Wet-paint stenciling

Wet-paint stenciling.

I've always admired Alabama Chanin's faded leaves fabric. When I was at the factory last November, Steven talked about the process to make the fabric. It sounded pretty straight forward and really fun. Because the fabric needs to be wet and laid out in a single layer, it's the perfect outdoor, summertime project. I knew my friend Debbie would be game, so I gave her a call, and we made our plans.  We gathered in her yard on a gorgeous, sunny morning.

The first step is to soak the fabric in a bucket of salt water for about 20 minutes. A very long table would be the ideal work surface, but since we didn't have one, we laid out an area of plastic on the ground and secured the edges with rocks.

Wring out your fabric and lay it in a single layer on your work surface. While your fabric is still wet, place your stencil on your fabric (we used natural and white fabric), and spray with black fabric paint. We used our Badger airbrush tool with canned air (purchased at our local hobby store).

In most cases you would want a smooth, flat work surface so your stencil would come out nice and crisp. In our case, we didn't mind that the surface was not perfectly flat, because we knew we were going for a faded, washed-out look. Reposition your stencil, and repeat the spraying process until all your fabric has been painted.

Once your fabric is completely stenciled, use a spray bottle filled with water to spray the entire piece of fabric until the desired look is achieved. The more you spray, the more the paint spreads.

The upper left-hand corner has not been sprayed with water yet, and the rest has. You can see how the paint continues to spread out even more after it has been sprayed with water. 

Wait about an hour, then hang your fabric out to dry. Dry for at least 24 hours, then machine wash and dry as usual.

There was a slight breeze while we were painting, and we did get some overspray. Debbie made an impromptu design decision and incorporated the overspray into an ombre section of fabric ~ white to light gray to darker gray. I can't wait to see how she puts it all together.

Complete directions can be found on page 48, of Alabama Studio Style, by Natalie Chanin.

I think I'll make a short dress out of my faded leaves fabric....or perhaps a corset top...or.....hmmmm, what do you think?


  1. Oh...I was wondering how to achive this effect on fabric...I'm so happy that I found your beautiful blog.. Is this technique possible with dark fabric and light stenciling color?

  2. Oh...I was wondering how to achive this effect on fabric...I'm so happy that I found your beautiful blog.. Is this technique possible with dark fabric and light stenciling color?

  3. I'm so very glad you've found my blog!

    I've never tried this with dark fabric and light paint. I doubt it would work though. It's very difficult to find a lighter paint that shows on a darker fabric, even at full strength. With this technique the paint is diluted. Usually a paint with glimmer or shimmer will show up more on a dark fabric and will be easier to see, though I don't think even that would help here.

    My first thought for your question was using bleach, but I've never done anything along that line and don't know what those results would be. I might have to do some experimenting! If I do give it a go, I'll post my results. Thanks for asking!

  4. Thank you for your answer! I saw a a-line dress coloured that way (I think on your Pinterest..?..), and wondered is this the same technique. But had the same doubt,because diluted light color disapears, as you said...anyway, you've teached me something new, thank you for this inspirational blog...I love everything you made...

  5. You're welcome. So glad to have you along.

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  7. Thank you for sharing this interesting and informative article, painting with airless spray gun will be faster and more interesting!

  8. What a GREAT idea. I'll research this. Do you have a specific make or model you would recommend? Thank you so much.

  9. This is such a great way to create cloth!Your results are wonderful.

  10. Hi Jacque~ Yes, it's really fun. I've got this on my list for this summer to make more.

  11. Can't wait to try this. Thanks for posting because you have given me lots of ideas!

    1. I'd love to see pictures of your fabric when you paint it! I'm going to have another go in a couple of weeks, and I think I'll try another color. I have some Marabu Fashion Spray in Indigo. Hopefully it will work well with this method. I'll post my results if I go forward with it.