Painted Thread

My prejudice against paint on fabric has been thoroughly overcome by associating with everyone at USArtquest. (I only used these acrylic paints on this experiment) Through Sue, I heard about using paint to color threads, rather than dyeing them. I was skeptical, but today I tried it.

Why? I’m trying to figure out what I want to use on my painted leaves project. Paint, right? Leading to thoughts of more paint…

I have this heavy weight thread (from an old box of “stuff” so no real information!) and thought it might look good as an outline thread. But the color is rather blah. Experiment time!!!

I cut a bunch of thread and laid it in the bottom of a small plastic tray. I wet it thoroughly with water, because I knew that I wanted the colors to mush together and blend. Here’s how it turned out…subtle, but definitely more color. I like it!

Painted threads 4

I did it again with embroidery floss.

In the tray, wet…

Painted threads 1

A glob of paint on a sponge…

Painted threads 2

The floss with several colors of paint dabbed on…

Painted threads 3

The result…

Painted threads 5

There is no rinsing like there is with dyes, so I sopped up as much extra moisture as I could with some fabric. You could also use paper towels, but I usually love my ‘drop cloth’ fabric and blot many times with the same fabric.

Painted threads 6

I had several concerns while I was doing this, mostly about the fabric sticking together as it dried and would it be thick-hard-flaky as I used it. Sooooo, I took the hanks over to the ironing board and partially dried the thread with the iron and I like to believe that I heat set the paint at the same time. The threads came out a teeny bit stiff feeling but softened up as soon as I started handling them. I took a few sample stitches and had absolutely no flaking or color bleed. The strands of the embroidery floss also separated just fine.

Almost instant gratification with paint! I WILL be doing this again, maybe with a bit less water and heavier paint, to see how far I can take this coloring thing!

This didn’t tell me what I’m doing with my painted leaves, but it sure does open up more color possibilities for the supplies I already have on hand! Bonus!

Linking this to Off the Wall Friday so now everyone will be able to try painting thread!




12 thoughts on “Painted Thread

  1. Interesting!! One thing I want to share as encouragement, is that over the last 20 years I’ve tried a ton of stuff that I thought– OMG – I won’t ever do that technique. Sometimes I have a prejudice that it doesn’t belong in quilting – sometimes it just doesn’t look like its for me. I’m really glad I tried it all. That said – I always seem to take a little of them and work it into my style so its all me.


    • There is almost nothing that I won’t try at least once, but sometimes I have to be encouraged to try it more than once! Paint is/was one of those things and it’s growing on me!

      On Mon, Jun 2, 2014 at 5:58 AM, Quirks Ltd. wrote:



  2. I am surprised the thread isn’t a bit stiffer but I am in love with paint. Not as toxic as dye, and oy vey the rinsing out! Ack! I paint all the time, watering the paint down but haven’t tried threads. Glad to see your experiments!


    • Well, I’ve only done this once! We’ll see if I just got lucky or if the threads react differently as I go along. I love dyeing, but it’s a pain for just a little bit of nothing. If this paint thing continues to work, I’ll be very happy!

      On Sat, May 31, 2014 at 10:14 PM, Quirks Ltd. wrote:



  3. Why Kathy, I can’t believe that you didn’t discover paint earlier. I even use muslin that has been painted and I paint my threadpainting right on top of all the thread when I need to emphasize a certain area. In fact, you can just do all your theadpainting in white and then use paint or fabric pens to color them. Art quilters use paints and fabric pens all the time.


    • Well I’ve been very prejudiced against paint because it makes the fabrics so stiff. Things have improved in recent years and there are more products available now than ever before. I’m warming up to paint, but it’s a slow process.

      On Fri, May 30, 2014 at 1:05 PM, Quirks Ltd. wrote:



  4. this is so fun! I’ve never thought of painting thread before- I would have thought they’d be sticky and stiff- so cool that they softened up. I don’t dye very much- no space, so I like when painting will work. Thanks for sharing!


    • I’m still not totally convinced that the next time will work as well. Stiff and sticky is still what I expect, so only more experiments will tell the tale!

      On Fri, May 30, 2014 at 11:09 AM, Quirks Ltd. wrote:



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