Chazz is an Interior Decorator/Consultant/Retailer, amateur photographer, cook, gardener, handyman, currently restoring an 1880 Victorian.
How to Apply Fabric as a (Removable) Wallcovering Using Starch
Using fabric on your walls is a great way to decorate your home for many reasons. Fabric wallcovering can be provide a lot of decorating impact for little cost. It is not only easy to apply fabric to your walls with starch, the fabric will be easy to remove (and reuse) and it will not damage the wall.
Whether you live in an apartment or dorm and are not allowed to paint or wallpaper or even if you simply like to change your décor frequently or want to cover flawed walls, hanging fabric as a wall covering is the perfect decorating solution.
Champagne Living on a Beer (or even Tap Water) Budget
Why Use Fabric on Your Walls?
1. Fabric can be considerably less costly than wallpaper
2. Fabric applied as described below can be easily removed without damaging walls
3. You have more design options as there are more fabrics than wallpapers available
4. Applying fabric is easier than using wallpaper
5. Fabric can hide flawed walls
6. Removed fabric can be laundered and reused
Types of Fabrics you can use on your walls
Lighter weight interior decorating fabrics are the easiest to use and are usually about 54 inches wide, so will cover a good size area per panel.
Chintz, glazed or polished cotton, gingham, toiles and cotton blend solids, sateens, patterns or prints are the most frequently used.
Some microsuedes, velveteen, damasks and jacquards can also be applied with this method.
Avoid using silks (real and faux), sheers, heavier upholstery fabrics, and fabrics that will stretch.
On a tight budget? Look for sales on fabric, fabric shower curtains, bed sheets, and even some unlined, unpleated drapery panels.
Part 1: Preparation
1. Measure the wall area you want to cover and add at least three inches to the height. You can cover all of the walls, a single accent wall, or a partial wall like the area above or below a chair rail. If your fabric has a large repeat, add a minimum of 20% additional fabric length to allow for matching the pattern when you hang it. (You will trim off excess fabric once it dries on the wall.)
2. Determine how much fabric you will need.
3. Purchase the fabric and other supplies (See "What You'll Need" list below)
4. If fabric is washable and not dye fast and pre-shrunk, launder it and iron if necessary.
This will prevent shrinkage and make sure the fabric won't run during application.
Be sure to do this prior to cutting the fabric so if it does shrink you will not wind up with lengths that are too short.
Pro Tip: Washing and ironing fabric before hanging will prevent the colors from running.
If you think the fabric may run, use cold water and add a handful of regular table salt to the load. The salt will help set the color and prevent it from bleeding.
5. Prepare the walls by scrubbing them with mild detergent in warm water. (Liquid dish washing detergent works great.) This will remove any dust, soil, etc. that will prevent the fabric from adhering to the wall. Make sure you rinse the walls thoroughly with clean warm water and allow them to dry thoroughly.
6. Cover the floor with dropcloths, using painters tape, mask off baseboards and door and window frames. Move furniture out of the way.
The Right Tools Make the Job Easier
What you'll need
• Fabric • Tape measure
• Push pins or stapler with long staples
• Straight edge • Level • Craft or utility knife
• Drop Cloths, plastic • Large sponge
• Foam paint roller, Brush • Blue painters tape
• Paint roller tray • Scissors
• Wallpaper brush and/or smoothing tool
• Gloves • Work table • Ladder • Starch*
* Starch Options
You can use liquid starch which is pre-mixed or you can purchase starch you have to mix yourself. The latter type comes with instructions on the package.
If you are only doing a small area, you might find that spray starch will work for you, but it is harder to control and you will have to do more extensive masking if you choose to use a spray.
My personal preference is to use liquid starch as it is easier to control coverage and costs less than spray starch.
7. Carefully measure and cut the first full length of fabric. If the fabric has a pattern, make sure it will match before you cut the next length, and so on. Remember - measure twice, cut once.
8. If you are covering more than one wall, decide which is the least conspicuous corner. This is where you will start hanging from as you work your way around the room so the final corner, which will be mismatched if you have a patterned fabric, will not be obvious.
9. Once you have determined where to start from, measure out from the corner equal to the width of your fabric. Using a plumb line or a level, draw a light pencil line along the wall to guide you in hanging the fabric straight. (Do not assume that corners, edges of door frames, or other features are plumb. They usually are not.)
Proceed around the room drawing plumb lines at the same width to use as guidelines. (Depending on your walls, you may have to slightly overlap parts of the fabric or cut a slit in the fabric when you get to the corner so you can overlap the fabric a little to compensate for imperfections in the walls.)
10. Enlist one other person to help you hang the fabric, especially if you are covering large areas with wide fabric or bed sheets.
Don't Underestimate the Need for a Level
Part 2: Applying the Fabric to your Walls
1. Pour the liquid starch into the paint tray or a clean bucket and brush or roll it onto the top half of the wall where you will hang your first cut length of fabric. Wear gloves as starch can cause severely dry skin.
2. Leaving an inch and a half overlap at the ceiling,* and using your plumb line as a guide, place the fabric on the top part of the wall. Smooth it in place with your hands or smoothing tool. A sponge will also help you get any wrinkles or bubbles out of the fabric and will also absorb excess starch.
* You will also want to leave a one inch overlap around window and door frames. You can cut a small slit at the corners so fabric will lie flat, but do not trim excess off at this point. It will be easier to trim neatly once the fabric has dried completely.
