Design Bundle #2 launched this morning and included the return of one of our favorite specialty fabrics—Faded Polka Dot. This fabric is created by our stenciling team in-house using 100% Organic Medium-weight Cotton Jersey in Natural and the Small Polka Dot stencil.

Faded fabric made its first appearance at Alabama Chanin in our Fall/Winter 2008 Revolution Collection. At the time, Natalie was looking for ways to color fabric that didn’t require dyeing, and our first version of the fabric—Faded Leaves—was born. The fabric is made using a process called Wet-Paint Stenciling—one of the techniques included in Alabama Studio Style. Follow the instructions below to create your own faded fabric at home



Stencil – we used the Small Polka Dot stencil
100% Organic Medium-weight Cotton Jersey in Natural
Black textile paint
Container large enough for soaking fabric
Water (enough to cover your fabric within the container)
Table salt (4 – 6 tablespoons per yard of fabric)
Airbrush or spray bottle for paint
Spray bottle for water
Drop cloth

1. Soak Fabric
Combine the water and salt in a container large enough to cover your fabric. Add the fabric and soak for at least 20 minutes; this will open the fabric’s fibers to receive the textile paint. Drain and wring the excess water from the fabric.

2. Transfer Stencil Design
After preparing your work surface and stencil and correctly positioning your fabric right-side-up on the covered work surface, position your stencil on the wet fabric and use either an airbrush or spray bottle to spray black textile paint over the stencil. Move the stencil to the next area to be painted while the fabric and paint are still wet, and repeat the process as often as needed to stencil the entire desired area.

3. Spray Fabric with Water
While the fabric and paint are still wet, use a clean spray bottle filled with water to spray the entire length of your painted fabric, which will cause the fabric paint to disperse and bleed. Let the wet fabric sit for one hour.

4. Dry and Wash Fabric
Hang the wet fabric to dry for 24 hours outside or indoors over a drop cloth to protect the surface beneath (dripping excess water and paint can cause staining). Wash the fabric in the washing machine with detergent for one wash cycle to remove the excess paint. Dry the fabric in the machine, or hang it to air-dry.

After this wet-painted fabric has dried thoroughly, you can use it as-is for a project or embroider or otherwise embellish it. While we like to use Natural for our projects, you can choose to experiment with any color base fabric. Keep in mind that a lighter-color base will show your faded paint effect more clearly.

Please note that the instructions listed above cause the design to bleed more than what’s shown on the Faded Polka Dot fabric above, giving the fabric more of a watercolor effect. If you desire for the stencil to be more recognizable, do not soak your fabric before applying the stencil. Lay out dry fabric on your work surface and then follow steps 2 – 4 as listed above.


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Click to read 3 comments
  1. Marita

    Thank you for sharing this technique; as always your generosity astounds!

    If I use this technique with the current unwashed stock of your organic cotton jersey, do you recommend washing the fabric first (as you recommend before cutting the fabric pattern pieces) or will the washing in step 4 suffice?

    1. Alabama

      Hi Marita,

      Thank you for the kind words. When creating this fabric in-house, our stenciling team starts with unwashed fabric. Washing the fabric in step 4 will take care of any excess paint as well as pre-shrink it for any project you make with it.

      Let us know if you have any questions, and please share your projects with us using #theschoolofmaking on Instagram so we can see what you create.

  2. Linda Stutterheim

    I love this! Guess I need the small dot stencil too! This will be so much fun to do. Thank you for sharing this technique AC. I also love how you use the faded patterns as the under fabric, cool how it shows through.