CLOTHING TUTORIAL: Hand Colored Embroidered Skirt

I have been on a kick of altering existing clothing into something more artistic and personalized. In fact, I'm currently teaching a program at Art 180, on doing that. One of the easiest ways to transform a piece of clothing is with fabric markers, paint, and dye. I found a black cotton skirt with white embroidery a few months ago at Goodwill, and gave it a makeover by taking in the waist, and hand coloring that white embroidery into rainbow embroidery. It was easy to do and totally transformed the look of the skirt. You can see what that skirt looks like at the bottom of this post. Recently, I found another one with an intricate embroidery. I knew this one needed a major makeover, so I used the fabric markers to transform the bland embroidery into something amazing.

Though I chose skirts, this can be done on any garment that is black cotton with white embroidery. White embroidery colors well. The markers will color any fabric around the embroidery too, so black works best to hide that extra color. I used a lot of colors, but this can be done with less. That all depends on what colors you like. The rainbow of colors gave me more options with placement of colors and made the details stand out better.

  • A black cotton skirt with white cotton embroidery - Mine is thrifted, but you can use one you already own. The skirt I used has a lot of embroidery. You could chose one with light to heavy embroidery.
  • Fabric markers in multiple colors - I used Marvy brand markers from Michaels. They come in various colors. I used a neon and brilliant set
  • Paper towels - Put these under the fabric section you are working on. My skirt had an eyelet design, so the paper towels caught the ink that went through the hole.
  • A lot of patience and time - Coloring this skirt took many hours, since there was a lot of embroidery. One with less embroidery will take less time to color.


1) Place a couple sheets of paper towels in a stack on your work surface. This will help absorb any excess ink from coloring.

2) Take a look at the design, and decide how you want to do the colors. I separated out my largest embroidery by breaking down the elements that made it. You can go as intricate or basic as you want with this. I leaned toward intricate with this one.

3) Using the markers one at a time, color in the embroidery, just like you would color with normal markers. Use the tip for smaller areas, and the side for larger ones. Give the embroidery a second coat of ink, to intensify the color.

You can overlap the colors to blend them. You can do ombre, gradients, create in extra details, what ever your heart desires. Just plan out your colors as best as possible, because covering a mistake can be difficult.

This can also be done on laces and crochet, but you'll have to plan for the bleeding of the ink while coloring. That could create an interesting tie dye or watercolor effect. If you have something that is white cotton with a black print, you can use the hand coloring too. Any excess will be hidden by the black print.

This is an easy project that can be done by kids to centenarians. It's a great way to revamp an old garment into something more colorful and exciting. Happy makery!


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