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  • Writer's pictureAzie

The Tutorialist: Dyeing Fabric

Visit one of our shops so we can show you our fabric swatches because seeing is believing.

Enhance Your Furniture & Your Fabrics

One of my main projects here in the East Village is putting together a book of fabric swatches that highlight how well Chalk Paint® decorative paint by Annie Sloan takes to varying fabrics.

There’s a lot of serendipity when it comes to Annie Sloan’s brand. A lot of the amazing things it can do are discovered by just playing around with it. It’s that playfulness that has sourced my own tips on dyeing fabric with Chalk Paint®.

The ratio of water to paint can vary. The more paint you use, the richer the hue. The more water, the less pigmented the dye. . 

I dyed muslin, burlap, and canvas and kept the ratio close to 50/50 with a couple of coats, just to make sure I had an even coverage. Natural fibers benefit from the addition of water because it helps the pigment really soak into the fibers. I added my water to paint, stirred well, and just brushed the mixture onto my swatches. I let them dry before I did my next coat and that took a couple of hours to fully dry prior to revisiting. If you’re painting upholstery, however, light coats are needed so that the padding beneath does not get compromised. If you’ve mixed water in with your paint, we typically let each coat dry at least overnight before placing another coat of paint over it to be safe. 

If you’ve read or seen that you can spray the fabric with water and then paint over it and prefer that method, feel free to do that! Use the paint however you’re comfortable. Play with it – experiment – be artistic and creative – it can be a paint, a fabric dye, a color wash…Chalk Paint® provides endless possibilities!

If you have textiles like curtains, tablecloths, or bedding, make a mix in a bucket to submerge your textile. Fill the water with your water and paint mixture – Annie recommends 20 parts water to 1 part paint in one of her fabulous books however we’ve played with this ratio a bit in our testing. Stir well until the pigment at the bottom of the bucket has fully dissolved. Dip fabric all the way into the dye. Let sit for 40 minutes and stir occasionally just in case the pigments start to settle out or separate. Air dry overnight and throw in the wash to soften it.

Back in January, when Azie decided to dye a worse-for-wear vinyl couch, the ratio was about 1/3 water to paint because it wasn’t a fiber dye. To reduce the amount of drips (as the water would not be able to as quickly permeate vinyl as it could fibers), we only thinned out the paint slightly and it painted beautifully. The first coat looks scarily sheer and it took about seven coats, but the finish was beautiful. In this case we waxed it with two coats and six months later it still looks great.

Dyeing fabrics is a fun, no fuss way to tie together your palette and update dated textiles. It does take longer than regular painting because of the dry-time but we promise your patience pays off. If you’ve painted an upholstered piece, take a stiff clean brush to it and rub off the excess pigments. If you want to add a bit of protection, waxing is an option too. It’ll still retain the softness, if you use just a light coating of wax and really work it into the fibers.

Notes: This is one of the few cases that brushes don’t quite matter as much. I still love Annie Sloan’s for painting directly onto fabric because they hold even water paint really well, but feel free to use whatever is on hand. You’re not worried about brushstrokes with this undertaking.


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