13 DIY Fabrics…with items from around the house

by Dana on February 28, 2013

Sometimes it’s hard to find that perfect boyish fabric you’re looking for.  Maybe you can’t find it because you’re not even sure what you’re looking for.  Or maybe you wish the boy’s section had as many options as the girl’s?  Maybe it can.

Last CTB, I shared a post about Selecting Fabrics for BOYS.  And today we’re going to take it a step further.  If you can’t find the right fabric….why not make your own?  With items from around the house?

Toilet paper rolls, noodles, tape, paint….whatever you have, grab it!  And let’s start making.

Soon you’ll have a wall full of new textile options.

First some notes on Fabric and Paint:
Now it would be awesome to have a real screen printing kit to make professional looking stuff. Some day I’ll tackle it. But for now I’m still doing it poor man’s style with simple paint, freezer paper, tape, etc.  In a way though, it feels easier.  If you’ve never worked with fabric paint or freezer paper, read my tutorial HERE.

If you don’t have fabric paint you can use Acrylic paint, which is very inexpensive and comes in every color imaginable (metallics too).  When using acrylic paint on fabric, however, it’s good to mix in a Fabric Medium such as this to make the paint a bit softer for wash and wear.   Of course if you’re antsy like me you can just paint a shirt without it, and your daughter will still love it.

Follow the directions on the back of the Medium bottle but typically you mix 2 parts paint to 1 part medium.  And I’ve found that old baby food containers are great for small paint projects!

Also, keep in mind that paint and markers react differently to all types of fabric.  Lightweight fabrics will seep up paint quickly, while tightly woven fabrics like canvas keep the paint right on the surface  So just experiment with whatever woven and knit scraps you have around till you find what you like.

Some of these projects will work for an entire piece of fabric, something you can cut up and make into a pair of shorts, a bag, or even a jacket.  But some work better on a small piece of fabric to use as a pocket or applique.

Oh….and a blowdryer is wonderful for drying the paint so you can quickly peel away and admire the new look.

Okay, ready for 13 ideas?

There are many ways to make stamps but with items from around the house, here’s one idea:

Cut a shape from craft foam.  If the foam is pretty thin, cut a few layers of the shape and glue them together.  Then glue the Glue Stick lid to your foam shape and you have a stamp!
You can take the lid off when you’re done if you still need it.  Plus
the lid works great for pressing firm on the fabric with your stamp.  When it comes to painting, I’ve found that brushing the stamp with paint each times works better than dipping.

When you’re done stamping always follow the directions on the back of your paint bottle to Heat Set the paint.  This “seals” the paint on your fabric so it doesn’t fade or wash away.  Use a dishcloth to cover your fabric and iron for a minute or two.

Pretty self-explanatory but for some reason it never dawned on me till the other day!  Grab whatever circle objects you have around the house and use them to stamp!

Make the circles uniform and systematic….or be crazy and unruly.

I wanted this to work better than it did.  It does work and I like the final result but it just takes some time to dip, drag, drag back the other direction, dip again, etc.  So be patient.

Fluorescent Pink?!  Yes (but not for Owen).  I love wide stripes and I’ve painted them before on woven fabric here:

So this time around I wanted to try it on white knit fabric.  Could I really paint an entire t-shirt worth of fabric?  Sort of.  I used 3 inch-wide painters tape to create stripes, pressed paint on the edges first then filled in the spaces.  But it was hard to keep the knit from stretching as I painted.  So it got a bit wavy and wonky.

Nonetheless I pressed forward, washed the fabric, then sewed a Basic Tee.  And…it kind of worked.  Well.  It’s a Work in Progress.  It’s still kind of wavy but I’m sure he’ll wear it.

I think a better option for creating knit stripes is this:

Follow my detailed Goodnight Moon tutorial HERE.

The brother to Stripes above, this would be great on a shirt pocket….or side pockets on pants.  Simply tape stripes on the diagonal, paint, dry, and peel.  Leave it as-is or tape stripes on the other diagonal to make gingham checks.

This is my favorite way to decorate T-shirts.  It allows you to make a really specific image stencil for painting.  The true poor-man’s silk screening.  If you’ve never used it, check out my tutorials here and here.

Tape a large piece of Freezer Paper to a cutting mat, draw an 8×8 inch square (or any size you want), then draw 2×2 inch squares in the middle.  You could be really precise and only cut out every other square with your cutting knife. But it’s easier to cut out the entire square first, cut out four lines, then use scissors to cut out 8 squares from those pieces.  Iron the outer square to your fabric first, then iron every other square to the fabric.  Paint, dry, and peel!

