Making A Homemade Painted Fabric Background

Clara turned three on Tuesday (Threesday?) so we’ve spent the last few days marveling at this wonderful little lady before us and wondering where the heck the time went.

And just like we did for her two previous birthdays, we marked the end of another 12 months by customizing the fabric backdrop for her photo project. You might remember that this tradition started on her first birthday, when we used my handwriting to create a pattern that we printed on fabric using Spoonflower (here’s how we did that).

Spoonflower came to the rescue again last year, but we took advantage of Clara’s artistic abilities and converted one of her scribbles into the fabric that time (here’s how we did that).

Last year’s fabric turned out a bit fainter than we would’ve preferred, so this year we knew we wanted to (a) involve Clara again and (b) make sure it came out bold and colorful. So we decided to just unleash Clara on the fabric itself…

Since it promised to be a messy project (if all went as hoped!) we headed to the new house where there were lots of big, not-too-precious spaces (like the deck) and taped down a drop cloth. Then we taped the cotton fabric down right in the middle of it.

For the paints we went with these little pots of Crayola Kids’ Paint (from Target) because it’s what Clara’s used to and it’s washable and non-toxic. We contemplated using some sort of fabric paint so her masterpiece could be preserved, but ultimately these kid-friendly paints were better suited to the free reign we were able to give our budding 3-year-old.

She chose pink first and basically just went to town pouring it right out of the bottle and smearing it with a foam brush.

Here’s a quick video of our painter in action.

She even added some hand prints and footprints. They’re our favorite.

It took about 30 minutes or so for her to fill the whole two yards of fabric with paint splotches. Right as we were wrapping up we got the idea to let her paint her shirt, right where we typically would photoshop the circle with her age on it. We figured why not give into the theme, right?

So with the paint still wet and Clara still a mess, we dragged the whole drop cloth over to the side of the house where we could tape it up to create a spot to shoot her photo.

Despite being dangerously close to losing all light (and losing the patience of a girl who was so far doing a very good job listening) we managed to snag this shot at the start of a jump. Jumping is kind of her default motion these days, so it was perfect. You can read how we add the number to her shirt in photoshop here.

We also caught a bunch of pretty hilarious outtakes, which you can browse over on Young House Life today. Sherry calls this her Stomp The Yard pose.

And with that folks, we’re calling it a wrap on her monthly pictures. I know it would be fun to keep them going, but we think she has started to outgrow enjoying them (read: it’s becoming more challenging to convince her it’ll be more exciting than doing whatever else she’s doing). So rather than force it, we’ll use this as a natural stopping point – although we’d still love to break out a new fabric for each birthday – and maybe even for her half birthday – depending how she feels.

The 25 pictures above are the ones that we took between age 1 and age 3, and the 52 weekly photos that we snapped during her first year are below. You can see all 77 of them at full size over here.

Oh and speaking of photo traditions – Clara’s also lucky enough to have spent all of her birthdays (including her actual birth date) with three of her grandparents. Our favorite thing about studying those photos is noticing than each adult re-wears the same shirt at least once.


Is anyone else out there making their own fabric? Wrapping up a photo project? Letting your kid loose with little pots of paint? Happy weekend everyone!


  1. says

    I love this one!! I did a little photo shoot like this with my nephew when he turned two. We let him go to town with paint on a bunch of large sheets of paper (I work for a commercial printer). I used some of the photos for the invitations and adhered them to cards I made using the paper he painted on (the footprints and hand prints were our favorite parts too). Kids + paint = my jam!!

    Happy birthday, Clara!!! :]

  2. says

    What an awesome way to look back at the memories! I love that you let her go crazy and paint the fabric. SO sweet! Happy Birthday Clara!

  3. says

    I am so sad to see these photo projects disappear….but I really don’t know how you have done it this long!!! Kudos to you for all the hard work that goes into every shot :)

    AND HAPPY BRITHDAY LITTLE CLARA BOO…it’s crazy to have watched you grow from a little belly bump to such an adorable little lady!!!!

