Sun Printing and Hand Embroidery

Last week it was gorgeous here in Todmorden! The sun was blazing out on my back yard so I thought I would have a go at sun printing using my Setasilk paints. This is a great technique and on it's own it is really cool for making silk scarves, cushion covers etc. However it's also great with hand embroidery and if you can't draw what a great way to add some shapes to your fabric that you can then embroider into! Here is a bit of a step by step on how I did it and what you need to have a go yourself!

What you need:

  • Pebeo Setasilk Paints or any Sun Printing Paints
  • Wide Brush or Foam Brush
  • Water Spray Bottle
  • Wooden Silk Frame or Plastic Sheet
  • Pins or Tacks
  • Fabric i.e. Silk, Linen or Cotton
  • Leaves from the Garden
  • A Sunny Day! Not Windy!

Setasilk paints, water spray, leaves and brushes
Step 1

Ok, hopefully you have a sunny day but not a windy one or it will blow your leaves off! First gather your equipment together and get out on the back yard. If using a frame like mine set it up and stretch out your fabric pinning it at all four corners and the sides pulling the fabric tight. Spray the fabric with water. You don't want it to be absolutely soaking wet, but wet enough for the paints to bleed into each other and make a nice effect! The fabric I used was a white linen and this seemed to work really well as you will see in Step 4.

White linen fabric on silk stretching frame
Step 2

Next paint the wet fabric with the silk paints. You need to work quickly as the sun will start to dry the fabric and set the paints, you need it to be still wet when you put down your leaves. The Setasilk paints come in squirty bottles and can be used straight from the bottle so I just squirted brown, yellow and green onto the wet fabric and let it soak in and bleed into each other. I then used a wide brush to spread it around a bit to cover the whole surface. (I forgot to take a pic of just the painted fabric as I didn't want it to dry!)

Step 3

Once you are happy with your painted fabric add you leaves etc. I used blackcurrant leaves as they are nice and flat and this is really what you are looking for, as you want them to make as much contact with the fabric as possible. Lay out your leaves in a pattern or just randomly as I have done in the photo below. I used different sizes of leaves to make a pleasing design. Press each of the leaves face down to get as much contact with the fabric as you can. Work quickly as the sun will set the paints! Once you are happy with your design leave it for 15 to 20 mins for the sun to work it's magic!

Blackcurrant leaves lay on the painted linen fabric
Step 4

If you can't wait anymore check the paint has been removed from under the leaves by lifting a corner of a leaf! If it has worked and hopefully it has, you should be left with the leaf silhouettes on your fabric! Take off all the leaves and let the fabric dry. Once dry remove the pins and set the paints by ironing with a dry iron for 5 mins. I covered the piece with a cloth before ironing. Be careful if using silk fabric not to have your iron too hot!

Sun printed fabric!
Step 5

That's it once your finished sun print is ready you can leave it as is or embellish with embroidery stitches. I have decided to outline all the leaves with white stranded cotton and I'm going to work into the background with various other stitches to add texture and interest in greens, browns and yellows. You don't just have to use leaves for sun printing you could use any flat object that will make a silhouette or cut some out of paper!

Adding back stitches around each leaf in white embroidery cotton.
Completed hand embroidered leaves.


  1. Pauline Johnson15 July 2013 at 11:39

    Great Idea. I have some sun printing paints which I haven't used for a while so I'll need to brush them off and get to it.

  2. Thanks so much! Glad you all like the post! I hope the weather stays sunny so I can get some more done!

  3. What a lovely Idea! I just found your blog through the hand embroidery network. Adding you to my blogloving list now :)

    1. Thanks Bridgeen glad you like the post!

  4. Wow beautiful ... I am giing to try it and use the block as a center piece for a fall quilted wall hanging. Thanks for sharing this great idea.

    1. You're welcome! Sounds like a great idea!

  5. Long ago our local group sponsored a workshop using "special" dyes to sun print. Is this paint more readily available... less spendy?

    1. You can get Pebeo Setasilk paints from any good craft shop and they are easy to find online. Here in the UK they are about £3.00 -£4.00 for a 45ml bottle depending where you buy them from. They are quite versatile as you can use them for a range of traditional silk painting techniques. The colours are also water based so you can buy the primary colours and mix your own colours so it's cheaper.

  6. Super idea ! I will sure use it one of these days ... thanks a lot for sharing :o) Michelle

  7. Wonderful! Thank you for sharing!!!!!! Sondra

  8. Wonderful job! Thanks for sharing.

  9. Very inspiring tutorial - thank you - just right for the summer which we are having now!

  10. Many thanks for all your comments, glad you like the tutorial!

  11. Love the tutorial! I'm from Mobile, Alabama USA. It's summer down here about 6 months out of the year, so this is PERFECT for me! I adore the way you outlined the leaves. You mentioned that you were going to do some more work with the background? I hope you share the completed work, although I love it just as it is! Thank you so much for sharing!

  12. Replies
    1. Cheers Julie, I'm hoping we will have a great summer so I can try some more sun printing.


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