Design Your Own Fabric That’s Good Enough to Eat!

Fabric Resists from the Kitchen

We've talked several times recently about going beyond sewing to explore customizing fabric. I really love surface design when it comes to making a project truly unique. What's better than a project that's not only made by hand, but made using one-of-a-kind fabric!

Resist methods offer a huge array of possibilities for surface design, from geometric stamping to freeform, organic designs. While something like melting wax for a traditional batik resist may be a bit intimidating for beginners, there are easy methods that give great results. As I was paging through the latest issue of Quilting Arts, I was excited to find an article called "Resists from the Kitchen" by Lisa Kerpoe. This is the fourth installment of a series in which Lisa turns simple kitchen ingredients into surface design tools. This issue's surprise ingredient: corn syrup!

Lisa uses simple corn syrup to create beautiful effects on fabric.

Lisa uses simple corn syrup to create beautiful effects on fabric.


Using corn syrup as a resist is really genius, I think. It's the perfect thick consistency, it's easily available, and you don't have to worry about complicated preparation, clean up, or safety issues. It's a fantastic way to get your surface design feet wet and create some fabulous fabrics. So without further ado, here's Lisa to show us how it's done:


As a resist, corn syrup is very versatile. You can drip it on fabric, apply it with stamps, and even stencil with it. It dissolves easily, creating a wonderful ethereal effect. You can add color (paint or dye) to the design with a variety of tools once the corn syrup has been allowed to dry, and you can even apply color while the corn syrup is still damp. The dye or paint mingles with the syrup to create interesting patterns and textures.


– Fabric
– Drop cloths or old sheets (for use when applying both the corn syrup and color)
– Pins
– 2" bristle paintbrush, or other assorted tools for applying the corn syrup
– Corn syrup (light)
– Fabric paints (I use paints designed for silk painting, such as Dye-na-Flow or Pebeo Setasilk.)
– Rubber gloves


1. Launder your fabric, being sure to use hot water. This step is important because any sizing on the fabric can interfere with the paint's ability to bond to the fabric.

2. Cover your work surface with a plastic drop cloth or an old sheet. Place the fabric on the work surface and pin it every 8"-10".

3. Use the corn syrup straight out of the bottle and apply it to your fabric with the tool of your choice.

4. Allow the corn syrup to dry. This may take up to 24 hours. Another option is to skip this step and move directly to the next section.

Tip: Leave the cloth flat to dry. If you move it, take care not to let it touch itself. The corn syrup is very sticky!

Different fabric paint application methods and corn syrup drying times lead to a wide range of finished effects.

Different fabric paint application methods and corn syrup drying times lead to a wide range of finished effects.


Instead of just using a paint brush, try applying your paint or dye with a textured sponge, pipette, or squirt bottle.

Instead of just using a paintbrush, try applying your paint or dye with a textured sponge, pipette, or squirt bottle



The resist will remain slightly sticky, even after 24 hours. This is not a problem; you can still paint on top of it. Color can be applied with fabric paint or with dye. The following directions are for fabric paint.

1. Cover your work surface with an old sheet or cloth. Place the resist-covered fabric on your work surface and pin it along the edges, every 8"-10".

2. Brush the paint onto the fabric with a 2" bristle brush. Allow it to dry. If you are applying the paint while the corn syrup is wet, use eyedroppers or pipettes to prevent the resist from smearing.

Tip: You can use any type of textile paint for this technique. I like to use a thin paint, such as Pebeo Setasilk or Jacquard Dye-na-Flow. Thin paint breaks down the resist more quickly and contributes to a soft ghostly effect.

3. The textile paint should be set before the fabric is washed. Even though heat-setting is the most common way to set textile paint, it is not compatible with the corn syrup resist-it just makes a sticky mess! Instead, use a passive setting method (most textile paint manufacturers include instructions for this). Passive setting means that the fabric is allowed to sit for a specific period of time, usually 7-14 days, before washing. If you are eager to see the results and can't wait for 7-14 days, no harm is done. But keep in mind that some of the paint will wash out, resulting in softer colors.

Tip: Try using another piece of fabric under your cloth instead of an old sheet. The excess paint that seeps through during the color application process will create beautiful patterns on the cloth underneath.


1. Once the paint has set, soak the cloth in warm water for 10-15 minutes. The corn syrup dissolves easily and usually requires no extra scrubbing.

2. Wash your fabric in warm or cold water on the gentle cycle. Dry the fabric in the dryer or on a clothesline.

A simple technique with great results! Try it out for yourself and stay tuned to Quilting Arts for more of Lisa's Resists from the Kitchen series!

Happy sewing,

Other sewing topics you may enjoy:


Sewing Fabric & Fabric Basics

About StefanieB

I'm the Managing Editor of Stitch magazine. I live in Fort Collins, Colorado with one fat cat, one very active dog, and lots of books, crafting supplies, and video games.

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