Painting thread

I did a little experiment yesterday. I imagine lots of people have done this before, but it’s the first time I’ve got round to trying fabric paint to colour thread. I used Jacquard dye-na-flow liquid colour, which behaves more like dye than paint, and applied it with a brush to create a space-dyed effect.

Silk and cotton threads coloured with fabric paints

I only used three colours – lemon yellow, turquoise, and purple – with a little black to ‘sadden’ rather than darken. I soaked the threads first in water and squeezed out the excess before painting. They dried outside on the washing line. Fabric paints generally need heat to set them, and I figured if you can iron fabric, which is basically woven thread, then you can also iron thread so I gave them a quick steam with the iron when they were dry. I think I’ve read somewhere that these paints will cure in the air as well if you leave them a few days.

Silk and cotton threads, space-dye effect with paint

I quite like the pastel/watercolour effect but maybe wouldn’t water the colours down so much every time. I wondered if painting the thread would change the hand, and it does, slightly – they are still soft, but maybe not quite as soft as they would be if I’d used dye. On the whole I think I prefer dyed thread, but I found there is slightly more control over the colour with paint. It will be interesting to see how colourfast and lightfast these threads turn out to be over time. I road-tested a bit on today’s stitch journal block:

Stitch journal 29th May, hand-painted cotton crochet thread

Good to try new things, I think.

Author: Karen

Textile and mixed media artist

7 thoughts on “Painting thread”

  1. The colours have turned out beautifully. It will be interesting to see how they sew up.

  2. for sure I haven’t been happy with the way fabric paint closes up the interstices in cloth … making it well nigh impossible to get a needle through … this is an interesting way to turn the problem around

    in light of your comment that you prefer dyed thread, but like the control of paint I’m wondering if you have tried Derwent Inktense blocks or pencils … I have used them on cloth, finding that they do bleed slightly on cotton and run like the dickens on linen … and they are not as wash-fast as one might hope … still, you now have me thinking I’ll given them a try on some silk/cotton floss that I have on hand

    1. Interesting… yes, I have used inktense before but not on fabrics. I did colour a silk thread with a felt tip pen recently though 🙂 I once painted fabric with acrylics and it was like sewing concrete when it was dry

  3. Fantastic colour range and very individual. The test will be as you say are they colourfast? Experiments are good adventures though.

    1. I don’t often make things that need washing, so the colourfast issue usually doesn’t matter. It would be interesting to know though

  4. I’ve used various things to colour various things. Needs must and all. For heat setting I usually put them on the hot water tank for a few days, or even a radiator but you have to be careful or you often get the markings of the radiator grill!

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