Let’s jump right into discussing synthetics today, and how to color them to make this beautiful DIY watercolor blouse. What are synthetics you ask? Synthetic fibers, are tiny plastic strands woven into textiles like polyester. So, unnatural fabrics and the most common fabrics of fast fashion. In the eco-fashion world, we pretty much avoid talking about synthetics unless it’s to talk about how bad they are for the environment, but let’s be real: We all have fast fashion synthetic tops in our closets. I believe that slow fashion can be the wearing of something for years, investing in every item of clothing you already have.
I accidentally splashed an off-white synthetic blouse I’ve had for years with acrylic paint and much to my surprise, I couldn’t get the stain out no matter what I did. I think I bought this blouse at H&M back in 2014 for a job interview, and over the years it became a wardrobe staple. The cut goes with everything and never goes out of style. I’ve invested some time into this blouse, and honestly, I didn’t want to see it go to waste over some paint.
So I thought if the acrylic stained it, could I stain the whole thing with acrylic? And an even better question: Could I make a pretty watercolor look on the blouse? The resounding answer is Yes! Turns out, it’s possible to add acrylic paint to synthetics with a very cool effect using a textile medium. A textile medium is an acrylic based paint additive that you mix with acrylic paint making it resistant to being washed away. It’s activated through heat, so as long as you heat set your blouse with an iron, you can make your color permanent.
I like to invest in the clothes I have first before buying new clothes, no fast fashion left behind being my motto. Making this DIY watercolor blouse opened up a whole new world in terms of how I view the possibilities around synthetic textiles- notoriously hard to dye. I’ve gotten rid of so many synthetic garments that I’ve hated the color of because I didn’t think I could do anything to change it unless I bought synthetic-specific dye. I’m so glad I discovered this technique because I feel great about how I’ll be able to play around with refashioning garments like this in the future.
I also just love how the paint bleeds and creates beautiful blots of color on its own. The best thing is, after you rinse, dry, and iron your blouse, it feels exactly the same as it did before you stained it. There’s no stiffness from the paint.
DIY Watercolor Blouse
- Acrylic paint (in as many shades or colors as you wish!)
- Textile medium
- Synthetic blouse, mine was 100% polyester with a silky finish. Please don’t buy a new blouse for this project, say no to buying new plastic clothing.
- Foam brush (I reuse these by washing them)
- Dish for paint mixing
- Bathtub or basin
I chose to work with shades of blue because the stain on the shirt was already blue. I mixed 2 parts acrylic paint to 1 part textile medium, and then added enough water to create a watercolor paint. This is optional, if you want darker pigment throughout your blouse, don’t bother watering down your paint.
Wet your entire blouse. I did this (as well as the rest of the project) in my bath tub. When it’s nice and wet, begin to dribble your paint over it, or brush it on with your foam brush. The only way to mess up at this point is to add to much dark pigment, so just feel out the look of your blouse with each color or shade you add. The color will bleed fast and sink through your fabric layers so resist trying for perfection and just let the water and the pigment blend things.
When I liked the look of things, I squeezed out the excess moisture and brushed some acrylic mixed with the textile medium into various areas of the blouse to create a streaky look.
Hang your blouse to completely dry. I did this outside. ***Note that your blouse will drip paint water to whatever surface it’s hanging over, so if you might want to lay an old towel or dropcloth down. To clean up my tub, I turned the shower on 🙂
When your blouse is dry, it’s time to heat set it. Iron it with a hot iron, moving over every surface several times before you move onto the next surface. Definitely keep your iron moving, you don’t want to melt your blouse. Make sure to get the iron between the buttons, over the collar and sleeves so that every area is heat set.
Test your blouse by bringing it back to the tub. Run it in hot water (hot water helps to further heat set it). If you have no color leach, celebrate! You’ve successfully dyed a synthetic blouse with acrylic paint! Let your blouse drip dry, and then iron when dry.
Pat yourself on the back, you’ve officially thwarted the fast fashion industry and made your fast fashion, slow fashion.