Starched fabric wall decal experiment | How About Orange

July 03, 2008

Starched fabric wall decal experiment

I've been wanting to stick some fabric on my walls ever since I saw this project using starch. I figured I should start simple and keep it small in case something went haywire, so here's my experimental door decoration.

I started by sketching out my plan. And then I ignored it when I cut out and assembled my pieces, apparently. I used a disappearing fabric marker to sketch out the shapes on fabric, then cut them out. The thinner the fabric you use, the easier this project is. I used varying weights left over from making pillows (that tan stuff there is canvas, but it still worked).

After cutting out pieces, I laid them out to make sure they looked okay together. Then I used one or two pieces of double stick tape to attach them to the door in the same arrangement.

Somewhere in the middle of the cutting, it occurred to me I should be mixing up the starch and letting it cool off so it's not boiling hot when I want to use it. I used this recipe:

Stir 1/4 cup corn starch into 1/2 cup cold water. Then pour in 4 cups of boiling water and mix it up.

That produces a ridiculously huge bowl of starch for what I was doing, I learned. I poured some into a plastic cup to use on the door. When all was said and done, the level in the cup went down a half inch. Now I have over a quart of starch left. I guess I will be making a lot of gravy sometime soon.

I painted the starch onto the back of the fabric pieces, soaking them thoroughly. After you stick the pieces on the door, smooth more starch onto the fronts of the pieces, squishing out any air bubbles with your fingers. Starch will probably drip onto your floor, so if you've got carpet, protect it with something. When you're done smoothing, wipe off any fugitive drips and let the pieces dry.

When you want to take the design off, just peel off the pieces and wipe off any leftover starch with a damp cloth. Supposedly this will not harm your paint job at all, according to reports from many people online, making this the perfect wall treatment for apartment dwellers.

8/4/08 Update: On a whim while brushing my teeth last night, I pulled these off the door. The fabric came off easily. Some threads were left around the edges, so I'll pull those off and probably use a damp cloth to wipe off any remaining starch. I am pleased with how easily it came off, and the paint job is fine.

9/7/11 Update: Check out this door makeover using the same technique!

136 comments:

Norma said...

Oh so cute. I hadn't seen anything like this before. Looks like fun to try. Thanks.

jcaroline said...

Oh goodie! I wanted you to try it out so I didn't have to think so hard.

Jess said...

That's what I'm here for. :)

Kelly said...

what a fantastic project! can't wait to try my own hand at it.

xo
Kelly

Joanne (The Simple Wife) said...

So cool! This would be so fun--I can see big flowers on my daughter's wall!

Thanks for the instructions,

Joanne

cygnetsmall said...

This is a great idea! I am going to do my baby's name (or some other such thing) in fabric on the bare wall in his nursery (poor little second child with no nursery decor).

Grandma G said...

That turned out really cool! I hope your gravy is as good. ;-)

Love you,
Mum

Wendy said...

So great! I've been thinking of doing something like this, but the only thing I could think to stick it up with was Modge Podge, and I really didn't think I liked how it would look.

Thanks for attempting this.

Stephanie said...

I was literally JUST thinking about doing this to a wall in my powder room, but have always wondered if it really works! Thanks for putting the fabric starching experience on your blog!

dottie said...

what a fantastic idea! thanks jess.

Joy said...

Ooooo, this apartment dweller thanks you!

suzanne b. said...

That is incredibly cute! I was cracking up about the leftover starch. This has happened to me with so many mixables before . . . plant fertilizer comes to mind. (I was walking around fertilizing the neighbors' flowers to use it all up.)

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the homemade recipe. I know it will come off with soap and water, so I feel safer using it in our rental home :) Rebecca

SeriouslyDaisies said...

So neato!! I might have to try this out! I have a couple of ideas coming to mind. I've never heard of it before! Thanks for sharing!!!

Sara said...

This is a neat little project. Yours came out really well too.

ismoyo said...

