DIY: How to Design Textiles

Have you ever dreamed of making your own patterned fabrics? You can! You can unleash your inner textile designer, very easily. How? With paint and stencils! Most tutorials that show how to design textiles talk about using Illustrator or Photoshop to design patterns. Then you print patterns on fabric digitally with services like Spoonflower. And that sounds fun! But for me, there’s a problem. It’s creating the pattern. I have a hard time creating a nice pattern from ground zero, starting with nothing, like a blank piece of paper or a blank laptop screen. But I can take existing patterns and mix them together! 

With stencils, the pattern is already made for you. You just choose a stencil you like, or mix several stencil patterns together. Then, paint the pattern on fabric:

Stenciled Textiles

Now, you may not wind up creating a textile collection sold wholesale at a design center. But we’re not all looking to do that. You can design fabrics for your own use, using your favorite patterns and colors. And who knows, maybe you’ll branch out to sell to friends and family, and maybe even launch an Etsy shop. So, what can you design if you want to be a textile designer? Lots of things! To get your ideas going, here’s a few DIYs I’ve done, with links to tutorials. After these inspiration ideas, I share tips on paints to use with fabric.


Pillows are easy projects for the budding textile designer. They’re small, so if you make a mistake or don’t like the final result, it’s not a huge commitment of fabric. You can always start over with a new piece of fabric.

I’ve stenciled very different looks onto pillows. Here’s a Moroccan pillow made with the Atlas Allover Moroccan Wall Stencil from Royal Design Studio:

DIY Moroccan Pillow

The full DIY tutorial is here.

I started with a plain teal shawl dug out of the back of a closet. I painted the Moroccan stencil on the teal shawl, then sewed patterned teal silk fabric to the sides to make a multi-patterned pillow. I painted with Stencil Creme paint from Royal Design Studio. Below, I share more information about various paints for fabric, including Stencil Creme.


In the Moroccan pillow photo above, you may notice more patterns on the big cushion. I designed a huge seat cushion for an Indian-Moroccan closet nook. That was the project when my inner textile designer started bursting to be let loose! I paired two stencils — one for the top and a different border for the sides — and painted them on a silk fabric with shimmery Stencil Creme:

Stenciled Seat Cushion Fabric

The DIY tutorial is here.


I’ve made so many tote bags! They’re so easy to do. You can get really crazy and creative and try different ideas that you might not use on a more expensive or permanent project.

This tote bag was made with a Mexican Otomi stencil from Royal Design Studio and Stencil Creme:

DIY Otomi Tote Bag

The DIY tutorial is here.

This bohemian tote bag was made with a mix of Indian stencils and shimmery Stencil Cremes. I painted them on a store-bought Old Navy tote bag:

DIY Stenciled Tote Bag

The DIY tutorial is here.

I painted these tote bags with a mix of Chalk Paint by Annie Sloan, and Stencil Cremes:

Design Your Own Tote Bag

DIY Tote Bag

The DIY tutorial is here.


I painted stencils onto plain rayon shawls I bought at World Market. Just buy a plain color scarf or shawl, choose some stencil patterns and be your own textile designer, it’s that simple!

DIY Stenciled Shawl

How to Design Textiles

The DIY tutorial is here.

Again, I used the Royal Design Studio Stencil Cremes to paint this. I must really love those paints!


For this project, I used Chalk Paint by Annie Sloan to stencil on an Ikea rug. I used only three colors of paint, but I mixed them to make five colors in this rug. This took a rug from plain Jane, to exotic Ikat:

Stenciled Ikea Rug

The DIY tutorial is here.


This Moroccan pouf was made by 1.) stenciling onto vinyl fabric that I found at JoAnn, 2.) sewing it together, then 3.) filling it with stuffing bought on eBay. Super simple!

Fez Moroccan Pouf

The DIY tutorial is here — including a pattern for the pouf .


This was a lamp shade purchased at HomeGoods. I stenciled on it with Chalk Paint by Annie Sloan in the glorious red Emperor’s Silk color:

Stenciled Lamp Shade

The DIY tutorial is here.

