Discover Playful Fabric Printing

Fabric printing using custom colors and patterns offers so many possibilities for mixed-media artists. But don’t be daunted by complicated instructions and copious supplies; in the book Playful Fabric Printing: The Complete Guide to Creating Beautiful & Vibrant Cloth Using Low-Tech Tools by Carol Soderlund and Melanie Testa you’ll discover easy ways to prepare and use dyes, plus great ideas for printing. In this guest blog, Melanie Testa shows how to create an overprinted pattern that has depth and interest. Be sure to check out this fantastic new book, and start making your own custom printed fabrics! ~Jeannine

Overprinting with Stencils by Melanie Testa

Printing dynamic and enticing fabrics is easier than ever, especially when you begin with techniques from Playful Fabric Printing! What’s great about using dyes is that they do not change the hand of the fabric, dyed fabrics are vibrant with a wide array of values, and they are colorfast. Hand dyeing takes some understanding and careful tending, but it’s far easier to use than you might imagine, and the results speak for themselves.

For this article, I will show you how to overprint using my Daisy stencil with StencilGirl Products. Each stencil in my line contains a 5 ¾” ” x 5 ¾” square repeat design, along with 2-3 single motifs that relate to the main repeat, plus a full alphabet. The book also includes information on how to cut your own stencils. I hope you will fall in love with printing and making tools as much as we have.

Hand printing fabric
Hand printing fabric is easier than you may think, and the results are fantastic.


  • Salty soda soaked cotton fabric (See page 45 for how to create a salty soda soak using soda ash powder, salt, and water.)
  • Two color gradations of thickened dye paste (In the book, we feature four gradations of color: Dark, Medium, Light, and Pale. See page 48 for a Value Recipe Chart, and page 49 for how to make dye paste. For this project, I used color #19, Dark gray, and color #5, Light green.)
  • Daisies stencil from StencilGirl Products
  • 6″ plastic squeegee
  • Padded work surface (I used towels; to set up your padded surface, see page 76, Making a Padded Printing Surface.)

Overprinting is great way to add visual intrigue to a print. To create an overprint, you print the same design twice, with the second layer slightly offset. This adds depth to the motif, making it look like there is a shadow behind it. I suggest printing the darker layer first, before printing the lighter layer.

Below, you can see that the fabric has been printed using the Dark print paste and the stencil. The stencil has been replaced on top, but slightly offset to the left of the first printing.

Offsetting the stencil before printing
Offsetting the stencil before printing allows you to create a shadow effect in the design.

Lay out a bead of the Light thickened dye paste that is just wider than the squeegee, and scoop a small amount of dye onto the squeegee. Too much dye on the squeegee will create an unmanageable blob, so scoop a modest amount of dye.

printing fabric preparation
Laying everything you need for printing ahead of time makes the printing process easy.

Working on a padded surface, gently scrape the dye over the stencil with the squeegee. There’s no need to bear down, just gently push the dye into the cut-out areas of the stencil.

press dye paste through the stencil onto the fabric with a squeegee
For fabric printing, simply press dye paste through the stencil onto the fabric with a squeegee.

Lift the stencil off the fabric. Reposition the stencil and continue to print all four
quadrants of the repeated design.

reposition the stencil
To print a larger section, reposition the stencil to create a repeat of the design.

While a white background makes a strong and bold statement, Playful Fabric Printing shows how to print colors separately and make this design into a multicolor print set.

Playful Fabric Printing
In Playful Fabric Printing, discover how to create multicolor prints.

Here is a grouping of prints washed and ready to cut and sew.

gorgeous hand-printed fabrics
These gorgeous hand-printed fabrics are ready for any type of project.

MELANIE TESTA learned to love fabric and sewing at a young age while sitting at her grandmother’s trusty Singer, and has been reimagining her everyday experiences through artful construction ever since. She is an accomplished textile and quilt artist who holds a degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology, and she exhibits her fiber art at various galleries and quilt shows around the country. She is the author of Dreaming From the Journal Page (from North Light Books) and Inspired to Quilt (from Interweave). See more about Melanie at

Get your copy of Playful Fabric Printing today, and start creating your own unique printed fabrics!




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