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making old new // stitching with paint

Painting an Embroidery Pattern

When it comes to my making and blogging here on Wild Olive, my big theme for this year is "Making Old New." I've already mentioned a few ways I'm exploring that idea, and here's another: working with vintage or vintage-style supplies.

While flipping through a copy of McCall's Needlework and Crafts from the 1960s, I spotted an ad. I've seen this ad plenty of times before (apparently I've even shared photos of it here on two previous occasions), but it jumped out at me differently this time.

Painting an Embroidery Pattern

Tri-Chem Liquid Embroidery is a fabric paint that comes in tubes, and it's designed so you can, essentially, draw the stitches. I remember that my grandma had some and I used it a bit as a child. When I saw the ad, I also remembered seeing the Aunt Martha's version at JoAnn.

It seemed a little strange that they even still make a product like this. Are people still using it much? I'm not sure, but I decided that it might be fun to try something old, and picked up a tube.

Painting an Embroidery Pattern

To start, you want to hoop your fabric so that the wrong side can lay against your work surface. Aunt Martha's makes a hoop designed for this, which is solid in the center, but it isn't necessary.

The pattern I chose is from a Japanese embroidery book, and I thought it would work well in the brown I bought.

Painting an Embroidery Pattern

The instructions tell you to place a blotter under your work, and in this case, a folded piece of paper worked perfectly.

Painting an Embroidery Pattern

To use the paint, you just hold the tube upright and press down as you trace the pattern. You do have to press down fairly hard as you do it. And it's best to test it on a scrap area of your fabric first...to get it started and to get a feel for it.

It feels a bit like tracing with a marker, but with more effort. Because it's paint, it doesn't bleed like a marker would. But again, because it's paint and a ballpoint tip, it doesn't just flow along.

Painting an Embroidery Pattern

Here's what we have after making the first few lines. Mmmhmm...

Painting an Embroidery Pattern

And after adding the rest of the details.

As you can see, this is not something from which you should expect perfection. I'm not sure if I'm disappointed or not surprised. Or both? The lines are thick and clunky, and they didn't even come out even. By the way, this is after I went back over a few spots where the paint dropped out.

It's hard to imagine anyone suggesting that this was meant to replicate embroidery in any way other than that you can use embroidery patterns. I could see it as a good way to fill or tint areas in your embroidery, as it is permanent and washable.

Painting an Embroidery Pattern
Painting an Embroidery Pattern

But here's the thing. The more I look at the little design on my hoop, the more it grows on me. I sort of go back and forth between "I never want to touch this stuff ever again!" and "what incredible things might this work out to be?"

Now that I've tried it once, maybe I'll find a way to make the old new...in a new way.

Have you ever used this type of product? I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences!

22 comments:

  1. I remember my Mom and her friends using these paint pens in the early 70s to color in felt things to make crafts. I think my brothers and i had a "rug" to play with our cars on painted entirely with these. They also used them to decorate felt ornaments and mitten garlands, then added other embellishments, such as sequins and cutouts.

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  2. I've never heard of this stuff!
    Maybe it would look good incorporated with regular embroidery, stitching over the paint or along side it.

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  3. I've never seen this product, but it might look cool used on other mediums too!

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  4. Harmonie M.2:30 PM

    You're the second person to pist about these today. It must be a sign! My grandmother used these all the time after she could no longer embroider. I have several quilts all containing her painted blocks. I remember her having a metal hoop with a solid center that she put a blotting cloth under.

    I also remember her sometimes having the ballpoints pushing in and having globs of paint leak out. I guess you need to be careful how much pressure you use when painting.

    I've been wanting to get some but I'll need to sneak them in past the hubby. Lol

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  5. Harriett3:29 PM

    I was a child in the 70's and we used these paints on everything! We had a silver hoop with the solid center. We decorated our bell bottom jeans with these paints.

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    1. I was just thinking that maybe this would work well on denim.

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    2. I was just thinking that maybe this would work well on denim.

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  6. How does this compare to puff fabric paint?

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  7. My Great-Aunt painted cloth waaaaaaay back in the 40's. Craft ideas come back around don't they? I have some dish towels she painted. I think it takes a lot of practice and patience.

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  8. Oh my, this brought back memories I had completely forgotten about. Wow! My grandmother used these paints all the time for tablecloths, pillowcases, dish towels, and probably a million other things. They were fun and easy . . . And definitely not perfect. I loved to sit with her and craft. Thanks for the reminder today!

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  9. My aunt and I did these projects together back in the 70s. Pillow cases, cup towels, pot holders, placemats ... no kitchen linen left behind. Such fond memories.

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  10. I used these as a kid/teen in the 1980s, a lady in the village did a class at someone's house and you could buy them (like Tupperware and a whole host of other things) I did some designs on rugby shirts - they were permanent and I guess good for people who didn't see, also great for a big area, I didn't know they still existed. (TriChem as they were invented by three chemists!)

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  11. My mom was really into this when I was a kid. She made beautiful things. I remember her complaining about cleaning the tips. (The paint dries & cligs the tips)

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  12. Opps....clogs the the tips

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  13. Can it be used to add text to a project?

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  14. My mother and I tried the Tri-Chem version of this circa 1969 - if I recollect correctly; neither of us were exactly thrilled. I suppose I didn't mess with it very much, and I don't remember my mom trying more than once.

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  15. I took the Tri Chem training from a really nice lady named Polly. I probably have my samples around somewhere. Never did sell any to anyone nor was I able to buy my own paints.

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  16. yup my mom did this when I was a kid too. I remember her painting beautiful pillow cases that matched our bedroom wallpaper. as for me, Paint & I do NOT get along, in any form.

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  17. I remember using this when I was a kid!

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  18. Anonymous7:41 AM

    I have a baby quilt with nursery rhyme characters painted on it. It was given to me in 1972 and it withstood many washings and still looks good.

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  19. I found a couple of these types of paint when I was a kid in a second hand shop. I was a little disappointed in them, as they do make the fabric a little stiff, and there's not much you can do in only two colours.
    But they don't require ironing and they're very hard wearing. So kind of good for heavy duty projects and maybe drawing faces on things? Or maybe to do a background/border to a design but you don't want an embroidered texture to it.

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  20. Yes, I used Artex paints (I believe Tri-Chem bought them out) a lot back in the 70's. I've painted the printed projects for holidays. I used transfers to decorate curtains, tee shirts, diapers, etc. It was great to paint a design on the kids tee shirts to cover up stains. I'm getting back into it after a 30 break. It's loads of fun.

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