You can also make ceiling pendant shades with fabric and stencils. Here are shades I designed and painted for our apartment in Chennai, India:

Pendant Light Shades

The DIY tutorial is here.


Here I stenciled Japanese style stencils on a silk fabric to make an obi-style table runner. But you can stencil on many different types of fabrics to make a table runner that fits your decor. For a farmhouse look, you can stencil on burlap. You can stencil on a plain store-bought table runner. Let your imagination go!

Stenciled Obi Style Table Runner

The DIY tutorial is here.


I bought plain absorbent kitchen towels, and painted them with an olive and vine pattern, and colors inspired by the French countryside. This makes a great gift! I stenciled with Chalk Paint by Annie Sloan. This is mostly a decorative towel, so it hasn’t been washed many times. I know Chalk Paint can be durable, but I can’t speak to whether it would hold up on dozens of washings. If anyone has experience with that, please share in the comments! I would think even if the pattern fades, it’s fine, it’s part of the patina of use.

DIY French Countryside Tea Towel

The DIY tutorial is here.

Nearly anything you can think of, you can paint stencils on. That is how you can easily design textiles, without having to create patterns from scratch!


You might have questions about what kind of paint to use. The paint you use depends on:

  1. What you’re making
  2. How much wear it will get
  3. Whether you will be washing it.

Fabric Paints — If you’re making something that will go through a washing machine a lot, I suggest using paints specifically designed for fabrics. You may need to heat set the paint with an iron, or mix an additive into the paint that “fixes” it permanently. This means the fabric can be washed and the paint won’t wash out. Dharma Trading sells a huge selection of fabric paint colors. Dharma Trading even organizes fabric paint by light fabrics and dark fabrics, because you want more opaque paints for dark fabrics. I like the Jacquard and Lumiere brand textile paints for stenciling. I’ve found Jacquard and Lumiere fabric paints at my local Dick Blick art store, although Dharma Trading has a far bigger selection, and I found Dharma’s online colors to be accurate so I’m comfortable ordering online. You can also find fabric paints in craft stores like Michaels and JoAnn.

When buying fabric paints to use for stenciling, buy thicker paints, not the really runny paints. It is easier to paint a stencil pattern with a thicker paint. Thinner runny paints may seep under the stencil.

Acrylic Paint + Textile Medium — Another option for a durable paint finish for washables is to use acrylic paint and mix a “textile medium” into it. Acrylic paint comes in smaller tubes so if you want to experiment with different colors, the price is low, like $1.50-2.50 for a tube of paint from brands like DecoArt, FolkArt, Delta CeramCoat or Martha Stewart. Look for the textile mediums in the same sections as the acrylic paint in craft stores. Here’s what you will be looking for:

Acrylic Paint Textile Mediums

Chalk Paint by Annie Sloan Chalk Paint by Annie Sloan can be quite durable. However I have not yet made anything with Chalk Paint that I washed frequently, so I can’t personally speak to its ability to withstand frequent washing. I think it would be fine for items that aren’t washed much. As mentioned above, I’ve painted lamp shades, rugs, and tote bags with Chalk Paint.

Stencil Creme from Royal Design Studio — I love stenciling with this Stencil Creme paint because it was specially formulated to use while stenciling. It’s thick and heavily pigmented, so it’s less likely to run under a stencil. It also has a metallic sheen that I like. I have limited experience with washing fabrics with this paint, but I did accidentally get some Antique Gold Stencil Creme on jeans. I’ve washed those jeans many dozens of times and the paint hasn’t come out. I know you can get paint off fabric with rubbing alcohol, but it’s not noticeable on the jeans so I just left it alone. I’ve mostly used Stencil Cremes on fabrics that I won’t wash much, like the big teal blue cushion in the closet nook, and table runners.

A Final Word about value

Because I’m saying this last doesn’t mean it’s least important. This DIY idea should not at all diminish the importance and value of bona fide talented textile designers. Their creations astonish me. I know I don’t have the ability to do that myself. (At least I think I don’t.) Not all of us can create designs from nothing, and not all of us have the time or resources to do that. If you feel that describes you, and you want to try your hand at this, this is an option for making beautiful textile designs yourself.


