Felt Like Gardening #5 by Laura Wasilowski
Soon I’m off to Sisters OR to teach a class at Quilter’s Affair called Felt Like Gardening. Felt Like Gardening #5 above is an example of what my students can make with the many felt shapes they’ll get in their kits.
You may recognize this piece from a similar project found in Joyful Stitching called Folk Art Garden. Using a step-out or stage in the construction process prepared for the book, I changed it up and added more stitchery.
One can never go wrong with more embroidery.
Hope to see you at Sisters!
This is about as far as I go for this hand embroidery on felt. Or is it? Should I fill in the surrounding blue area with more hand stitchery? Or dare I cut it out with a decorative rotary cutter blade and apply the embroidery to another fabric?
Here goes nothing! (My big fear is that I cut into the stitching. Then what would I do?)
So, gritting my teeth and sending a prayer to the St.Ethel of Mertz, I trim the embroidery and place it on a yellow background fabric. Whew! that was close!
Size 3 pearl cotton thread is huge! And by that I mean thick, much thicker than your regular size 8 pearl cotton thread. Size 3 is also a little difficult to stitch through fabric. So how do you stitch this bulky thread to your fabric? Use couching.
is a method of securing thick threads, like the yellow Size 3 pearl cotton thread
above, to the surface of fabric. The heavy thread lays on the fabric and a finer, easier to handle thread, like a Size 8 pearl thread
, is stitched over it to fasten it to the fabric.
Here’s how to add Couching to your fabric:
- Come up at point A with the Size 3 thread using a Size 1 embroidery needle. Come up at B, about 1/4’’ from A, with a lighter weight thread like a Size 8 or Size 12 pearl cotton using a Size 3 or Size 5 embroidery needle respectively. (See the Needle and Thread Chart here.)
- Stitch the big needle into the fabric to hold it out of the way. Bring the smaller needle, used with the finer thread, over the thick thread and insert the needle back into B. Draw the thread through the fabric. The finer thread traps the heavy thread into place.
- Bring the small needle up at C about 1/4’’ from B. Insert the small needle on the other side of the thick thread and back into C. Draw the thread through the fabric.
- Continue to couch down the thicker thread to make shapes, draw lines, or outline shapes. To end the stitching, bring both threads to the back of the fabric and tie them off.
During the month of June I’ll be giving away a skein of hand-dyed size 3 pearl cotton fabric with any purchase from the Artfabrik store. Give it a try!
Lately, I’ve been exploring stitch combinations to make my free-form hand embroideries. In free-form embroidery there is no pattern or set of instructions to follow. You make it up as you go along. So I can easily spend hours agonizing over what stitch and what color thread to use on a project.
I’ve tried to approach this exploration logically and made a sort of chart for various stitch combinations that build line, texture and pattern. They range from the simple Blanket Stitch plus French Knot plus Running Stitch like you see above to more complicated combinations.
Well, this has turned into a major rabbit hole! There are endless combinations. And even though I’ve tried to limit the number of basic embroidery stitches to use in exploring the combinations, it looks like there is no end. Maybe that’s the beauty of hand embroidery. There are endless possibilities!
My third method of creating original art quilts begins with a Design Trigger. This way of designing artwork is all about improvisation. There’s no pattern, no theme, no idea. Like walking a tight rope in the dark, you never know what you’ll encounter. Thrilling stuff for a textile artist who lives a safe and cozy life like me!
My design triggers are pre-fused fabric scraps. I keep all the cut-aways or fused fabric scraps from previous projects. The fusible web or glue on these fabrics never goes bad and those odd little shapes provide just the right impetus to launch a new design. (You can learn more about fusing here.)
Think of fused fabric scraps as the starter dough for your next art quilt. There is so much potential in these little bits of fabric. But there are pros and cons when selecting the Design Trigger method.
Pros: You are allowed to improvise. There is no pattern needed, no preconceived design you have to try to emulate. You are free to make it up as you go along.
Cons: There is no pattern or sketch on which to base your design. You have to fearlessly cut into your precious fabric and hope it turns out like you want it. Once it’s cut, you can’t go back.
Windy City #10 by Laura Wasilowski
Here are some tips when creating with Design Triggers
- Be brave! Take a chance and cut into the fabric.They are manufacturing fabric at a furious rate.You won’t run out.
- Make design elements as a unit (like the house above) so you can try placing them in different places on background fabric.
- Build your design on a Teflon sheet, silicone release paper, or parchment paper. This gives you the option of changing the size and shape of the design before applying it to batting.
- If you don’t like how the design is turning out, set it aside and start another design. Art making takes practice and fusing lets you make lots of art work.
- For a successful quilt, follow the rules from the Chicago School of Fusing.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these three methods of designing art quilts. Now get out there and make something!
Libby’s Leaves #2 by Laura Wasilowski
My second method of creating original art quilts is called Variations on a Theme. This way of designing artwork comes in handy when my brain needs a little kick start. Like a jolt of coffee in the morning, it spurs me into the “create zone” and I’m off and running.
Please note that all of the examples used here are made with pre-fused fabric. (You can learn more about fusing here.) But you can apply the same methods to a pieced quilt as well.
Variations on a Theme
The first step in creating this type of design is to select a theme or motif and create variations on that theme. The motif in our example is a unit or block with a square shape set on a rectangular shape. As with any design method, there are pros and cons when selecting the Variation on a Theme method.
Pros: Repeating a motif lends rhythm and balance to your design. It gives the design a sense of unity.
Cons: The design may feel formulaic and static. By restricting yourself to one motif, the design may feel static and uninteresting. The key to making it interesting is to bravely change up the motif. Slice that fabric!
Variations on a Theme by Laura Wasilowski
Here are some tips when creating your variation on a theme:
- Start with a simple motif block. You’ll be repeating this block several times and an easy-to-make shape aids the process.
- Explore ways to slice, flip, skew, enlarge, and diminish the motif block.
- Determine a focal point or place where the eye first rests on the design. The rule of thirds applies here. Divide your design into thirds vertically and horizontally. The juncture of those grids lines is good destination for a focal point. The focal point may be a change up in size or spot of high color contrast.
- Join the motif blocks together so they read as a unit. Note that the spaces between motif blocks (negative spaces) can be just as interesting as the blocks themselves.
Stay tuned for our third and final method of designing artwork: Design Triggers.