Home > Fun Stuff, Printmaking, Uncategorized > How to print leaves onto quilting fabric

How to print leaves onto quilting fabric

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This baby quilt is a project where I combined printmaking skills with hand quilting. Leaves make a nice pattern. Better yet, leaves are free! This is an easy process that you can do in an afternoon.

The supplies you need are:

  • Fresh green leaves (which rules out doing this project in the winter in cold climates.)
  • Tulip Soft Fabric Paint (an acrylic, water-based paint, about $2 a bottle in craft stores) or similar fabric paint / silkscreen fabric ink
  • A rubber brayer to roll the paint
  • Disposable paint palette to roll the paint out (can substitute a large piece of glass)
  • Newspapers

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Here are the steps to print your own leaf fabric: 

  1. Iron your fabric. If it has been pre-washed, do not use any fabric softener which will repel the paint colors. Lay the fabric flat on a table or counter top. You may want a sheet of plastic under the fabric to the work surface clean.
  2. Roll the paint color with a brayer on the disposable palette page so the brayer roller is evenly coated in color.
  3. Place a leaf on a newspaper sheet. Roll the fabric paint onto the leaf. Cover the whole leaf, any excess paint will just be on the newspaper around the leaf edges. You want a thin, even layer of fabric paint.
  4. Pick the leaf up carefully and place it face down on the fabric so the paint is in contact with the fabric surface.
  5. Gently rub the leaf with your fingertips to print it on the fabric. Be careful to not mash the paint out around the leaf edges.
  6. Making sure your hand is clean, lift the leaf up and discard it. Discard the messy newspaper sheet and repeat until you have as many printed leaves as you want.
  7. Air dry the printed fabric. Heat set the paint or ink if you use a brand that indicates this step is needed. You can iron the fabric or cheat and throw the dry fabric in a hot clothes drier.

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I printed my leaves on a whole piece of fabric for a fast and easy quilt face. I wanted to make the leaves stand out by hand-quilting around each one. I added the simple border to the quilt and popped the layers into a quilting hoop and just stitched away while watching TV.

Another method you may want to try is to cut squares or rectangles of fabric, stack them up and then print the smaller pieces to later sew together as quilt blocks. Use clothes pins and a line for an easy way to let them hang and dry if you do not have a drying rack. You can make a variety of printed leaf fabrics based on color choices of fabric, colors of silkscreen inks or fabric paints, and what kind of leaves you can collect for this project.

You can blend colors for an ombre effect by rolling two colors side by side with your roller. You can add white and make different shades of the same color. This project would also look great in fall colors like reds, yellows, oranges and browns!

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