Saturday, February 2, 2013

Make Your Own Stamps!

Welcome to another Saturday at Saturday Sequins!

A few weeks ago I had a paint party, where I gathered my painting supplies and went down to the basement to add color to... anything that would stay still. It was slow going at first, but eventually I started having fun. So much fun that Mr. Sequin had to bribe me with food to get me to come upstairs again!

The fun coincided with stamping. You see, I'd been reading some amazing books on fiber art -- which I may write about next weekend -- and there was a section on making stamps for fabric painting. I didn't have any of the supplies in the book, but I did have some foam shapes and a crazy idea. 

And that's how I turned a plain white shirt like this one...

Into this! A colorful work in progress.

I highly recommend making your own stamps for fabric painting.  It's fun. It's easy. It's perfect for jazzing up old clothing (or sheets or pillow cases). It lets quilters and other fabric artists, including bead and sequin embroiderers, create textile patterns that are totally unique. I've only tried it on cotton fabric and cardboard, but I bet it will work for all sorts of paper projects, too!

Oh, and did I mention how fun it is?

What you'll need:

  • Cotton fabric  (or old clothing)
  •  Foam shapes 
  • A ballpoint pen (or pencil)
  • A thick needle 
  •  Cardboard 
  • Acrylic paint (I like Liquitex, but there are cheaper paints out there)
  •  A paintbrush 
  • A painter's palette  (or plastic plate)
  • A container with clean water
  • An iron and ironing board
  •  A trained flamingo to do the ironing (optional)

To make the stamps:

To make the stamps, I drew a design on my foam shape with a ballpoint pen. I started out with very simple shapes and lines, but I've been working my way up to more complex designs. I retraced this design several times -- about a dozen -- with the eye of my needle. An embroidery needle with a large eye worked well.  The sharp end of the needle tends to snag on the foam.

To use the stamps:

I put cardboard under my fabric, or in the case of a shirt, between the two fabric layers.

I dipped my paint brush in the paint and used it to paint a light coat on the stamp. I tested the stamp on a piece of cardboard to check the paint consistency, and if my paint was too dry or too thick, I added a little water before I painted the stamp again.

To use the stamp, I put it paint side down on the fabric and applied pressure with my fingers. I don't always do this all at once -- in fact, I often start from one end and work my way to the other -- but I make sure to put pressure on every part of the stamp so the entire design shows up on the fabric.

When I was done, the images looked like this:

I washed my stamps after every few stampings to get the extra paint out of the impressions. Water and an old toothbrush or paper towel did the trick. I stuck to black paint for most of the stamping, but I started to get curious about other colors -- like blue and green.

I really like the blue! I'm guessing that purple will be awesome.

What next?

I have lots and lots of stamping left to do, but once that's done and I've waited a few days for the paint to cure, I'll heat set it with an iron. 

To heat set, I sandwich my painted fabric between thick layers of ugly fabric. This protects the iron and ironing board. Some people use a pressing cloth, but all I had was this really ugly fabric I was never going to use. It works just fine.

I iron the fabric sandwich in small sections, spending about 5 minutes on each section and making sure that I keep the iron moving the entire time. I'm not attached to the ugly fabric, but I don't want the acrylic paint to melt or burn. Here's a good article on eHow on heat setting. You can also do it with a hair dryer!

And that's just one way to make your own stamps! If you want to learn more about fabric painting for mixed media work, Chapter Two of Cyndi Lavin's e-book, Every Bead Has A Story, will teach you much more than I can in one blog post. 

I hope you've enjoyed the tutorial! If you have any questions, let me know, and I'll do my best to answer them.

Thanks for stopping by, and have a sequintastic day!


  1. Oh ha! Like minds think alike! I have tons of old shirts that need a new life. I have been stamping them with rubber stamps but they don't seem to work that well.

    I was thinking of trying stencils but I like your idea and I am going to give it a try!


    1. I'm so glad you're going to give it a try! Let me know how it turns out.

      I responded to your comment in an email, but I think everyone else will benefit from the answer -- so here goes:

      Stencils will work, too. Just make sure that your fabric is completely dry and your paint isn't watery. Otherwise, the shapes will bleed. I found this out the hard way and have a big blob on one of my scarves that was supposed to be a star. ;)

  2. Oh and also, where do you get this type of foam? is it already in shapes or do you cut it? Thanks.


    1. I answered this question by email, but I'm going to answer it here, too -- I think other people will really benefit!

      I get the foam at craft stores like Joann Fabrics. They usually come in sheets, which you can probably cut up with scissors or an Exacto knife, but sometimes they also come in shapes -- check the children's craft section. :)

  3. Yessss I can see how much fun you had. Great idea and thank for sharing it.

    1. It was a whole lot of fun! One of these days, I'm going to experiment with stamping NBB because I know it can be painted. :)

      Thanks, Nicole!

  4. Imagine how cool some sequins will look, sprinkled amongst the stampings. :)
    I've been threatening to make my own stamps out of polymer clay for two years now. Time to get on it.

    1. I know the exact sequins I'd use, too! Now I just have to figure out how to attach sequins securely to clothing. Jewelry's so easy -- there's always a backing to hide the stitches.

      Ohhh, when you make those stamps, I'd love to see them!

      I might also try carving stamps out of an eraser. Some people make molds for metal clay that way.

  5. Super cute shirt, what a great idea....I think I'll call you Sarah Inspiration!!!

    1. Aww, yay!! Thanks, Debbie -- I really needed that today. <3

  6. Foam is so great to use for stamps, huh? Have you ever tried using a woodburning tool? It works well, but is best done with *really* good ventilation!!

    1. I've never tried a wood burner. I think I'd be too chicken.

      I've also heard that you can put foam on top of objects with texture and use a heat gun so the foam conforms to the shape of the object... instant stamp! But I might be too chicken to do that, too -- melting plastic scares me.

  7. Aren't these fun to use!? I have an odd collection of stamps I've made, some from foam and some from speedy cut blocks.

    You can also glue objects (like pennies or metal washers) to wood blocks to use them as stamps, too. If the object is too porous (like a heavy lace fabric), you can paint it with acrylic gel first.

    1. They really are fun! As soon as I learn how to draw a skull, I'm going to make some really spooky skull stamps.

      Thanks for the tip about the wood blocks! There are a ton of them at the IDEA store. I want to drive right over there in my snowflake pajamas and buy them. :)


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