If you have any questions, please comment and I will try to answer them!

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DIY Valentine’s Day Cards

This post is a bit early for Valentine’s Day, but if you like this idea, I wanted to give you enough time to get the supplies. While stenciling Christmas tree ornaments a few months ago, I was loving the matte Chalk Paint from Annie Sloan on glitter paper. So I used the same combo for Valentine’s Day cards! Glitter and glam, plus a personal card made by you — perfect for Valentine’s Day!

You can get my full DIY tutorial with the easy step-by-step instructions at Paint + Pattern so you can make these cards:

DIY Stenciled Valentine's Day Cards

I always love a photo shoot that requires (ahem yeah “requires” like it’s mandatory) good chocolates. Then you can eat the chocolate! Funny story — I originally bought a bigger box of Godiva truffles. I thought I was going to get to eat them. I left the box on the kitchen island and went to work. Meanwhile my husband left for a flight to his office in India that day. He took the chocolates for his staff over in Bengaluru. Which is okay — they are very much appreciated and they love the chocolates! But I had to get another (smaller) box for myself. For the photos. Yup. I guess I am greedy when it comes to chocolate. As you can see from the photos, I also bought a dozen red roses for myself!

So, again, head over to Paint + Pattern for the DIY tutorial. It will walk you through steps like these:

Glittery DIY Valentine Day Card

See that lilac color Chalk Paint (it’s Henrietta color from Annie Sloan) on the glitter paper? Cool matte vs. glitter texture contrast, huh?

Here I will tell you more about where to get supplies like glittery paper, because I realize you might not find glittery paper in every corner store! There’s a Michael’s craft store actually conveniently around the corner from my neighborhood, and I find lots of choices of glitter papers in their scrapbook/paper-crafting aisles. They have many colors — red, blues, purples, gold, silver, greens. I should mention, the glitter does not come off the paper. I’ve banned glittery Christmas ornaments from my house because all the glitter getting everywhere drives me crazy. But these pre-glittered scrapbook papers are secure — the glitter goes nowhere!

You may not have a Michaels nearby. That’s okay. You can order online. Here are the glitter papers at Michaels website. Here’s an example of the glitter paper they have:

Glitter Paper at Michaels

You can also get packs of glitter papers. These are gorgeous jewel tones:

Jewel Tone Glitter Paper

Now that I’m surfing Michaels’ site, I’m sorry so many papers seem to be available only in the stores, but there are still quite a few choices online.

When you’re choosing glitter papers to paint on, look for the fine glitter surface, not the big chunky glitter, where you can see the big circles of glitter shapes. If you’re shopping online, enlarge the picture so you can get a good look at the glitter. Here’s a comparison:

Fine vs Big Glitter

Paint will not go well over the huge pieces of glitter. On the fine glitter papers, you will still see texture under the paint, but it’s subtle and okay.

When shopping at craft stores like Michaels or Joann, sign up for their email lists. Don’t be afraid of spam – those emails always have coupons up to 50% off, sometimes 60%. They also often have coupons on their websites. Download their apps on your phone. When you’re in the store, open the app and look for their coupons. There are always coupons! You can easily get 30-50% off.

The lacey stencil I used to paint the heart is from Royal Design Studio. It’s the Lace Heart Wall Stencil. The design is 5.5″ wide and 4.5″ tall so it’s the perfect size for cards. And yes, one stencil made these three different looks! The difference is in the color papers and color paint you choose. And as you see, you can cut a shape in the paper and have the stencil pattern peek through the cut-out, or you can paint directly on the glitter paper.

One Heart Stencil Three Looks

Also Royal Design Studio often has sales on stencils and supplies — sign up for their email list to get notice of discounts and sales in your email box.

If you try this, have fun! It’s easy and fast to make these cards. I whipped these three cards out in an afternoon. It would probably be faster for you because I was stopping to take pictures for blogging. This is a fun project to do with kids too.

