Floor cloths are part of American history. At least U.S. presidents had floorcloth lining the floors of their homes, including George Washington’s Mt. Vernon home. Originally imported from England, floor cloths were painted using stencils. They were used during the warmer months to protect flooring while the heavier wool rugs were stored away. They also used them under rugs. Then in about the 1850’s popularity dropped and usage was reduced to being used in kitchens. Their name changed to oil cloths in the 1870’s. Popularity rose again in the late 20th century when county primitive home decor rose in style. Floorcloth making made a comeback as artists used their country primitive painting and stenciling skills to create modern styles as well replicated some of the original designs.
Over the years the Prim Mart community has included some very talented primitive artisans. It is from one those this original tutorial came from. Floor cloth making can be a fun and satisfying project. Especially if you use stencils, you can create them rather easily.
Floor Cloth Tutorial
- Big roll of linoleum or vinyl flooring (found at your local home improvement store. A roll usually sells for around $19.00. You want to buy the thinner stuff (not the thick cushy stuff). You can also use heavy canvas.
- Acrylic Paints
- Sealer – Polycrylic by Minwax
- Paint Brushes/Sponges
- Stencils – optional
- Draw out your shape and cut it out with sharp old scissors.
- You will be painting on the wrong side of the vinyl (the ugly side usually grey). Base coat with 1-2 coats of craft acrylic paint. I use black usually. If you are going to crackle then make the base coat the color you want to show through the cracks. Note: if you want to draw on your design before painting now is the time to do it. I use either white chalk or white crayon.
- Skip this if you don’t want crackle. I use the Delta brand 1 step crackle medium. Brush it on and let set til tacky. The wetter that it is the bigger the cracks—drier equals smaller.
- Now paint your design again using craft acrylic paints. Do not over paint. Too many brush strokes when using the crackle will mess up the effect. After I painted all this I do any stenciling. Also I always paint the very outside raw edges black–I use a foam brush and sorta dab the paint on. It gives it a more finished look. If you prefer you can stencil a design instead of painting a scene by hand.
- Antiquing–this is where I think it starts to look half way decent. I use Delta’s Brown Antiquing Gel. Brush it on working in small areas and wipe off with a soft cloth. If you get it too dark just use a lightly dampened cloth to wipe off any excess. Let dry very well before the next step.
- Lastly is sealing the floor cloth. Polycrylic by Minwax works well. It’s water-based, dries quickly and isn’t too smelly. I use at least 3 coats of this. This gives it a nice satiny sheen while protecting the paint.
Use the same directions for ornies, magnets, pins whatever you dream up. I don’t use the polycrylic for the small items, but do use some sort of brush or spray-on sealer for these. One roll can make a couple hundred ornies or magnets. They are quick to make for craft shows.