Quilt, Then Paint

While I was teaching my Build A Better Background Class in Houston, someone asked about adding Paintstik color to a quilt after it has been quilted. Can it be done? Oh yes – and here are some beautiful samples to inspire you.

Sue Kelly joined me for the trek to Cleveland to film some segments for the Quilting Arts TV a number of years ago. We traveled on one of those winter days when we really would have been much better off snuggled up in front of a fire at home. The weather was miserable, the flights delayed, and that was the good part. After a very long day, we made it to Cleveland and put on our happy faces for the camera.

Sue is from St. Cloud, MN. She is a professional machine quilter who loves to dye and discharge fabric and play with all kinds of embellishments, including our Shiva Paintstiks. After seeing one of her quilts, I asked Sue if she was game to film a segment for Quilting Arts TV. Sue graciously agreed, interrupted her work to get some samples ready, and got an inside look at TV production. Here’s a photo of Sue and Pokey as they discuss Sue’s segment with producer Kathie Stull.

During her segment, Sue explained how to add Paintstik color to fabric after it has been quilted. In the photo above, you can see two pieces of fabric with light wavy lines. The first is one of Sue’s discharged fabrics (the black fabric) before quilting. The piece on the corner has been quilted and then painted with Artist’s Paintstiks. Here’s a close-up of that piece.

Sue takes her inspiration from the fabric she is quilting or, at times, from a photograph. She quilts each section of the quilt with a different pattern and then paints various sections of the quilt with iridescent paintstik colors. The results are amazing! One of the samples Sue worked on for the TV segment has a bunch of overlapping circles. These were inspired by a piece of fabric that Sue’s mom dyed for her.

Here is a detailed image from this quilt. You can see how Sue has changed her quilting pattern in various sections of the quilt. The different motifs are really highlighted after the quilt is painted.

Here’s the basic process if you want to try this for yourself.

  • Layer backing, batting, and top fabric into a quilt sandwich.
  • Quilt by machine (or by hand if you wish).
  • Paint various sections of your quilt using different paintstik colors. Use the paintstiks directly on the fabric, using a light touch. This allows you to apply color to the raised areas without painting the stitching.
  • Allow the painted quilt to air dry for at least a week.
  • Cover the quilt with muslin or some type of press cloth (Sue uses an old t-shirt for a press cloth) and heat set the paint. (Set your iron to the appropriate temperature for your fabric, and press each section for 15-20 seconds.)
  • Bind your quilt and enjoy!

Before I finish, I just have to show you the quilt that Sue made for her husband. It was based on a design by Robbie Joy Eklow (and used with Robbie’s permission). It is simply stunning.

Sue’s Quilt It, Then Paint segment is part of the QATV 400 Series DVD. You can order any of the DVDs from the Interweave Store.


  1. Pam Beatty on November 8, 2012 at 10:16 am

    LOVED this article. What a beautiful way to finish a quilt!

  2. Jill Nicholson on November 8, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    Loved the article. I had thought of painting a completed quilt, but wasn’t sure if I could. Sue’s quilts are stunning, loved the guitars

  3. Diane on November 8, 2012 at 10:47 pm

    fabulous samples and wonderful technique

  4. margaret wallace on November 8, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    Hi Shelley, just love the effect of quilting then painting cheers Margaret W

  5. Rosemary Ann Otter on November 13, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    Really loved all of your ‘samples’, the circles are fab and the guitars fantastic, in fact I love it all, a definate must to try.