There are so many items around the house that will make interesting designs.  Try a sponge, feathers, coins? noodles, string, yarn, etc.  Here’s what it looks like when you crumple foil and dip it in paint:

Sometimes when painting on darker fabrics, it can take a few layers of paint to get it really even looking.  So you might go the other direction instead. If you add equal amounts of water to the paint to thin it out, you can paint a nice thin layer over your stencil.  The paint it not as vibrant but that’s sort of cool too.

Try the inverse of painting, by bleaching.  Check out my tutorial HERE or use a bleach pen to create designs.

Faux Bois (pronounced “foe bwah” and meaning “fake wood” in french) is so fun.  And it’s not hard to do!  You draw long lines with slight curves here and there and some knots mixed in.  No hard rules.  I tried it three different ways….

First I used a Paint Pen (middle photo above)which looked great but the pen was not so great.  It kept drying it up and barely lasted for the whole piece of fabric.  Next I tried a brown Sharpie (right photo above) and liked that best!  It was easy to do and the thin lines were nice.

Last I tried it with acrylic paint and it was okay.  I didn’t have a small enough brush to make thin lines.  But on a large scale print it would look cool.

Lastly….why not give your child some markers and let them give it a go?

Owen is a Star Wars fanatic.  Lover?  Obsessor?  Yes.  So we tried out these Crayola Fabric markers.  I taped white knit fabric to cardboard and he did his best C3PO and R2D2.  I had to help him hold the fabric taut as he drew.  But…(*Update*) some of you mentioned to iron freezer paper on the back of the knit fabric to stabilize it while drawing on the front side. Brilliant!  Totally doing that next time.

And just like that you’ve got a pile of new textiles to use or inspire your new BOY projects (and girl ones too!)

Hang them on the wall to get the full effect.  It’s fun to picture how they’ll hang on clothing….or in a swatch book?  (if I had something cool like that)

I asked Owen to pick out his favorite and he immediately went for the wood, all 4 of them.

Good choice.  And I pick the stars.

Okay.  Off to sew.  Have a great day!


This is part of Celebrate the BOY, a series hosted by me and Made by Rae.

Here’s what we’ve done so far:
DAY 1: Dana: 5 Steps to the Basic Tee • Rae: Saffron Pants and Color Roundup
DAY 2: Dana: Pants Roundup • Rae: Little Bit of Color Hoodie
DAY 3: Dana: KID Pants with Back Pockets • Rae: Little Bit of Color Hoodie
DAY 4: Dana: 13 DIY Fabrics • Rae: Show your Stripes Turtleneck

• Keep adding your own BOY projects to the CTB Flickr Group!
• And check out the Archives for additional projects

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{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rae February 28, 2013 at 6:10 pm

DUDE!!! This is amazing. I love all of these ideas, and your graphics and photos are so fun and colorful! Awesome job!!!!



2 Anita February 28, 2013 at 6:18 pm

I love your ideas! Wonderful job! :)


3 Chris February 28, 2013 at 6:19 pm

Screen printing is easy- you don’t need a machine! You can even make your own screens- there are tons of tutorials out there for that. I love how quick it is- I usually use my die cutter to cut cheap contact paper (not that you NEED a die-cutter for that) and slap it on a screen. Freezer paper never gives me the crisp edges I want, though you seem to manage well- and I really like the soft hand of screening ink over acrylics and fabric paints. Lots of cute ideas, though!


4 Lynet Witty February 28, 2013 at 6:27 pm

OOh I was gifted some t-shirt paint pens and I would LOVE to try the wood ones!! Plus the gingham red/grey print? Amazing! You are so creative!


5 Red February 28, 2013 at 6:30 pm

This makes me so happy! And I don’t even plan to sew or paint anything. It’s just so bright and creative. Fun post. Thanks!


6 Toni February 28, 2013 at 6:52 pm

For the fabric markers – iron on freezer paper to the entire back of the fabric and it will stabilize the front of the fabric and keep it from shifting under the markers. Peel off when you are done. I did this with a quilt I made for my daugther’s teacher and it worked great. Thanks for CTB!


7 http://twoja-pieczatka.pl/7-datowniki March 23, 2014 at 4:56 pm

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8 Mie @ Sewing Like Mad February 28, 2013 at 7:33 pm

WOW this post blows me away! This is creativity on a high level!!! But taking it down to a low level….genius!


