The Free Motion Quilting Project: Painting a Quilted Quilt

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Painting a Quilted Quilt

On Monday I posted an update on Hot Cast and details on how I'm painting the surface of the quilt with Jacquard Lumiere Textile Paints.

Sewmuch2do asked a great question in the comments of that post:
Why did you choose Jacquard paints over other mediums - i.e. paintstiks or something else? What about quilting overtop of the painted surface? How has he paint affected the hand and quiltability of it? Thanks!
This is such a great question, I created an entire video just to answer it!

So the first question - Why did I use Jacquard paints instead of Shiva Paintstiks?

The main reason is how the paint is applied.

free motion quilting | Leah DayJacquard paints are much more liquid, basically the consistency of normal paint, so you can apply this paint with a normal paint brush. If you need to paint a tiny space, you simply pick up a tiny brush.

Shiva Paintsticks on the other hand are far more dry, oil based paint. A few paintsticks I've picked up were more liquid than others, but for the most part, these paints are either applied from the paintstick itself, which is like drawing with a giant kid's crayon, or applied with a stiff bristle stencil brush.

You can get a stencil brush as small as 1/4 inch, but for some areas of Hot Cast, that is still WAY too big! It would be like coloring in a kid's coloring book with a crayon the size of a broom handle - nearly impossible to paint within the lines.

I do like Shiva Paintsticks, which is why I used them in a past quilt. Almost the entire surface of Release Your Light was painted with Shiva Paintsticks. Everything except her body, hair and heart and I've heard many quilters comment that it's nearly impossible to tell that it's paint. Most people ask how I appliqued the points so perfectly!

free motion quilting | Leah DayHere's a video I created while I was working on the rays of that quilt so you can see how I used masking tape and a stencil brush to apply the paint:

The second question was - What about quilting over the painted surface?

This gives the quilt a very different look and it's fun to play with both options in a quilt.

Keep in mind that paint will ALWAYS change the hand (the feel) of the fabric. Since I quilt so densely already, this doesn't bother me, but I personally don't like stitching through painted fabric.

Why? Mostly because I find that painted fabric is stiffer and my needle pierces it, making noticeable holes. Also it seems that no matter how small my stitches, they just stand out more than I like on the surface of painted fabric. Keep in mind that this is just my personal preference.

As I said, it's fun to play with both options. Sometimes painting the fabric first, then quilting with a different colored thread can create some really cool effects you can't get any other way.

For both Hot Cast and Release Your Light, I choose to paint over the quilting and to be frank - this can be very, very scary.

If I screw it up, if I spill paint, if I smear an area, I will either have to paint over that area, or the quilt will be ruined.

You can always apply more paint of course, but for areas you want light, or you don't want any paint on at all, you will need to be very careful to make sure you don't paint outside the lines.

And the last question was - How has he paint affected the hand and quiltability of it?

free motion quilting | Leah DayThis depends on the quilt, the fabric you've used, and how densely you've quilted it.

I find the best way to know what you're doing (and take the intimidation factor down a notch), is to make samples of your quilt before you start painting.

Using 6" squares, paint half the square with the paint you want to use, then leave the other half unpainted. Once the paint is dry, quilt the entire square with the free motion design you want to use.

free motion quilting | Leah DayNow paint over the section that was unpainted. Let this dry and see what you think - do you like the side with the paint on top or the quilting on top? It's entirely down to your preference!

Samples are essential especially when you're using multiple colors of paint to achieve a specific look. Here's a sample of the column:

free motion quilting | Leah DayI quilted this with several different fillers and with Metallic Pewter between the columns and Metallic Silver on the trapuntoed areas. I wanted to see the effect of the two different silver colors and see if it created the effect I was going for.

Without a sample, how will you know what you're doing? It's very important to take your time with this and know what you're doing before jumping in with both feet.

And it's also important to understand painting is very time consuming. If you do plan to cover a large section of your quilt with paint, think about how much time it's going to take, then triple that estimation!

But it does create a really cool effect on the surface of the quilt that can be very hard to achieve with multiple pieces of fabric, so it's worth it.

I hope ya'll have enjoyed this extra tutorial! It's been fun to make so keep those questions coming and I'll keep making new videos to answer them!

Let's go quilt (or paint),



  1. have you tried these derwent color pencils? they are activated by water.... I just saw them the other day....

  2. Thank you so much for this great and very useful tutorial!

  3. You are so inspiring! Thanks for all the great information on something a little scary!

  4. Leah,

    Great and inspiring video! Keep those excellent ideas coming.


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