Gorgeous!
Would it hold up on a bathroom wall too? Or would the humidity from the shower spoil it?
Maybe i should be safe and start with the walls in the kitchen which are as boring as the ones in the bathroom...
Thanks for sharing!

BruinChiq said...

gorgeously fun! I had starched flowers in an old apartment made of hawaiian fabric... loved it!
Might need to think of how to use damask for decor in new rooms.

cc said...

I use inexpensive sheets and pre-mixed starch in the gallery I work at to change wall colors- it's fast, simple, and I don't have to wait two weeks for paint to cure before using the space

Megan said...

Jess, one of my friends has done her kids' walls multiple times and I was always impressed, but it somehow never occurred to me to try small projects like that. Fun! Any more to come in your place?

lori said...

LOVE this Idea!! thank you for the details. Now I'm going to be obsessing about fabric for my wall...

The Bon said...

I've heard from a number of people that the dyes from the fabric can bleed out and stain walls, so make sure it's well washed or do a test before you put it up.

Jess said...

Wow, good advice. Oops. Didn't do that.

Megan, I don't know if I'm done or not!

Jess said...

Ismoyo, I have no idea, I'm afraid. Haven't tried that.

thrilled by the thought said...

That is so cute!

Mahan said...

A couple of things:

First, not to be a *total* foodie, but arrowroot starch works better (my mom works at Penzey's part-time, so I get a lot of free stuff). [end nose in the air]

Second, you DO realize that "The Fugitive Drips" is a GREAT name for a band, right?

Third, I am, as always, impressed with your ability.

Amber said...

This is great! Being an apartment-dweller myself, I can't wait to test this out.

Marcie said...

OOOoh! My husband and I just bought our first house on Tuesday. What a cool idea for the door to my studio! That way, when my artistic ADD kicks in, I can just peel it off and change it!

Neus said...

Thanks, wonderful tutorial. I'll be trying it soon.

alice said...

What a great idea. I am going to try this out ASAP! :)

Stephanie said...

Do you think this would work on a mirror? I am trying to think of a way to cover my mirrored closet doors without ruining them, and fabric might be an option if starch would adhere to it.

Jess said...

Yep, I think it would. Anyhow, if it doesn't, you can just wash off the starch and wash your fabric and everything will be back to normal. But I think it will work.

Claudia said...

I loved the idea, the design and the fabrics. Great work.

Karen said...

So cute! I'm planning on doing something similar to one of my walls next week. Love this idea. :)

ComfyDenim said...

I stumbled here from a nother blog. It was your blog title that got me. :-) I'm all for interesting names.

I love this project. I have a project I wanted to send to a friend -- and do you think the starch would stick to a foam board? (I've got to be able to mail it.)

SandyQuilts said...

I have a whole wall done in fabric with starch in my quilt studio at
http://home-and-garden.webshots.com/photo/1085748760040927248HCAGAw
actually in real life it's a garage door.

alli coate said...

so much fun! looks great.

Casey said...

I love this! I'd love to try it, I just need to come up with something cool to do

sarah: paper + stitch said...

Oooh, fancy schmancy! Love that idea. Wonder if it would work on my hideous wood-paneled walls? Maybe I'll try in an inconspicuous space. Thanks, as always, for your fun projects!

At Home Redesigns said...

This great idea was featured at:

http://athomeredesigns.blogspot.com/2008/07/i-love-these-ideas-sunday.html

Megan said...

so cute. the design is such a great idea. i can't wait to try it myself!

Meg :: Bode22 said...

oh wow! that is the coolest thing i've ever seen! :) thanks for the instructions!

Jess said...

Comfydenim, not sure. Foam board has that glossy smooth surface. The starch is a great idea for walls because you can get it off again easily, but on foam board, you don't care, right? I'd just use spray adhesive.

Jess said...

And Mahan, thanks for the tip. I had no idea you were a starch expert. Good luck with your new band.

Sandyquilts, thanks for sharing.

Solveig said...

Now that is cool - I need to steal this idea I think, since I live in a rented flat with all-white walls!

birdie said...

using "liquid starch" from a bottle does the same thing. My mother used to decorate my bedroom with old bedsheets in the same manner.

