Getting Creative with Paint & Pen

After we moved, the furniture and design catalogs started arriving. I was intrigued by West Elm’s beautiful painted pillow covers, so a mere 26 weeks ago I pinned this.

I had old beige curtains that I could cut up and paint…the gears were turning. Perhaps they ground to a halt since it’s taken half a year to follow up on my idea.

OK, OK, it’s been a start again, stop again process. I cut up some blanks of fabric from the old curtains, and then decided painting them might be a great family project. I pulled them out back in July on a hot summer afternoon and invited my mother-in-law Mary Kay to paint them with me. Sweet Miss was at work, but Baby Girl ditched her friends for a little bit to join in the fun.

We simply laid out the fabric on a table outside and painted to our heart’s desire with silk paint and printing ink  from Dharma Trading Company. They were leftover from past projects. I’d loved the silk paint on silk–the colors were so vibrant.

So we went to town.

I did try to copy my inspiration pillow in blue. While not perfect, it was bright and cheery. When we were finished with a few pieces, we hung them on the deck to dry and kept going.

After the first few paintings, I decided to try something really tricky. I’ve loved this fish pillow from West Elm.

Outdoor Fish Block Pillow

I figured I could manage a stick figure fish… I had water-based resist (gutta)  from my silk painting project and used that to draw my fish on the fabric and then let it dry. A few hours later, I went back with my paints and filled it in. Some of them bled, so I added more black to cover up the trouble areas. I wasn’t happy, but at least the rest of paintings looked great.

I’d make these up into pillows in no time and add some color to the girls’ hangout room. Flash forward a couple days. Once fully dried, the colors faded. They looked sad and muted; I was bummed. That’s the way things stood for the next two months.

Every now and then I’d come up with some idea on how to revitalize the color. I steamed the blue striped one with my iron. No go. Maybe steaming wrapped in paper over a pot of boiling water.  Nope, that didn’t work. I did some research online and tried baking it. Now the background was slightly toasted, but the blues were still faded. I don’t need stacks of painted fabric that remind me of my failures sitting around in my sewing room. I needed to come up with something or get rid them.

Then Rusto-oleum to the rescue; their semi-gloss in clear promises to seal, protect and revitalize. It was worth a try. I could just spray the silly things and see what happened.

Drum roll please. Look at this vibrant color.

And let’s not forget the blues.

While that worked great for the paintings that I liked. What was I going to do about my ugly fish?

I’ve seen a lot of fabric “painting” with Sharpies lately, so when I was at Costco outfitting Sweet Miss for college, I picked up a rainbow pack of them.

Watching a little TV, I started coloring.

It was definitely looking better. I colored in the scallops and started on the black.

It looked so much cleaner already. I carefully outlined the black and filled it in.

Maybe this baby was going to turn out after all.

So maybe the fish does look pregnant, and the West Elm version is cooler, but my fish is smiling, so obviously she’s happier. I even like the vibrant color and may skip the clear-coat on this one. If I felt the need to make a dozen fish pillows, I’d use a pencil to trace it out beforehand rather than just winging it. Then in theory, the fish would turn out more symmetrical.

And next time I decide to paint fabric, I’ll remember that silk paints turn out better on silk than cotton and keep keep my clear coat handy.

Now it’s just a matter of turning these into fun and funky pillows, buying a slipcover for the little couch, and really getting the hangout room put together. It’s going to look great.

What have you been crafting lately? Any projects that you’ve had to rethink?


5 thoughts on “Getting Creative with Paint & Pen

  1. I seem to not be nearly as crafty as I used to. But I am going scrapbooking this weekend! 3 nights, 3 days of no family, my computer (I am working on some digital scrapbooking because I have some book credits I have to use in the next month), a bunch of women and food. Sighhhhh.

  2. Oh my goodness, the pillows turned out great!! Thank you for your tenacity of scoping out solutions. They look so beautiful and elegant and eclectic, I love them. That was such a fun afternoon, which led to a great conversation with 3 generations. Thank you for the memory, and the jubilation at having a ‘project’ turn into ‘art’ worthy of posting and actually using.

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