  4. tamara says

    gah! i may have to paint some fabric for my own bday photo this year ;) super cute! i think going to once a year at this point is more than sufficient to ‘document’ her growth & changes (moreover its not like the formal bday photo will be the ONLY photo of her throughout the year). happy cake day to C!

  5. says

    wow can’t believe she’s 3! it has been an absolute pleasure watching her grow since the very beginning. (i am a looooong time reader. basically since you did that upholster your own headboard post, i have been hooked!) Happy birthday little lady!

  6. says

    Thanks for the reminders of what can be done!

    I’m working on something sego lily based for our girl for her birthday, as Susanna means “lily” and she was born in Utah. (Utah’s state flower is the sego lily- a gorgeous flower!)

    Perhaps when she’s a bit older we’ll use a homemade sego lily stamp for a special birthday bit.

  7. Mimi says

    I had a dream the other day that you guys got so big in the biz that your videos were like full on movie sets. Clara was a teenager and she looked exactly like she does now except teen size. In the movie two guys are in love with her; the guy that she didn’t pick was so heart broken that he ended up jumping into the ocean. Then the other guy felt so bad that he went in to rescue him. Quite the drama she caused and not house related at all. haha. Have a great weekend, guys!

  8. Andrea says

    Happy birthday Clara and I hope you enjoy your dragon party.

    Sherry, please don’t take this the wrong way but your mum looks like she is getting younger as the years have passed. Good genes for you!!!

  9. Gwen says

    Y’all have the cutest parents ever. It’s so great that Clara gets to grow up with them being such an active part of their lives.

    Happy birthday, Clara!

  10. Suzy says

    Sherry, how old is your mom? 35???!!! The math doesn’t add up. Happy Birthday to your little girl!!! What a beautiful family.

    • says

      Ok first Sherry do you mean you grandma is 82? Because there is no way that lady in the picture is 82 I thought at first it was your sister or cousin or something!!! If so man you got some great genes. Is every women in your family so gorgeous!!??? Lucky ladies.. And second do you guys realize the movement you and pinterest created with these pictures. It is every where every one is doing it they are even selling the onesies with the numbers already on them or selling the iron on’s to put on the onesies. I think of you guys every time I see it. :) When you started the blog did you realize the impact you would have?

    • says

      She jokes that she’s 82! Shes not really 82, but she’s completely not afraid of aging, which I love. And as for the numbered onesie thing, we think it’s cool! I don’t think it was all us though since they have been making shirts with labels and ages on them forever, so we just did it in photoshop instead ;)


  11. sophie says

    paint and kids is a truly wonderful thing. Especially if you can give them completely free rein. There is just something so very tactile about paint. It’s bliss.

    We have spent many hours painting with the kids: from collage type things, to jackson-pollock splatter painting (we did a series of four – one for each family member – as a sort of ‘house christening’ present to ourselves), to a collective footprint painting that we made for father’s day a few years ago (that was a blast: take three bit sheets of fancy paper from Michael’s – probably about $5/sheet?; tape down a drop cloth, tape the sheets on top. Put one colour paint in a big 9×13 pan for 1 set of footprints. Then put a second colour in another pan for a second set of foot prints. Tell kids to be careful as it is slippery and then have them walk across the paper several times, using both colours individually at first, and then the blend that results from the mixing of the two. Then pick your favourite two sheets and frame them and hang on the wall.

    But I haven’t done fabric. Our kids are older so we could probably unleash them with fabric paint. Methinks this could become a fine duvet cover for my younger, colour-obsessed child…. plotting and planning…

    happy birthday, clara. May your days be filled with creative messes. the best kind.

  12. Meredith says

    Okay, first two years John’s mom holds her, the next two it’s John’s dad; to keep the pattern going, for birthdays 4 & 5 Nonna needs to be holding her. :)

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