.

Fabrics created by Bonita Rose Kempenich

But recently my love of fabric has taken a new turn and I’ve become interested in designing my own fabrics. I’ve found that designing my own fabrics is a fun way to take the personalization of my sewing projects just one step further. However, knowing where to start can be a little daunting—there are just so many different processes and techniques out there to try—from block printing, painting, and everything in between.

So I was delighted to try Bonita Rose Kempenich’s DIY Fabric project in the 2011/2012 issue of International Quilt Festival: Quilt Scene. Using acrylic inks, Bonita’s playful process is so simple that you can create colorful custom fabrics for your sewing projects in no time. Best of all, her do-it-yourself technique is the perfect opportunity to test out your design skills and experiment with pattern, color, and texture.

Here are Bonita’s instructions for making your own DIY Fabrics:

Materials Needed

  • Natural or white muslin, or canvas/duck cloth (I generally use 200 thread count muslin)
  • Rotary cutter, ruler, and mat
  • Canvas drop cloth
  • Plastic paint palette
  • Artists’ paintbrushes
  • Liquitex® acrylic inks in assorted colors
  • Newsprint
  • Iron and ironing surface

Optional Materials

  • Tulip® fabric paints
  • Self-adhesive craft foam sheets
  • Foam stamps
  • Acrylic paints, assorted colors


1. Measure and cut the muslin or canvas to your preferred working size. (I usually work with pieces that range from a fat quarter up to a yard.)

2. Cover your work surface with a canvas drop cloth and place your fabric on top to begin painting.

3. Using the plastic painter’s palette, select your acrylic ink colors and add a few drops in each well.

4. Wet your brush in clean water, then dip it into the ink and start to play. You can draw flowers, circles, geometric shapes—anything goes.

5. When the color starts to fade, dip your brush back into the ink and continue to create. Repeat this process with as many different colors of ink as you like.

6. When you’ve finished designing your fabric, let it dry. Once dry, place some newsprint on your ironing board and place your painted fabric facedown. Using a low heat, iron the back side of your fabric, making sure the ink doesn’t get on your ironing board and is caught on the newsprint instead. Press flat.

Fabrics created by Bonita Rose Kempenich

If you are creating a piece that isn’t to be worn or washed, and is just a mixed-media piece, feel free to use acrylic paints in addition to the ink.

Another fun way to add designs to your muslin or canvas is to use some self adhesive craft foam sheets, found at your local craft store. Simply cut the foam into varying shapes and with the sticky back exposed, adhere the shapes to an old rolling pin or a craft rolling pin. Brush acrylic paint onto the foam and roll it over your fabric.

To add fun patterns to your fabric, try out foam stamps. You can use your own handmade foam stamps or you can buy some at your local craft store. Just brush with acrylic paint and stamp away on your fabric.
Use Tulip Fabric paints to write on your fabric and create pretty flower shapes. (Let air dry or use a heat gun to dry faster.)

In addition to Bonita’s DIY fabric article, there are many more sewing projects featuring quilts, accessories, and home décor in the newest issue of International Quilt Festival: Quilt Scene. Plus there’s a feature on today’s hottest fabric designers and their newest collections—something fabric lovers will surely not want to miss!

Happy sewing,


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