Heat Setting Painted Fabrics

I have been into fabric painting for about 15 or more years now. I did a lot back in the early 90s and always enjoyed the creative venue it provided but it has waned for me the past few years. I have no idea where I learned this technique but the following is how I make those paints permanent. Why don't I just use fabric paints? Well I do, but around these parts that is not a readily available commodity and I don't have a lot of colors at this point. My preferred fabric paints are oils, those  traditionally used for oil painting. They have a lovely transluscent quality. Acrylics can work well too and there are so many colors available. The Rose Sweater is painted with acrylics.
You will need:

  • White vinegar
  • A good amount of "press cloth" type material such as muslin or voile as above. Excess paint will transfer to the press cloth so it must be expendable. You will need a fresh piece of fabric for each space you treat. 
  • A fluffy thick towel to place on your ironing surface. Again this is to prevent strike through onto your ironing board cover. Use the towel to cover the ironing board. I used a small towel on the sleeve board.
  • A DRY iron. 
  • Painted garment which has been allowed to dry at least 24 hours. 

Spread your towel over your ironing surface nice and flat. Place your painted garment section over that and smooth out. Dip a pressing cloth into the straight white vinegar and soak it. Squeeze just a bit and then place the vinegar soaked cloth on the painted garment surface. Smooth out. Begin ironing with a dry iron. You will press not iron, an up and down movement. Iron the cloth and garment til both are dry. Your iron setting should be appropriate to the fabric being treated. WARNING: this makes fumes so you may want a nearby open window. Every breath vinegar fumes?  Once ironed dry, shift the garment and move on to the next section . Continue until all paint has been treated.

Each time you move to a new section, use a new press cloth. A close inspection will show you that there will be some transfer of the paint to the press cloth. You don't want that to transfer to the next section of the garment so keep using clean areas/press cloths.

It's as simple as that. This is what has worked for me over the years and I have never had a painted piece run upon later laundering but you never know. If in doubt to some test samples. As far as dry cleaning the garment, I haven't a clue. How the paints react to dry cleaning I don't know as I have always just hand washed my own, no dryer.


About ten years ago, when our daughter got married, I made her and her husband a small wall quilt for their home. It was just a creative fun project with no particular direction other than trying some colors I usually don't work in and using some Angelina fibers. I have totally forgotten about this little quilt. When we just visited with DD over the holidays she had hung in her upstairs hallway the little quilt I totally forgot. I grabbed the camera to share it all with you.

The quilt is  about 48 by 40 and made up of various quilting cottons. It is free motion quilted and in the corners I have all sorts of tiny pieces and copper Angelina fibers. I forgot how much I liked this quilt and it felt good to see the prominent place where DD displayed it. Its colors work perfectly there....Bunny



  1. I love how creative and talented you are, it just blows me away and I am always looking forward to what you will do next. This sweater is going to be gorgeous.


  2. Love the wall hanging! Interesting post about fabric painting--there are so many new fabric paints out there that absorb into the fiber and don't feel stiff. Does your technique leave that stiff paint feel? Just wondered.

    Yes, I agree on vinegar fumes! Yuck!

  3. I actually find the heat setting softens up the paint a bit, however it really isn't stiff to begin with as I use a lot of water to thin out the paints.

  4. Thanks so much for the painting tutorial. It's exactly what I need RIGHT NOW. I want to paint on some fabric to make pillows. I can't wait now that I have the idea. (I always thought that fabric paint was the ONLY way to go).

  5. That's very interesting. I would never have thought to put an iron to a sweater. I have a lot of paint and inks and your painting inspires me to get my stuff and and DO SOMETHING!

  6. This is looking really nice. I hear you on the vinegar fumes! I use vinegar to set pleats in pleated skirts and while the effect does last, the fumes are quite something.

  7. Oh I want to see the beautiful floral piece you painted. This is so beautiful...what are you going (or have you already) doing with the fabric?

  8. Thank you so much for this tutorial Bunny! I can see myself doing some floral fabric painting for spring!


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