My mom and I have been crafting together for as long as I can remember. Our craft endeavors have covered a lot of ground over the years: dyeing Easter eggs, marbling paper with plastic straws, making tissue paper stained glass windows, sculpting beeswax figurines, baking bread in the shape of bears, knitting socks, quilting, bookbinding prep for craft fairs, and the list goes on. Making things with my mom, who still insists that she is not an artist or a quilter or any such title, is a fun and formative part of my life. I suspect that other mothers and their progeny relish this sort of creative time together too. I invite you to share in a creative project with a classy lady this Mother’s Day, and see where it leads you! Nika Knight, a fellow Etsy staffer, and her mother, Salley Knight, have compiled this sunny day fiber arts project, perfect to answer this call.
While my younger siblings and I were growing up, I remember my mother, a fabric artist, as someone who was always brimming with projects to keep us creating alongside her. One of her most successful ideas was “sun painting.” Painting rough canvas in the bright July sun; carefully setting leaves, flower petals, and oddly-shaped branches across the wet paint; waiting for the hot sun to sear their shapes into the sharply-colored cloth — this is one of my favorite childhood memories. Sun painting uses a special paint that grows darker and more vivid when exposed to UV rays. Blocking the sunlight by laying two-dimensional shapes on top of the painted canvas leaves a lighter imprint of those shapes in the midst of the swaths of color. The process of sun painting is intriguing whether you’re 5 or 50, and a fun project with beautiful results that you can create with kids of any age.
As the days grow brighter and warmer, the season of sun painting is upon us. I asked my mom to show me how to sun paint again, and we worked together to create a new sun painting to show all of you. While our day was a bit colder and grayer than we’d planned, I thought our results were still beautiful — and relying on something as fickle as the weather (especially in New England!) makes waiting for the results all the more unknowable and exciting.
Supplies you’ll need:
- Cloth (untreated or at least 50% natural fabric, pre-washed to remove any sizing)
- Anything you love the shape of: natural materials such as leaves or flowers, or paper shapes you cut out yourself.
- Setacolor transparent paint by Pebeo
- A flat board
- Clear, strong tape
- A flat outdoor surface in a sunlit area
- A hot and sunny day
- If it’s windy, some small rocks or other small heavy objects to hold your sun-blocking shapes in place.
1. Lay your cloth down on the flat board, and tape the corners of the cloth to the board. You’ll want to stretch out the cloth a bit, and hold it in place.
- Dilute the paint 2:1 with water,
- Wet the entire cloth before you begin painting, to work “wet on wet” — similar to how you might paint with watercolors.
3. Paint the colors onto the fabric any way you’d like. Like watercolors, the different colors will mix and bleed where they touch or overlap.
4. Arrange your shapes (leaves, flowers, branches, paper cut-outs…) on top of the painted cloth to create the design you want.
5. Use rocks or any small weights that aren’t larger than a shape’s borders to hold down fly-away items in windy conditions. (It was a very windy day when we sun painted— we had a lot of rocks holding everything down!)
6. Carry the whole arrangement to the brightest warmest light you can find.
7. Once dry, retrieve your piece of canvas and remove the sun-blocking shapes. The areas of cloth that were blocked from the sun should be lighter than the surrounding color.
8. Iron the cloth for 3-5 minutes to set the color. All done!
If you try out sun painting, please share a photo in our How-Tuesday Flickr group. What is your favorite craft to do with your mom? Share your story in the comments below!