DIY: Make Impressionist Artwork With Fabric Dye

This weekend, I set out to do a project using fabric dye, but I have a confession.  What I ended up with was nothing like what I had intended to make.  But it all turned out okay!  Because I’m really happy with this “impressionist artwork” that now hangs on the wall in my office.

I set out to make throw pillows for my breakfast area banquette.  But because I ended up using so much of the fabric dye, and I didn’t want to wash it out because I loved the deep, rich colors, the fabric ended up being unusable for use as pillows…even after four coats of Scotchgard.

So instead of pillows, I whipped up some very simple thick frames with my Kreg Jig, and I now have artwork.  BIG artwork.  Each one (frame included) measures about 22 inches square.

The first one I did was this blue one, using teal Rit Dye in the powdered form.  I originally set out to simply make ombre fabric with speckles, but when it was finished, I stepped back and looked at it, and thought, “Hmmm…that looks I’m under water looking up towards the surface of the ocean.”  Then I showed it to Matt, and his first response was, “Wow!  That looks like the ocean!”

So on the second one, I actually set out with the intent of making some sort of impressionist artwork, and what I had in mind was the sunset over the ocean.  This one is definitely my favorite.  And I think I at least got the general impression, because when I showed it to Matt, his response was, “You know what that looks like?  It looks like the sunset over the ocean!”


So let me show you how I made these.  They’re really quite simple, but a bit messy.  In hindsight, I realize I should have made them outside to reduce the risk of dropping the powder on the floor (that stuff gets everywhere!!).  But definitely DON’T do this anywhere near carpet or upholstered furniture.

I started out with a piece of duck cloth about 19 inches square.  I soaked it, and then wrung it out just enough so that it wasn’t dripping everywhere.  Then I placed my fabric dyes on individual plates.  For my favorite “sunset” one, I used teal, green, orange, yellow-orange, and yellow.

Then using very dry fingers (!!), I grabbed pinches of the dye, and sprinkled it onto the fabric.

When I got the dye where I wanted it, I sprayed it with a spray bottle.  Then I would add more dye, then more spray, then dye, then spray…

You get the picture.  🙂

When I had it like I thought I wanted it, I used paper towels to remove the excess water, and also some of the extra dye.  Then I let it dry for a few minutes (maybe 10 or so), and then used paper towels to gently wipe across the fabric from left to right to remove any of the extra powder.  This created a really nice “brushed” effect on the fabric.

I then hung up the fabric to let it dry completely.  The next day, I used my iron on the highest setting with steam to iron the back of each piece and remove all of the wrinkles.

The frames that I made were very simple construction, made with 1″ x 4″ lumber on the front, and 1″ x 2″ lumber on the back.  Since I didn’t have any picture frame moulding that has a rabbet, and I don’t own a router, this was the only way I could create the rabbet for the mounted artwork to recess into the back of the frame.

Here’s how the front of the frame looked after sanding…

And here’s how the back looked…

You can see that the 1″ x 4″ lumber is held together with Kreg Jig joints.  Then I just used my brad nailer (with wood glue, of course) to attach the 1″ x 2″ pieces directly into the 1″ x 4″ pieces.  This created a large rabbet so that I could then mount my artwork onto scrap pieces of MDF with spray adhesive, and then set them into the frame.

I didn’t take step-by-step pictures as I made the frames simply because the Kreg company has such great videos on YouTube. Here’s the one for making simple frames. And seriously, if you don’t have a Kreg Jig yet, go today and get one!!! (And they’re not even paying me to say that.) 🙂

Here’s how the frames looked on the artwork after a coat of primer and a coat of white paint…

This artwork may not be what I set out to create from the beginning, but I’m just as happy with them.  In fact, I think it might have been a happy accident, because I’m pretty sure that these look many times better than any throw pillows I might have made!!

So have you ever made anything out-of-the-ordinary with fabric dye?  If so, leave a link in the comments below, because I’d love to see it!!

Linking to:
Tatertots & Jello



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  1. I LOVE this! I have always loved impressionist paintings and have tried to make my own with paint but it never looked good. I will definitely have to try this! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Sister…you’ve got mad skills! That is so awesome and I’m always impressed by women who can use power tools or Kreg Jigs, etc. I’ve got the power tools…just don’t know how to use them but you’ve inspired me. Bravo!

  3. I absolutely LOVE this!! I have a place on my entertainment center that needs a little extra something and I was trying to find a good DIY art project to put there. This will be perfect! Thanks so much for sharing such a great technique! 🙂

  4. What an incredibly beautiful happy accident! Love both the accidental ocean and the more purposeful sunset over the sea. Who would think rit dye would make such cool paintings! And a Kreg jig is still on my want list – at this rate maybe my birthday in, sigh, December. 😉

  5. I love the pieces you created. Just beautiful, the blue ocean is so vibrant it reminds me of home. I’m somewhat new to this, ok, very new. . . I had to look up Kreg jig and rabbet. Am ready to purchase both now, but supposed to be cooking dinner. Booooooo. Thanks for the inspiration!