Lets learn how to paint on fabric and make our own miniature tapestries and patches while learning all about the art history of fabric painting! Kids who love history, DIY, and anything to do with getting creative will love this craft!
This fabric painting craft is great for kids in elementary school or older and can be used at home or in the classroom. Kids will learn fine motor skills, creativity, how to DIY, and learn about various types of fabric art history from all around the world. Want to know more about fabric art history? Check out the end of this article!
Art History fabric painting craft
Let’s create our own fabric arts with this fabric painting craft! What designs will you make?
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supplies to paint fabric
Steps to paint fabric
Gather all your materials together and prepare your craft area.
Take your scrap fabric and a ruler, measure a square that is about 4in by 4in (10cm by 10cm). Using a paint pen, draw guidelines lines along the 4in by 4in border.
Using your scissors, carefully cut out a little bit outside of the guidelines your drew onto your fabric. We will cut off the excess fabric later.
Next grab you paper and pencil. Draw the outline of your desired design onto the paper.
If this is your first time doing this craft, keep it pretty simple! You can do a star, heart, flower, lightning bolt, or any other simple design! If you’ve done this craft before, feel free to do a more complicated design. Check out the tips section for some advise on this!
Using your tape, apply tape over the drawing to make sure the stencil is strong. Next, grab your scissors and carefully cut out the inside of your shape to make a stencil.
Attach the stencil to your fabric with some safety pins. Prepare the paints you want to use for your design.
Using a paintbrush, paint on the lightest color of your design first design. Let the paint dry.
If you would like to add more colors or more details, paint those details on with a smaller paint brush. Start with the lightest colors and work your way to the darkest.
Once you’re all done painting and the paint has dried, carefully take your stencil off of the fabric.
The edges of your design are probably a little wobbly, so using a paint pen or thin pain brush you can clean up the edges by adding an outline. You can also use paint the same color as your fabric to clean up any mistakes
If you’re doing a more complex design, you can clean up your edges and add the fine details using paint pens.
This step is optional. If you want to help the paint not degrade over time, use some matte varnish and lightly paint it onto the fabric. Make sure the paint is fully dry!
Cut your patch out of the fabric along the guidelines we drew earlier.
Now that you’re all done making your tapestry inspired patch, you can attach it to your jacket, backpack, tote bag, or any other piece of fabric or clothing you’d like! You can either attach it with some safety pins, or if you want a stronger hold you can sew it on (ask an adult to help you with this).
Finished art history fabric painting craft
Now your own tapestry inspired patch is finished! What design did you make? What are you going to do with your finished patch? Let us know in the comments!
Tips for painting fabric
- Use a hair dryer to help the paint dry faster.
- Work in layers so the paint doesn’t get muddy.
- If you want to paint a more complex image for your fabric art; pull up the image on Google, set the brightness up all the way, and draw the outline of the image on to your piece of paper.
- Use some small weighted objects to help hold the fabric down while you paint it.
- Lay down some old newspaper or paper towels under your fabric to prevent paint from bleeding through on to the table.
my experience with this craft
Making this craft was pretty fun and somewhat easy for me. I have a good bit of experience making this type of craft since I like to make my own patches out of old fabric from t-shirts I cut up or just don’t wear any more. Its a great way to prevent wasting fabric!
I had the idea for this craft for a pretty long time, as mentioned before I like to make my own patches! However, I was stumped when it came to figuring out a historical link for the craft. I thought it would be interesting to talk about the DIY culture prevalent in the Punk subculture and music scene, but I thought it may be too modern and most kids wouldn’t find it very interesting. In my Fall 2023 semester of college, though, I took an art history class. The professor covered several aspects of fabric and fiber arts. That would be the perfect topic to center this craft around, so I decided to take my notes from those lectures and a few other sources, find some good examples of fabric arts, and create this craft!
history of fabric art
All around the world people have been and currently are making their own fabric arts. People from all across history have painted fabric, woven it, and embroidered it to create artwork from fabric and fibers. Let’s learn about a few examples of fabric art from France, China, and Niger!
The Bayeux Tapestry
The Bayeux (bay-oh) Tapestry is a piece of artwork from the 11th century CE that tells the story of when William the Duke of Normandy conquered England and became the new King of England in 1066 CE. The tapestry is 229 feet (seventy meters) long and twenty inches (about fifty centimeters) high.
The Bayeux Tapestry depicts seventy-five different panels depicting the events leading up to William conquering England, called the Norman Conquest. Each panel has inscriptions in latin explaining what is happening in each scene. The end of the Bayeux Tapestry is missing, but scholars assume that the end of the tapestry depicted William being crowned King of England.