3. Either have your helper hold the fabric out of the way or use a few push pins to pin it up out of your way while you apply starch to the bottom half of the wall. Then smooth the bottom half of the fabric onto the wall as you did the top half.
4. Once the length of fabric is attached to the wall, apply a coat of starch to the entire surface of the fabric starting at the top and working your way down the panel. Make sure the starch penetrates the fabric evenly then, using a sponge, paint roller or wallpaper smoothing tool, smooth out any wrinkles and air bubbles.
5. Repeat the process with each successive panel, aligning the pattern and being careful to hang the fabric straight with the help of your guidelines.
Allow the fabric to dry thoroughly before going on to Part 3.
(This may take 24 to 36 hours or a little bit longer)
Video: How to Cover Walls With Fabric
Safety First: Make Sure You Have a Safe, Sturdy Ladder or Step Stool to Reach Those Higher Spots
This ladder is actually 24 unique adjustable A-frame, staircase, and 90-degree ladders in one. It is strong, durable, and folds for compact storage. It may seem too tall but the length is the overall measurement. It is about 8 ft. tall as an A-frame. Available in other sizes as well.
Need a More Basic Ladder or Stepstool?
These Meet Top Safety Standard but Are All Compact and Lightweight
Consider these Type 1A Ladders:
A. MicroBurst Fiberglass Ladder
- 4, 6 and 8 ft. models
- 300 to 375-lb. weight rating
- 1-year Warranty
- Fiberglass construction
B. Flip-N-Lite Ladder
- 3 sizes: 4,5 and 6 ft. models
- 300-lb. weight rating
- 1-year warranty
- Lightweight, slim profile
C. Safety Step Stepladder
- 2,3 and 4-step models
- 300-lb. weight rating
- 1-year warranty
- Folding safety bar
Part 3. Finishing & Clean-up
Once Fabric is Thoroughly Dry
1. Carefully remove the push pins or staples you used to hold the fabric in place while it dried
2. Using a metal straightedge and sharp carpet or craft knife, trim extra fabric from the top and bottom of wall and around door and window frames. You may have to change the blade a few times but make sure you only make cuts with a sharp blade or your cuts may not be as clean as they should be.
3. Sponge off any starch residue left on ceiling and woodwork with a sponge dampened with warm water.
4. Remove remaining drop cloths and blue tape.
5. Stand back and admire your work!
For the Finest Selection of Discounted Designer Fabrics - Shop at Restoration Fabrics & Trims
Specialists in Period Sensitive Decorating at Budget Sensitive Prices
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© 2012 Chazz
Have You Ever Hung Fabric on a Wall? - Do you think it's a good idea?
Chazz (author) from New York on October 08, 2017:
Thank you. Glad you found it helpful.
Tonie Cook from USA on October 07, 2017:
Excellent article explaining this wall covering method. I've been looking for this for a long time.
Chazz (author) from New York on January 20, 2015:
You are most welcome, Ruth. Hope you enjoy the results! If you'd like, send me a photo of your finished project and I'll add it to this page.
Ruth Cox on January 19, 2015:
This is exactly the fix I needed for my walls in my home I rent. Thanks for the how-to and another to-do!
ladyhenry on November 06, 2013:
Thank you. This is the first time I have seen a comment on what to do with the selvage edges. I have the fabric and the place to put it but did not know what to do about the selvage edges.
Jen from Canada on February 06, 2013:
I have never used fabric on a wall before but it sounds like a cool alternative to wallpaper.
Aunt-Mollie on January 17, 2013:
I've used fabric on walls before, but always with padding underneath.
Kirsti A. Dyer from Northern California on December 20, 2012:
Great idea and explanation. Especially useful for renters or college students in dorms.
Moon-Light on October 27, 2012:
Will definitely be using your ideas next time when I cover my room walls with fabric.
WhiteOak50 on October 26, 2012:
Congratulations on your purple star!!
MikeRobbers LM on October 26, 2012:
I love Wallcovering and your instructions are really useful and clear , I'm gonna try it one day for sure
Joan Haines on October 25, 2012:
Oh, you have definitely inspired me! I rent, so the fact that it's removable is great. Now I'll be looking for fabric. Thanks so much. (Squid Angel blessed.)
MaggiePowell on October 24, 2012:
My hairdresser actually pink fur fabric on the wall... seemed odd at first, but the color is very flattering...
Terrie_Schultz on October 24, 2012:
Who knew? This is such an awesome idea! Wonderful clear instructions, too.
anonymous on October 20, 2012:
i love it! unable to paint most apts.....i've experimented with metallic gift wrap,silk linens, curtains, etc.
AlleyCatLane on October 13, 2012:
Thanks for the detailed instructions. Still too complicated for me to try myself.
anonymous on October 09, 2012:
I was going to start painting but now I think I have other plans. Thanks for putting this lens together.
Camden1 on October 09, 2012:
I didn't know you could hang fabric on a wall, much less remove it! Your tutorial makes it look so easy!
nicolane on October 09, 2012:
Wow - I didn';t know you could do this - my house may be getting a makeover quite soon!
Peggy Hazelwood from Desert Southwest, U.S.A. on October 09, 2012:
No, but this is a great idea! I had no idea the fabric and corn starch combo would hold!