9 Crystal February 28, 2013 at 8:05 pm

Those are so fun! I love all the bright colors!


10 Miranda February 28, 2013 at 8:09 pm

These are such great ideas! I stamp, dye, paint, etc. my own fabric all the time, and you’ve given me some great new techniques!

Also, you should try the Textile Colors from Jacquard. They are like fabric paint, but don’t change the texture of the fabric (so it stays soft–not stiff and wavy). I just started using them, and I’m in love. You can get a starter pack on Amazon for under $15.



11 Max February 28, 2013 at 8:27 pm

I love all these ideas!


12 EA James February 28, 2013 at 8:48 pm

Oh man. I was excited by the all the options of creating different fabrics because I can never find what I’m looking for. Then, when I looked at the picture of them all hanging on the wall I saw your spool holder just on the left side of the image and my head exploded. I want one in my sewing room, right now.


13 Lynette February 28, 2013 at 9:11 pm

I used freezer paper to make fabric so I could do a cute boy car seat cover. I used my silhouette cutter to make several grids of cars to cover about a yard of fabric. It took forever (ironing all the pieces), and I wished I would have had stamps instead but I was trying to spend 0. :) I LOVED how it turned out, and will have to try out some more of these options soon. Thanks for all the great ideas!


14 Jessica February 28, 2013 at 9:18 pm

this post is fantastic Dana! It looks like you guys had the most fun making fabric!


15 Jenny February 28, 2013 at 9:40 pm

Dana, just put freezer paper on the back of your knits to stabilize them for painting! These are all so cute.


16 Pam February 28, 2013 at 9:48 pm

Love the ideas. I reckon they are a great way to get the kids involved with creating their own clothes too. Thanks for the inspiration and for the entire CTB series – its already fired me up for some boy stuff making . Some fantastic ideas so far!


17 Cami February 28, 2013 at 9:51 pm

Holy cow… I’ve spent all day mulling over how to make the blah fabrics I have work for a project I need to finish asap. Finally it hit me: paint on your own design! I almost did a somersault right here in my living room when I saw your post for today. Are we on the same wavelength or what?! Thanks for a fantastic post!


18 jodie February 28, 2013 at 9:53 pm

where can you get freezer paper? is it like baking paper? haven’t heard of it in Australia….


19 EA James March 1, 2013 at 1:10 am

They sell it in Spotlight. It’s $1.50 a metre, which is insane, but available. You can also order it from USA Foods in Victoria but they’re out of stock. Ozquilts sells it by the roll too. Hope that helps!


20 Dana March 1, 2013 at 8:35 am

I’m not sure….but it’s like parchment paper with one glossy side. When you iron the glossy side to the fabric, it sticks (temporarily) which is great for cutting out stencils and painting over the top. Hopefully you can find something similar there!


21 treen February 28, 2013 at 10:30 pm

These are some awesome ideas for art experimenting for my homeschooling! Love! (And for the record, I’m jealous of everyone who has boys to sew for in the first place. I have 5 girls which is great with all the ruffles and all … but boy stuff is fun too!)


22 Monica February 28, 2013 at 10:42 pm

Such a fun post, thanks! I just went through some old 2T clothes I saved for my youngest, and there is the sweetest navy striped top. It isn’t crisp navy lines, but a little water-colored looking and wavy, that reminds me of your striped one above. I shouldn’t read posts this late at night, now I want to break out some supplies….


23 Kelly February 28, 2013 at 10:43 pm

I love all these ideas. They were super creative. Just FYI. I let my daughter decorate a cheap t-shirt with the Crayola fabric markers and we were really disappointed when we washed it and her designs completely washed out. Hopefully Owen’s creation fared better.


24 Kristin February 28, 2013 at 10:48 pm

These are so fun, Dana! Love that toilet paper roll one – need to try that.


25 Ann February 28, 2013 at 11:01 pm

I’m with Owen — I love the wood prints.


26 Heidi February 28, 2013 at 11:13 pm

Love this post. I create my own fabric designs all the time. It’s so much fun and the possibilites are endless!


27 kimberlyn February 28, 2013 at 11:19 pm

These are amazing! The painting with foil, kind of looks like a tigers face on the side.


28 amanda February 28, 2013 at 11:32 pm

One of the many things i love about your blog is that you post so many different options for creating. High end fabrics, create your own, use a pattern or don’t use one, etc. It’s really nice to know i can come here and just find such different interesting things to do all the time.