Allie said...

Great post! I'll need to file it away for when I get my own place!

Amber P. said...

I love this idea, especially since we're apartment dwellers for the time being. we're moving this month and I've been trying to decide how to decorate the girls' room. I think you found my project for me! Thanks. The door turned out quite cute.

Kristina Strain said...

Thank you, thank you for the wonderful project!

Anonymous said...

such a cool idea! so perfect for renters! and i just read on apartmenttherapy that Sherwin Williams came out with EasyChange Wallpaper- wallpaper that's easy to put up and take down (or so they claim!).
it's so convient that your project and that wallpaper came up a month before i get a new apartment!

Ohla Ohla!! said...

Thanks for sharing. I can't wait to try it on my apt doors.

kathy e said...

We lived in Army housing 30 years ago and since we couldn't paint the walls, we'd use this technique to "wallpaper" all over the house. Then when we moved, we'd peel it off and take it to the next place. It is a tad messy but so easy! I had forgotten all about it til I read your blog.

ellencrimitrent said...

I love that you did this on top of Martha's mag!!!

Jess said...

Yeah, sorry about that, Martha. :)

Sara said...

What a fabulous idea! I'll be going through my fabric scraps soon to try it out!

GG said...

This looks like so much fun - what a great idea! Now all those fabric scraps I've been saving can serve a beautiful purpose! Thanks for sharing. Your design is very fun by the way!

Chantel said...

I noticed that this project made it onto Design*Sponge. That's great, Jess! I love your DIY tutorials.

Anonymous said...

a couple people mentioned "wallpapering" their homes using the cornstarch mixture. I have a closet in a spare bedroom that I wanted to temporarily "wallpaper" this way. Does anyone have advice for using large pieces of fabric? thanks everyone in advance! Oh and LOVE LOVE LOVE this project! It's on my oh so long list of things to do in my place!

Chris said...

hey am i able do do this on a desk that has a smooth surface

Jess said...

Chris, yes! Just don't put it on the top of your desk or it will be slightly weird and fabricky to write on. If you want fabric on the top, I'd put a piece of glass or Plexiglass over it.

Anonymous, follow the link in this post and you will see a whole wall covered with fabric. The links there will give you more info about doing a whole room. It's pretty much the same. Paint starch onto the wall with a paint roller, stick on your fabric, smooth it out, and paint more starch on top, I believe.

Natalie said...

Wow, I love this. My apartment walls are all textured and nubby, though, so I'm afraid it might not stick.

Anonymous said...

It also works on windows. Lace looks really pretty.

~elaine~

SARAH said...

This works great on mirrored doors. I used a big graphic print to cover the sliding mirrored closet doors in my old rental, and they looked awesome. You'll have to scrub a bit when you do eventually peel it off, but it's worth it.

kana said...

Oh man, i am so excited to do this around the light fixture in my home office!
Question: would this work with burlap? i inherited several bolts from a friend and have been looking for ways to use it. i'm not sure if it's too porous for this method.

Jess said...

Um, probably. Try it! But don't sue me if I'm wrong. :)

Kelly said...

I think these would work great, collage-style, on a piece of word for some non-painted artwork.

Jess said...

Yeah, great idea!

Maven said...

I saw this idea on that old Christopher Lowell show in the 90s called, "Interior Motives." I have starched one wall in a spare room; however I am not sure if it's mentioned anywhere, it's best to use all cotton for this.

Good stuff!

Anonymous said...

Has anyone tried this on wood? I love the idea of doing something around my door peep hole but don't want to ruin the wood!

Kendra said...

I was renting a really old apartment and tried this technique in the bathroom. It worked great (although the starch dulled the fabric a little), but it did have some issues when we moved and I took down the fabric. Some of the paint came off with it, but that is probably because it was cheap old paint with many layers. It was nice to feel like I could decorate a little in an apt.

Helen said...

