Spray paint as a textile technique – the “Gwen” bag*

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Having seen the Gwen Stefani wedding dress last weekend I was intrigued by the idea of spray paint. The hem of her dress, which appears to be dip dyed silk, is actually coated in pink spray paint. So this idea has been nagging me all week, and I was excited when I got the chance to give it a try.

John Galliano Gwenn Stefani wedding dress
John Galliano Gwenn Stefani wedding dress

At Mary Ward Centre they had some spray paint in green, pink, blue and deep yellow. This is not  car colour spray that I believe is used by graffiti “artists”, but is specifically made for textiles. It is fast, but apparently not good enough for frequently washed items.

Blue textile spray paint
Spray paint for textiles

I decided to try it out on a cheap (£1.50) canvas bag. I use a lot of these bags, which I end up buying rather than a plastic “bag for life”. I also seem to accumulate free, branded ones at exhibitions. I put my dressmaking projects in bags like this and hang them on our shaker peg rail. It keeps the project out of the way and holds  the pattern pieces and left over fabric together until the project is finished.

I wrapped the canvas bag in strips of masking tape without measuring the gaps, to create an all over stripe. Other students used freezer paper to create wonderful designs. We had to use the extraction cabinet and face masks as apparently the fumes are dangerous. It certainly smelt quite strong. Here is one of the students ready to spray!

extractor cabinet
Using spray paint safely

I put folded newsprint inside the bag to protect it during spraying, and taped the canvas to a wooden board to hold it upright inside the extraction cabinet. I sprayed each stripe and the handles, one side at a time, leaving it to dry in between. I had to redo certain bits to ensure effective coverage.

canvas bag spray painted blue
After spraying

In reference to Gwen I added one pink stripe. I exposed one white stripe by removing the masking tape, then taped the blue stripes above and below it, then covered the rest of the bag with newspaper to protect it from the pink spray. Then it was sprayed on the front and back so the pink stripe runs round the bag, as do  the blue stripes.

spray painted canvas bag
Adding a pink stripe

I left the bag to dry, and was able to remove the masking tape when I got home. It was pretty exciting pulling off those strips, let me tell you!

spray painted canvas bag
Removing the masking tape

The finished bag looks quite sweet with its flash of pink and striped handles, made by sticking masking tape squares at regular intervals.

Striped canvas bag made with textile spray paints
Finished bag

* Calling a spray painted £1.50 bag after a muse is a joke. I just thought I had better say that in case you thought I was incredibly sad or pretentious.

8 Responses

  1. Galina

    Great bag, Kate. Spray paint must have been fun. When I was teaching at school, one class of 11-year-olds brought a bag of these paints to school. I was young enough to allow them to spray paint the ugly old chairs in our classroom. The result was great, but the smell was very strong:)

  2. Brenda Marks

    Great idea! I recently tried to use fingernail polish to change the color of some eyeglass frames. It didn’t work well, and when I told the optician, she said to use spray paint. I am sure it will work better…

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