Don't let my all-black wardrobe fool you... I am in fact a colour person, which is one of the reasons that I find the current available colours of Aida Cloth so darn frustrating. Let's see... I'm planning on beginning a new cross stitch project and the colours of fabric I have to choose from are white, off-white, black, natural, and a rather anemic selection of awful pastels. Sorry folks, that just isn't working for me.
I hummed and hawed and experimented for a good long while before I finally came up with a method for colouring my own Aida cloth. I tried dyeing it (it is 100% cotton, generally) but couldn't get a consistent saturation of colour - and while that works quite well for some designs, I didn't want the fabric to compete with my simple cross-stitch patterns so much as compliment them - enter my method for painting Aida...
This is what you need:
~ White Aida cloth in the count you prefer - we almost always use (and design with) 14 count.
~ Regular ol' acrylic craft paint (available at pretty much any craft store - although we don't recommend using dollar store craft paint... go ahead and ask us how we know that).
~ Textile Medium Liquid - usually found in either the fabric paint aisle or with the acrylic paints - we use Delta Ceramcoat and we love it. We buy it at Michael's.
~ Foam paint brush and a small container to mix your paint in.
Okay... let's take a quick break to answer a few questions you undoubtedly have.
1. Why the heck don't you just use regular fabric paint? 'Cause it's expensive and we're cheap. Acrylic paint is much cheaper than fabric paint, comes in a wider range of colours and mixes well. The bottle of textile medium is a little more expensive, but a little goes a long, long way.
2. Do I have to use textile medium? Can't I just paint right on the fabric with the regular paint? Yes you do and no you can't. The textile medium helps the acrylic paint to sink into the fabric - keeping your Aida flexible and making it ironable/washable. Without it, the acrylic can just sit on the surface and flake and crack. That's not very nice!
Now... back to the business at hand.
Firstly, prep your work surface. We like throwing down a piece of waxed paper to work on, although any clean piece of paper would work too (don't use newspaper, the newsprint will rub off on your fabric... again, don't ask us how we know that!). Waxed paper works well because it's cheap and it doesn't absorb the paint, risking it seeping through to the surface you're trying to protect in the first place!
Cut your white Aida cloth to the size you need. For a pattern that's 5x7 we literally cut our fabric to 5x7 - that way there's no waste at all. But if you prefer to trim your fabric after you've completed stitching, that's cool too. The nice thing about painted Aida is that the edges are sealed - so they won't fray as you work!
Next, mix your paint to the colour you're trying to achieve. For softer colours it's nice to start with white paint and tint it with a little colour - in this example we're going for a soft grey. If you wanted a brighter, more vibrant colour, just go with what's in the bottle. Remember though, once you get it on the fabric, the colour always looks stronger! Trust us. When all else fails, err on the side of caution. If it's not as dark or vibrant as you wanted it to be when it's all finished, you can always repaint it.
Before you begin painting you need to mix in your textile medium. Our brand recommends a 2-1 ratio of paint to textile medium. We don't measure exactly... if you have a little too much medium that's okay. The nice thing about the textile medium is that it doesn't alter the colour of your paint!
Really now all you have to do is apply your paint to your fabric - we like using a foam brush because they're really inexpensive and they achieve great coverage. You want to make sure you get every bit of your fabric painted evenly. It's going to look like the tiny holes in the Aida are all filled in with paint. Don't worry - as the paint absorbs into the fabric the holes will reopen again - and if they don't, then your needle will still go through.
You don't need a million coats of paint - truth be told, one coat usually does it. We go side to side with the first pass, and then up and down on the second to make sure no little white parts are showing through!
Now comes the hard part - waiting for the paint to dry. In the meantime don't forget to clean up! If you have leftover paint you can keep it in a sealed container to use the next time.
Once the paint has dried flip your fabric over. Don't be alarmed, but chances are a little (or a lot) of the paint has seeped through to the backside like this:
That's okay! It means the paint/textile medium has done it's job and permeated the fabric instead of just sitting on the surface. It may not look too pretty, but no one's going to see the back anyway. The last step in this process is to heat seal the paint to make it washable and permanent. We recommend a hot iron on cotton setting without steam.
We have an iron dedicated just to crafting, so we're confident to iron directly onto the backside of the fabric even though a little paint has seeped through. You can also use a pressing cloth to protect your iron if you like. Either way you're going to smell a little acrylic paint sort of smell. That's okay! Just keep your iron moving in circular motions for a few seconds to set the paint (half a minute usually does it). The textile medium we use recommends allowing 7 days for the paint to cure after you've heat set it before you wash the piece - but you can still stitch on it in the meantime!
See? Looks pretty good - unless you flipped it over, you'd never know it wasn't grey Aida cloth to begin with!! You may find that the paint has made the Aida a little stiffer. Personally, we like it that way, since it's easier to stitch on without a hoop (I generally don't use a hoop at all). But you can still hoop your fabric like normal if that's your preferred method of stitching. Once your stitching is completed, the fabric can be ironed on the backside just like normal!
And that's it! Instead of being limited to the small number of colours of Aida cloth commercially available, you can now, quite literally, make millions of colours!! With only a few basic colours of paint, you can mix an entire rainbow of personalized, one-of-a-kind colours of Aida cloth. Have fun!