An Act of Sheer Desperation

August 16, 2010

AKA, When All Else Fails

A guide to spray painting fabric


So, in the course of working on my House of Flying Daggers cosplay, I embarked upon an epic quest to find some dark green crocheted sweater or fabric, or something that I could use for the underlayer in the green uniform. I was on the verge of buying an overpriced white sweater on eBay, with intentions of dying it the correct colour, when I came across a sky blue crocheted fabric in the clearance section at Joann's. The fibre content told me it was a cotton/nylon blend, and after a quick search on my phone, I decided that it could be dyed.
The fabric lied.
I tried different dyes. Acid dyes, fibre reactive dyes, all-purpose dyes, even a dye that was meant exclusively for polyester, and nothing happened. After three days, I still had a perfect sky blue fabric. It was clear that the fibre content had been incorrect and that this was some sort of mutant fabric with amazing dye-resistant powers. I was getting desperate.
So, I hit the paint aisle at Wal-Mart.

I bought a can of Krylon Fusion in hunter green. The can proudly proclaimed, "Bonds to Plastic", so I figured it may be able to battle my mutant fabric and win. I took the offending fabric outdoors and had at it.
And it worked! I ended up with a lovely, deep green colour. But, would it hold up? I didn't want to chance washing it in the machine and losing the colour, or worse, gunking up the machine with non-bonded spray paint. So, I put the painted portion of the fabric into the sink, filled it with a bit of cold water, and washed it by hand. The colour didn't bleed out! I kneaded the fabric for a few minutes to make sure I got out any excess dye from the earlier experiments, and the fabric actually lost the stiffness it had from the painting and returned to its earlier consistency.
I had won!

So, if you're at your wits' end and can't get your fabric to take colour, you may consider spray painting it. Here are a few tips:
-Cut out your pattern pieces first, then paint your fabric. That way you won't waste any of your precious paint.
-Ignore the directions to hold the can 8" from the surface while spraying, and hold the can only a couple of inches from the fabric. You want to really soak it with the paint so you get a good, rich colour.
-You may consider letting the fabric air out for a couple of days after painting to allow the fumes to dissipate.
-You'll need about 2 cans of paint for a kimono top. The can says it covers 25 square feet of surface area, but I don't think they took desperate cosplayers into consideration with that estimation.
-Spray both sides of the fabric. It doesn't matter if only one side of the fabric will be showing. You'll get better colour coverage and it'll help avoid splotchiness.
-Wash the fabric by hand after you've allowed the paint to dry for at least an hour. Knead it until you feel it becoming soft again, then rinse with cold water and hang it up to drip dry.

Good luck, cosplayers!

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