Hi! Tried this to the best of my ability, but was hampered by one serious flaw - I couldn't find any starch! I searched every supermarket and little corner store, even went to commercial cleaners to ask - and nothing! I ended up having to use this stupid starch-in-a-can which kind of worked - but has created air bubbles. So anyway, I'm trying to say thanks, I can't wait to get some proper starch to smooth out the results! :)

Jess said...

Were you looking for laundry starch or just plain old baking corn starch? I used the latter, which worked great and surely can be found at any grocery store in the baking aisle. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Wow! Thank you so much! Some girlfriends and I are living together in the apartment style dorms this year and we were trying to think of ways to dress up the apartment. This project is perfect, and it is very settling to know that it wont harm a paint job! Thanks again :)

Elisabeth said...

I kind of randomly hopped over here from saveoncrafts.com...such a lovely blog! ^_^
My friend and I did a similar project at work, where we put up printed fabric as a border to brighten the place up (we work in a residential-style mental health/developmental disabilities facility, and are always doing some craft or other with our clients). It's a really great alternative for when you can't nail or tape things up. Next time we will try your recipe, though. We tried both store-bought starch (epic fail, that), and a recipe that she and I made up on the fly. The made up recipe worked a bit better, but the fabric fell off the wall after about a day. ^^;

Tonia said...

I love this idea, and I love your blog. I am so glad I ran onto it. Today I am giving your blog some props on my blog.

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to do this in my dorm room with walls that are kind've like painted concrete. I want to add a little more color to it; I haven't done it yet but I was wondering if you think the starch would stick?

Anonymous said...

I have a similar question to anonymous. I wanted to put up some fabric decals in my apartment bathroom but the walls are tiled. Has anyone tried this yet?

Jess said...

Guys, I think you'll just have to try it with some fabric scraps as a test on rough walls. Mine stuck really well on a smooth surface. Just try one piece and see how it goes. If it doesn't stick, just wipe off any of the leftover starch.

travelingmama said...

I LOVED this idea!! But since I live in Morocco and cute cotton fabric is next to impossible to find I thought I need another medium. I did something similar using paper and mod podge! Here's a link if you are interested in seeing the result:
http://travelingmama.net/?p=1315

Edun said...

love this idea, will be borrowing this one and telling friends. Yay.

Jess said...

Traveling Mama: awesome! Thanks for sharing!

Heidi said...

I just tried this:
http://forum.threadbanger.com/showthread.php?t=10367

Thanks so much!!

Caroline said...

I'm about to try a similar idea on my kitchen wall. Only, I am aloud to paint, so I'm going to paint a tree trunk with branches and then use fabric for the leaves. I'm hoping it will add a unique element to our space. I'm working with all cement walls and all tile floors because I'm living and working in Honduras... so anything to warm up our space is super! THANKS!

Lucy said...

Awesome! What great alternative to paint! These would be great on furniture, as well as doors and walls.
Also a great project for kids to do by themselves.

Alviana said...

thanks for sharing. useful for me! :)

wall decal said...

Great idea!
Thanks for sharing!

dana said...

love what you did with the starched fabric decal. It looks so easy to make and easy to remove when you get bored of it.

Carla said...

Just found this :) . I love this idea! I wanted to put a weeping willow decal on one of my walls but couldn't afford the $200. I can make my own with things around the house. Thanks!!!

Erin said...

Does this work with lace?

Jess said...

I would imagine so.

AmishVomitCake said...

Thank you so much for posting this! Your design is so cute, I love it.

Perhaps you can help me with a dilemma. I'm moving to a new apartment next week and my plan for my bedroom was to make it look like a peacock feather exploded in there. I wanted to do the bottom part of the walls in this pretty peacock blue and use a wide, bronze-colored ribbon as a chair rail. The walls are a flattened-splatter texture, though. Would I be better off painting, or do you think this starching method would work if it's just a ribbon and not a whole wall?

Wilson said...