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage of compensation at no cost to you if you purchase after clicking the link. I post affiliate links when I have purchased from the company or used the product, and I can confidently share the company or product. For more info, see Disclosures & Policies.

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DIY Shabby Stenciled Shutters & A Story About the Truth of Things

The latest stencil DIY I did for Paint+Pattern is really two DIYs in one:

  • How to make a rustic shutter
  • How to paint a pretty holiday table centerpiece

Christmas Shutter Centerpiece

Head on over to Paint+Pattern to see the full tutorial.

Here are some in-progress photos to entice you. A base coat of Florence color Chalk Paint by Annie Sloan:

Painting a New-Old Rustic Shutter

It’s a glorious blue! Blue doesn’t really go in my house colors, so there’s rare occasion to use blue.  Here I’m smearing some Olive Chalk Paint all over it. And next, some Country Gray Chalk Paint and Vaseline technique to make chippy paint distressing:

Vaseline Chippy Paint

My favorite part of this project was playing with Modern Masters Metal Effects, where you can make rust and copper verdigris. The color turns before your eyes! I painted black plastic shutter hinges with copper paint then used Modern Masters aging patina solution to make verdigris:

Modern Masters Copper Patina Solution

Copper Verdigris with Modern Masters

Isn’t that copper verdigris cool? And it’s so easy to do!

Next, I stenciled big Christmas ornaments on the shutter with stencils from Royal Design Studio, designed by blogger and Christmas DIY expert Jennifer Rizzo:

Jennifer Rizzo Royal Design Studio Christmas Stencils

Jennifer Rizzo Christmas Stencils for Royal Design Studio

The final result is a shabby shutter Christmas table centerpiece:

Shabby Holiday Shutter Centerpiece

Shabby Shutter Holiday Centerpiece

The reason I built the shutter from scratch with new wood is, I really don’t have time to find real old shutters at vintage and antique shops. And, I’ve removed the shutters off our house and cleaned them before. I know what nastiness lurks on and especially behind them. Even though you can clean old shutters, I’m not sure about putting that on my dining table. So I built shutters — easy! with just wood glue! — from a few pieces of aspen wood from Menards.

For the full DIY tutorial and tips to build the shutters and paint, visit my post at the Paint+Pattern website.


I thought I’d share a few behind scenes pics with you. Because I live near Chicago and had to do this project in an unheated sunroom. It’s the room with the most natural light! But in winter it gets dark for photos by 3:00 in the afternoon so I’m boosting the lights, both with additional lighting and in Photoshop.

So here’s what you see:

What You See

And here’s what I see:

What I See

I could have set up even more lights. Sometimes I’ve worked later in the day with three white lights and additional halogen lights bounced off the ceiling. But I was working fast to get painting done before it got too dark for any photos. That’s winter for ya in the north!

And ohhhh, the sunroom was chilly. And a nice warm room was just within sight …

Cold Room Warm Room

But I can’t photograph in there. Everything photographed in the house under lights turns yellow-orange. You can see the yellow-orange glow here. It can be adjusted in Photoshop to some extent but doesn’t look as good as natural light.

So in the winter I do a fair number of projects in the sunroom, in the cold, and you’d never know it from photos!

While photographing our dining table, I had to be careful with composition because just out of frame are unfinished walls with holes in them! With blue tape waiting to be painted:

Just out of shot

If you look carefully, in the upper left there’s more unpainted walls and blue tape. The dining table is just to the left out of the shot. So this is why photos are cropped close. It didn’t occur to me how difficult it is to photograph the dining room and keep these unfinished walls out of view!