29 saskia March 1, 2013 at 12:21 am

Great tutorial! Using simple tools to create great effects. I recently discovered a technique that is worth mentioning; stenciling or stamping with discharge paste. This is some thick bleach paste that gets activated by steam ironing it. Mad Mim has a great tutorial (http://madmim.com/rose-blockeddischarge-printing-diy/). And here’s the boy sweater I created with it: http://www.vera-luna.blogspot.nl/2013/02/triangles.html.


30 Shannon C. March 1, 2013 at 3:39 am

So many amazing ideas! Thanks for the creative push!


31 Polkadotjes March 1, 2013 at 3:42 am

Love this post. You are making it so hard to choose one way to go!


32 Tiina March 1, 2013 at 3:52 am

Thanks for many great ideas!!

If anyone has more PERMANENT fabric paints to recommend, I would be so happy! I used iron-on fabric paints from a craft store and sadly saw my print fade in washing mashine…


33 lydia purple March 1, 2013 at 4:33 am

Great inspiration and fun post…. made me think how toilet paper roll circles printed with bleach on a dark fabric will look like… got to try it.


34 Patrycja March 1, 2013 at 7:03 am

what a cool idea! I need to try it :)


35 Toni March 1, 2013 at 9:52 am

So cool to see all the different ideas on one wall! I haven’t done all of them yet, but I have made a wood grain pattern with a bleach pen. Talk about awesome bed sheets!


36 Brenda March 1, 2013 at 10:28 am

So, I’ve been mocking up a couple of basic projects in my mind lately, but haven’t been satisfied with what I’ve been drawing up in my head…this post is INCREDIBLY timely and just what I needed to fix my dilemma I was having. Love your ideas – thank you!!


37 Anneliese March 1, 2013 at 11:22 am

This is so fabulous! Love the patterns and techniques. You always take DIY to a new level!


38 April B. March 1, 2013 at 6:46 pm

These are all so fun!! I love your freezer paper stencil toots, I’ve used that before and the bleaching is way fun! I tried that one too when I say your toot.
I just wanted to throw this one out there too, I’ve tried it and it’s a lot of fun!
Thanks for always having fun and cute ideas!


39 Marie March 2, 2013 at 11:43 am

This is such a nice compilation! I’m just wondering, how the sharpie would hold up after washing?
I’m totally pinning this!


40 Petra March 2, 2013 at 6:24 pm

Thanks for sharing that – very cool! I remember my mum sewing on embroidered patches when I was younger to make my clothes look nautical (I was so into anchors, yachts etc! – still am!).


41 Christie March 2, 2013 at 9:55 pm

What a fun post full of great ideas!!! Thanks, Dana!


42 Rani Fajri March 4, 2013 at 3:24 am

Love your ideas… i will try it to make tote bag.. thankyou..


43 yerba mate tea March 26, 2013 at 4:13 am

FLORAL TEAS -This category of teas is in my opinion not as widely known of as
say, green teas, oolongs, Ceylon, etc. Yerba mate tea also has a respectable nutritional profile,
with B vitamins, vitamin C and E, as well as minerals such as magnesium, manganese, potassium and iron.
You would also need a bombilla or a metal straw that you will use to drink from
the gourd.


44 Megan April 2, 2013 at 4:14 pm

I’ve already tired the circles and love it sooo much! Now on to the striped breast pocket! Thanks for the great ideas!!


45 Rene May 4, 2013 at 7:12 am

I’d enjoy this reading, great ideas for budget. Keep it up!


46 Pati June 24, 2013 at 6:41 am

This is amazing!! Thanks so much for this fantastic tutorial! I was looking for some tips about painting on fabric and this is where I found them. Truly amazing!


47 Rosemary October 23, 2013 at 8:56 am

Thanks for the inspiration, I find it really hard to get fabric for my boy, this gave me the confidence to make him a really cool hat


48 Maril May 3, 2014 at 9:09 am

I love what you did with te paterns. I will try them all. Thank you


49 Teka April 10, 2015 at 3:39 am

This is awesome! Loving the colours and patterns here. Thank you =)


50 meggiecat April 16, 2015 at 4:06 pm

So many great ideas from you. Thanks for taking the time to share.
If I may make a suggestion it would be to underpaint the design in white, let dry leaving the stencil in place. Then paint with your desired color.


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