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

    From the first picture in this post (with Clara’s profile) and the instagram photo on your sidebar with Sherry’s mom, I think Clara is starting to resemble Sherry’s mom. Who do you you guys think she looks like?

  2. Misty says

    Happy 3rd birthday Clara! It goes so fast doesn’t it? My son just turned 2 a couple weeks ago and my daughter is going to be 9 next week, where does time go? I love all these pics, they make me smile! After seeing Claras weekly photos I did something similar. I knew I would never be ambitious enough to find amazing fabric for every week so instead I laid Camden on that useless but cute quilt that comes with the cribset. It was neat to see how he grew week to week. Thanks for the idea, those are some of my fav pics, especially now that he never sits still and runs around like a maniac. ;)

  3. Emily says

    What a special project, way to see it through three years!
    I had a small paint project making ninja headbands using a paint marker to add ninja font initials on jersey fabric for my son’s 4th birthday party tomorrow – his birthday is today! The headbands are so cute and the stretch of the jersey makes them comfy too!

  4. Brenda says

    Happy 3 years to Clara! She’s speaking so clearly these days, especially compared to the one video of her chatter as she wanders through the house. Her picture looks very “Hooray for 3!”

  5. Jebber Jay says

    Ummmm …. Where is her right leg in the photo of her painting her shirt? ;-). Adorable post, on so many levels. :D

  6. says

    This is my favorite one!! What a way to end something that will provide so many fond memories for you guys. I’ve been following since Clara was 20 weeks or so, so it’s been fun to see these pop up! Too bad it’s washable paint, would be fun to use that fabric in her new room somehow. Maybe in dad’s shed/garage? Well done with this project! LOVE IT.

  7. says

    I haven’t even met you all in real life but I got kind of misty reading this. Wasn’t she just a baby five minutes ago?
    Anyway, happy birthday Clara! I love the bold painted fabric/shirt/knees/etc!

  8. Kate Ross says

    every time y’all post a monthly picture, or a clara video, or basically talk about her, I’m reminded what precious and awesome parents you are. what a beautiful, adventurous and exciting childhood you are gifting her! You guys are an inspiration to my husband and I. Happy 3rd birthday, Clara!

  9. Katy says

    This is so messed up…that almost made me cry. I think it is a painful reminder of how all too quickly childhood flies by. My own daughter is 12 1/2 and fighting all the pre-teen impulses (like hating us), where did the time go?
    I always tell new parents to prepare, because time speeds up once you have a little one. I like to dish out unsolicited optomistic advice like that.
    Happy Birthday Clara, it has been a joy watching you grow on the interwebs!

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