Often in blogs, you see only what we want you to see. We become experts at composition and camouflage. And moving things just out of view. Like cat toys all over the floor. The extra length from 18 feet of garland:

Extra Garland

A better, more ambitious blogger than I would make another blog post out of that garland. Do something beautiful by draping it somewhere. You can tell I have no ideas — “something” “somewhere.” I have a full-time job. This blog is a hobby. So I pooled the garland on the dining table so a cat wouldn’t get into it (they’re trained to stay off the dining table, mostly) and called it a night:

The truth

It sat there like that for three nights and three days. We’re sorta busy so we don’t even go in the dining room most days. I probably shouldn’t be telling you these things. You’re supposed to think blogger lives and homes are perfect. Of course that is never true! On the third day, I finally cut the garland off at the end of the table and moved the pile to the living room. Which is currently getting painted, and maybe painting will be done before Christmas and maybe the garland will wind up draped beautifully, somewhere over something …

Meanwhile, let me distract you with the gorgeous patina on the shutter hinges! I was able to get that done:

Patina Shutter Hinges

(P.S. Please don’t notice the total lack of pretty holiday napkins. If you came here to dine for real, I promise I would find some for you!)


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Stenciled Christmas Tree Ornaments

In the previous post, I shared a super fast and easy tutorial for making scrapbook paper Christmas tree ornaments. Simply trace a paper mache ornament on scrapbook paper, cut the paper and glue it on. Sounds simple, but if you choose a fabulous paper, it can look like much more work than it really was! Like this ornament I made:

DIY Scrapbook Paper Christmas Tree Ornament

Add rhinestone embellishments to make it fancy. Check out the tutorial for some useful tips about how to glue scrapbook paper — I’ve had problems with wrinkling in the past but found a good solution.

Today, we’ll talk about adding another layer of pattern with painted stencils. If you want to stencil on scrapbook paper, I recommend choosing a lighter paper with a more subtle pattern like this paper:

Scrapbook Paper on a Christmas Tree Ornament

Your ornament doesn’t have to be beige! In fact that’s not very Christmas-y, is it? I think it worked for me because I’m using metallic paints and those can always be made to look festive. You can choose any lighter color. You just want to be sure there’s some good contrast with the stencil color, and it’s easier to paint a darker color on a lighter background.

Next, choose a stencil. You can use a Christmas theme stencil. You don’t have to though. I’ve built up a collection of stencils, as a contributor for the stencil company Royal Design Studio’s blogzine of stenciling ideas, called Paint + Pattern. So I used Indian, Moroccan, Turkish, all kinds of stencils to paint patterns on my ornaments. Think a bit outside the box. You don’t have to use a super small ornament-sized stencil. Those are hard to find, anyway. You can use part of a bigger stencil, like I did here:

Placing Large Stencil on Small Ornament

This stencil is actually really big. The ornament fits only a very small part of the stencil design, but that’s okay, it gives you a really cool abstract pattern. (And you can see I didn’t clean it before using it again! Oh well.)

Here you see while you’re painting the stencil, much of the paper pattern might get covered up with paint, but don’t worry:

Stenciling on Ornament

The pattern will peek out when you’re done:

Stenciled Pattern

It’s hard to see there, but I swirled several metallic colors through the stencil – silver, bronze, gold. The color changes depending on how the light hits it.

Have fun mixing and matching different colors and patterns. Here’s a collection of ornaments I made in an afternoon, some with just a painted base on the paper mache instead of scrapbook paper:

Stenciled Patterns on Christmas Tree Ornaments

You can see here I decided to add some colored rhinestones:

Colored Rhinestones

You can find sheets of rhinestones like this in scrapbook supply aisles at craft stores.

My sister brought her Quaker parrot to my house for Thanksgiving and here’s the parrot saying “okay” and “hmmm-mmm” to my work:

Pat the Parrot Says Okay

Literally. Those are among the many words she says. And she really did say “okay.”

Another way to make your ornament interesting is with contrast in texture and finish. I glued a glittery scrapbook paper on an ornament, then stenciled with Chalk Paint by Annie Sloan which has a matte finish. The combo of glitter and matte paint looks interesting. It’s hard to photograph so here they’re tilted into the sun:

Glittery Stenciled Ornaments

Here’s another example of placing a stencil partially on the ornament, and the pattern result:

Stenciling a Christmas Tree Ornament

Here’s a mix of stenciled ornaments and ornaments decoupaged with scrapbook paper, to show the huge versatility even with a limited color palette:

Stenciled Christmas Tree Ornament Tutorial


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