Crafts Mummymau

Sharpie Shenanigans

My Mum and I had the opportunity for a little crafternooning this month, and after watching this video, we decided we would have a go at fabric painting using Sharpie pens and rubbing alcohol (surgical spirit in the UK). The video recommends using natural fibres, so we took a trip down to Fabricland in Basingstoke and picked ourselves up some remnants of cotton (each less than £1!) and a metre each of lovely linen.


From the video, we learned that the fabric needs to be placed onto a non-porous surface to allow the ink to move around freely, so anything shiny or glossy is fine. Mum has just had her lovely, new, monochrome kitchen fitted, and despite being most encouraging of my wayward craftiness, she had no desire to see her gorgeous, smooth worktops transformed into a rainbow of smeared ink. Therefore, our TOP TIP#1 is to tape bin bags/garbage sacks onto your chosen worktops, to prevent colourful ‘accidents’.

As we had no experience whatsoever of this technique, we thought it would be worth testing out some patterns beforehand. We also, fairly early on, latched on to the fact that the colours of the lids of the pens rarely bore any resemblance to the colour of the ink on fabric, and even less so to the colours after diluting with alcohol. Therefore, our TOP TIP#2 is to label the pens and create a swatch chart.

Mum and I tested out a number of different drawing styles, experimenting with how long to leave the pen nib on the fabric, mixing colours, and applying the surgical spirit in varying quantities. We also tried spraying the spirit onto the fabric, as well as using a paint brush to daub spirit onto particular areas where we wanted the colour to spread further.

After finishing our fabric testing, we were ready to get started on the real fabrics. We had done most of our testing on cotton, but for the real thing, planned to use the linens.

Mum’s project was to create new cushions for the sofa in the kitchen. She sketched out a variety of cherry bakewells, cake stands and tea pots in contracting pinks and greens, and also experimented with creating a check fabric made of blurred lines of ink, which looked really effective! Mum lightly sprayed them so that the main outline of the image was still visible. The one drawback of using the linen was that the fabric weave was much looser than that of the cotton. Therefore, even when you wanted the colours to run, they resisted. The image remained much more intact on the linen after spraying with alcohol than we had expected!


I really wanted to see the inks blur, so after understanding better about the linens, I decided to stick with the cottons. My plan was to make an envelope-shaped evening purse. The Sharpie-painted material is to become the outside of the purse, and I will attach padding and a lining to the inside.

So that I could clearly see where the pattern was going to appear on the finished purse, I cut the material and firmly ironed it into its final shape, so that I could paint accurately. I very lightly sprayed the pattern with alcohol, and voila! this came out just as I had hoped, so I can’t wait to make the purse now! I will keep you posted.

Buoyed by the success of the purse material, I decided to try and make some fabric to create a bag which would match one of my favourite party dresses. The dress is multicoloured, so I picked out some of the shades and tried to make a repeat pattern. My first few attempts of this were so disastrous that I refuse to give you photographic evidence. However, I eventually completed something I was quite happy with, and hopefully I’ll have enough material to produce a small evening bag.


Once the fabrics had been sprayed with alcohol and had dried sufficiently, we finally soaked the painted materials in a cold salt water solution. Our TOP TIP #3 is to make sure you soak each painted item separately, and change the water before soaking the next piece of material, as the colours are not fast at this point, and you risk inadvertently staining your newly produced material. After soaking, I could still smell the alcohol on the fabric, but I let it dry completely before soaking again – the second rinse seemed to succeed in removing the last of the alcohol!

Our fabrics are now ready to make into new items and I can’t wait. We will let you know how we get on!

By carlymau

Hello! Well, I’m sure someone once said that we are what we repeatedly do, so… I guess I like making stuff, cooking, swimming, sleuthing and watching old black and white movies. I live near a lake. I like feeding the ducks. I work for a trade union and generally like anything that involves rooting for the underdog. Currently I am living in Doncaster and learning one new craft at a time.

Please seek me out –

2 replies on “Sharpie Shenanigans”

Oh my days – I’m inspired!!!

Despite packing everything up to move house I’m currently thinking of unpacking my textiles to give this a shot…I’ll let you know how it goes x


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