In preparation for moving into my new dorm this year, I have been testing this method. I am having a problem with the dye bleeding through. I have only tried premade spray starch, I am going to try corn starch today, hopefully this doesn't cause bleeding. (I had washed the material VERY thoroughly, with vinegar and salt water because i heard that helps, but it still stained the walls).

Wilson said...

update: I used actual corn starch and the fabric did not bleed. I used a 1:16 ration of corn starch to water.

ashaq hussasin najar said...

i felt belithed to study this idea good superb

Jess said...

Wilson, I concur. My fabric did not bleed using the cornstarch mixture.

kristyn said...

Would this be suitable to use on an external rendered wall? i am trying to find a way to hang white material on render for a wedding without ruining the walls or the material??

Jess said...

I'm afraid I don't know what a rendered wall is! I'd say do a test someplace.

WALLTAT Founder said...

For those that are not as handy as you there is always WALLTAT wall decals.

MeckMom said...

Great idea. I can't wait to try it. Thanks for sharing.

entiek said...

thanks for this DIY project
^ _ ~

it really helps me out without leaving any scratch on my all white bedroom walls when I want to redecorate it hihihihi

Mom's da Bomb! said...

I've been using this technique for years, using the bottled liquid starch. It is a lot harder to find now, though, so being able to make your own is fabulous. I helped a friend decorate her whole bedroom using discount-store curtain lace.

We painted the entire wall with a medium-tinted sage green; then, using regular painting roller and tray, we applied the starch to a portion of the wall.

Then, wetting the fabric in the starch (similar to wallpapering), we laid it up on the wall and straightened it out until smooth - using the roller to add more paste on top and make it completely flat. We used an off-white lace, and it was SPECTACULAR when done.

Doing a project this large does take TWO people, but it only took us a day to complete, and it should work well on almost any surface. If the texture is rough, it would take more "glue" on your roller.

Then, simply clean up any that gets onto the floor (she had wood) or ceiling with a wet cloth.

Imagine waking up to THAT every morning?!

(P.S. Don't mind my Way-Outdated blog. I'm currently a full-time college student and a live-in caregiver. I don't have much time to tend to it.) :-}

Heather said...

great idea.

check out my blog for lots of free tutorials
http://callmecraftymomma.blogspot.com/

Sonia said...

Lady, you got me bowled over your creations, this one's just amazing solution for me as well! The hubby hates me to paint on the walls lest they get spoiled or something..so I loove this one! Thanks a lot, I'm a follower!

Jessi B. said...

Thank you so much for this! I am so excited to try it out in our rental! Do you think the cornstarch mixture would have any lasting effects on a (cheap) wooden door?

Jess said...

I think it should be okay. When you pull off the fabric, it might leave a little cornstarch "glue" behind that's visible in certain light at the right angle. But you can get it off with a damp sponge.

MPine said...

I made a tree decal above my son's crib using white contact paper (that had been painted green) for the leaves and wood grain for the trunk. I spent about $4 and I "imitated" a decal I had seen for about $80. I am so excited to try your fabric technique. Maybe I'll add some apples and birds. The possibilites are endless! Thank you!

Missy said...

I am making these tonight! You're entire blog is lovely! Thank you so much!!

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

I tried this on my apartment wall twice. I guess i maybe doing something wrong because the fabric refuses to stay on the wall. the first time, I know i used the wrong fabric so i bought new fabric (cotton..the thinnest i could find from walmart). I used the spray laundry starch from the can sprayed the fabric till it was drenched after I pinned the fabric how i wanted it using push pins. can you tell me in that procedure what I did wrong. Its just saddening that I can't do a simple project like this even though i followed it as exact as i could. If you have any tips please let me know. I also do not want to buy more fabric so what can I do with what i have? Please help as soon as you can so I can get this project done and completed ASAP. Your help is much needed. Thank you.

Ms Muffin said...

I am wondering ... would this also work with paper?
Might be a stupid question ... but I have never heard of this method so I am wondering if some paper cutouts could be put to the wall with the same method?

Jess said...