Although the Bayeux Tapestry is called a tapestry, its construction indicates that it is not a true tapestry. Rather than having its scenes fully woven in, the scenes in the tapestry are embroidered into the fabric. The embroidered parts are woolen threads and the fabric of the tapestry is made of linen fabric. It was likely woven sometime in 1070 by an Anglo-Saxon artisan in Canterbury, England. The high quality needlework done on the embroidery suggests its Anglo-Saxon origin.
the Funeral Banner of Lady Dai
The Funeral Banner of Lady Dai is a textile that dates back to the Han period in Chinese history. As the name suggests, the banner was used as a part of the funeral and burial process. The banner presents opulent patterns, detailed drawings, and designs reflective of the owners, Lady Dai, wealth.
The Funeral Banner of Lady Dai, of course, was made for Lady Dai, the wife of a wealthy civil servant, Marque Dai. The presence of the funeral banner as well as other expensive objects in Lady Dai’s tomb indicate that she was a wealthy woman. All the objects ensured that she would carry her wealth into the afterlife and be comfortable there.
The textile is made from silk fabric, a very expensive fabric, that was painted on. The banner shows depictions of Heaven, the Earth, and the Underworld. In each section of the artwork, there are interlacing dragons alongside the other animals and figures depicted. This is an example of pictoral, meaning depictions of the natural world, art in Han China.
Nigerian Interior Hanging
The arkilla kantu, or arkilla kereka, are interior wall hanging or dividers from the country Niger. The cloth is typically woven and is usually a wedding gift or marker of marriage. arkilla kereka are luxury items, as they are laborious to produce and are usually created by request of the buyer.
Visually, the textile is a mix between south Saharan and North African artistic influences. Some of the patterns seen on the arkilla kereka are also reflective of some Berber textile patterns. Despite the visual similarities, the Nigerian weavers who make the arkilla kereka have their own methods.
A double headed loom is used to weave the arkilla kereka and is typically woven by men. The fabric is woven from wool, cut into strips, then stitched together to make the arkilla kereka. Earthy colors like dark reds, browns, and beige are also used in the process of making the textile.
1 hour 15 minutes
- Fabric from an old shirt
- Acrylic paint
- Paint brushes
- Paint pens
- Matte varnish (optional)
- Safety pins
- Sewing supplies (optional)
- Paint brushes
- Sewing supplies (optional)
- Safety Pins
- Measure a 4in x 4in square for guidelines on your scrap fabric
- Take some paper and draw your design.
- Cut out square about one inch outside of guidelines.
- Tape over the drawing to make stencil stronger.
- Cut out design to make a stencil.
- Attach stencil to fabric.
- Paint on base color and let dry.
- Add aditional colors letting the paint dry between coats.
- Take stencil off of fabric.
- Sharpen edges with a thin paint brush.
- If desired, use a black paint marker or thin paint brush and black paint to create outline.
- Optional, once paint dries paint on matte varnish.
- Cut fabric along guidelines.
- Attach fabric to desired garment with safety pins or sewing supplies.
MORE HISTORY FUN AND ACTIVITIES FOR KIDS FROM KIDS ACTIVITIES BLOG
How did your mini tapestry patches turn out? Let us know in the comments!
“Bayeux Tapestry – Visit of the Bayeux Tapestry.” Bayeux Museum. Last modified January 3, 2024. Accessed January 16, 2024. https://www.bayeuxmuseum.com/en/the-bayeux-tapestry/.
Funeral Banner of Lady Dai (Xin Zhui) (Article) | Khan Academy. Accessed January 16, 2024. https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/ap-art-history/south-east-se-asia/china-art/a/funeral-banner-of-lady-dai-xin-zhui.
“Interior Hanging (Arkilla Kunta): Fulani Peoples.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Accessed January 16, 2024. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/317864?ft=%2A&oid=317864&pkgids=123&pos=3&nextInternalLocale=en&pg=0&rpp=20&offset=20&exhibitionId=%7B4e6ffb41-90ce-432f-9651-58a72794f663%7D+https%3A%2F%2Fwww.britishmuseum.org%2Fcollection%2Fobject%2FE_Af2006-23-4.
McIntire, Dr. Jennifer N., and Dr. Jennifer N. McIntire. “Funeral Banner of Lady Dai (Xin Zhui).” Smarthistory Funeral Banner of Lady Dai Xin Zhui Comments. Accessed January 16, 2024. https://smarthistory.org/funeral-banner-of-lady-dai-xin-zhui/.
Tanton, Dr. Kristine, and Dr. Kristine Tanton. “The Bayeux Tapestry.” Smarthistory The Bayeux Tapestry Comments. Accessed January 16, 2024. https://smarthistory.org/the-bayeux-tapestry/.