I believe you could stick them to the wall this way, but they probably won't be removable very easily. The paper won't peel off again neatly. It would be like applying wallpaper.

W-S Wanderings said...

Weeee! This has ENDLESS creative potential. And many thanks for posting the update on how well it peeled off. You are an inspiration!

mon said...

I LOVE YOU for this post!! I'm looking around my apartament right now, figuring out which (hideous) wall to do first!!! ;)
I'm an instant fan.

Kristen said...

I wonder if it will work on the lovely textured walls we have here in Texas. Do you know?

Jess said...

Not sure! I'm unfamiliar with Texas walls. The rougher the wall, the harder it will be to make it stick, for sure. You'll have to do a test.

Hey Paul said...

Great tutorial! Thanks:)

Danielle Grisham said...

I made picture frames and it looks great. Next I might try a whole wall. Thanks for the great tips.

Seaweed and Raine said...

OMG I love this! I can totally see me doing something for the baby's room down the track with this (not to mention the boy's room too!)Thank you!!!

Dawnabug said...

I don't know if this helps or not, but I learned a long time ago - don't remember where - that you can achieve the same thing using liquid fabric starch. Hope this helps with the "leftovers".

Charlene said...

I'm thinking about doing this on the inset of my headboard. I have a king size bed. Do you think a huge piece of fabric would stick?

Jessica Jones said...

I do! Check out my door project using the same idea.

Anonymous said...

I have a microfiber sheet, do u think that will work or do I need cotton fabric only for this project.

Jessica Jones said...

I think it will work!

Mike said...

I use to put stickers on my door of my room but eventually my mom got mad because when she peeled them of it would damage the door. I personally love the choices of colors for the design. Very unique. I like the yellow and white droplets. They have a strangely unique texture to them.

Anonymous said...

Jess, I have two questions for you:
1. Have you ever Fred this using laundry starch from a can? Would you recommend it or no and why?
2. Once you peel this off the wall, are you able to reapply the fabric elsewhere? I want to do a forest scene for our playroom but will have to take it down in a few months when we paint, so I wanted to know if I could simply take it down and then reapply it again after we paint.

Jessica Jones said...

Hi Anonymous,

1. I haven't tried this with starch from a can. I'm not really familiar with it, so you'd have to test it.

2. Seems like you'd be able to reuse the fabric.

Lori said...

This is a great opportunity to try a no commitment pattern of a "Family Tree" going up our stair case before having to actually paint one and NOT liking it, then having to paint over it. Thank You sooo much for this GREAT idea!!!

Tony Walster said...

Really good things to do in fun time.........

John said...

Nice experiment! I have tried it myself and it worked perfectly. Starch is the solution...

brett said...

Not even sure if you'll still see comments posted to here, but I was just wondering if the solution had to still be warm when you soak the fabric with it?

Ps. great post & love that you answer all questions & respond to people!

Jessica Jones said...

Nope, it doesn't have to be warm. The temp doesn't matter. Thanks, Brett!

bastelschaf said...

Hey! Love your tutorial! Just linked to your post from my blog and used your decal photo to that and. If you don't want that, just tell me and I take it down!
Best wishes
Bastelschaf

A Little Bit of Cheek said...

Thats a really cool idea using fabric instead of vinyl makes it a lot more textured.

Anonymous said...

Im thinking about doing this on wood panelling..do you think that it would ruin the wood or anything? It is a rental lol

Jessica Jones said...

I think if the wood has a good varnish or coating on it of some sort, it should be okay. Wood paneling is so terrible that I'd be inclined to risk it, myself. You could try a small test piece in a corner somewhere. Leave it up for a day and then take it off and check.

Pauline said...

Hi, I've tried this technique but I always this problem: the starch leaves white marks on the fabric. I tried to dilute it more but still the same issue. How do you deal with that? thanks :-)

Jessica Jones said...

Hi Pauline, I haven't had that problem myself, but then again, I've only done the project in this post, and one where I covered the entire door with fabric (but that fabric had a mostly white background.) I'm sorry I don't know the answer!

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