”Within Her Embrace”
The art of textiles has been passed down for generations…including mine. My great-grandfather was a tailor who married a seamstress who gave birth to my grandmother, an awning maker who had my father who was an upholsterer, who married my mother, a gifted hand-embroiderer, who had me. I have been a graphic designer for over four decades and although I’ve long felt an affinity for fibers and threads, I only began fabric collage in 2016.

How in the world did that happen? By taking all of my artistic experience and applying it to textiles and BELIEVING and TRUSTING in my intuition. It isn’t important how I arrived because the journey IS the destination, but I strongly believe it is due to my ability to move thoughts into action. I’m confident that If I can see it…I can create it.

How do I see it? Meditation. Do you have to meditate to become a fabric collage artist? No, but it helps. In order to be productive, we need to be DOERS, not dreamers; YOU can do this if you really want to. Follow your passion, tune into your intuition and you will create amazing works of art. I know from experience that lying in bed dreaming about something is not a reality. Get up and get moving! It’s easier than you can imagine, you just need to START.

The following basic steps are the ones I use in most of my work, but there are many ways to create a fabric collage. You can add thread painting or just use clear monofilament threads to hold them in place. Choose what works for you. BE the artist and allow your personal expression to shine.

Fusing or adhesives are NOT used in my fabric collages (except when I use a tiny smudge of a glue stick on eyes, if needed). I thread-paint using 50 wt Aurifil cotton threads.

My thread collection was designed specifically for fabric collage, 10 BRIGHT colors of 50 wt and black and white 12 wt for eyes. My thread collection works best with bright colors and all of my FreeSpirit fabrics…not only my current Calico Horses collection, but of ALL of my future fabrics as well.


1) Choose a Pattern


Create your own pattern or purchase one of mine. Photographs and free coloring book pages are also great ways to start. I am a firm believer of only using photos I own, or have been given permission to use.

DO NOT STEAL the work of photographers and artists; learn to move forward with respect and understanding. Susan Carlson wrote a great blog on this. Have a look at her Copyright and Copywrong. There are wonderful sources for photographs throughout the internet, just be sure they are copyright free. Also consider using a free online coloring book page as a pattern, just be sure it clearly states that you are free to use the art. The subject matter for all of my art is based on the animal’s stories that come to me in meditation. Although my instructions refer to animals, the same methods apply for a still life.

2) Choose a Background
The animal you choose will help you decide which color or shade you want for your “setting.” For example, look at your pattern and decide if the animal is light (swan), medium (bear), or dark (eagle). If you chose to do a swan in light colors, choose a background fabric that will display obvious contrast.

Choosing a pale yellow background for a primarily white swan would detract from the main character and you want to give the animal center stage. The weight of the background fabric is important. When using a quilting cotton, I use a medium-weight fusible stabilizer. If I use a heavier weight like denim, or 7 oz duck cloth or canvas, no added stabilizer is needed. Ombres, batiks, and neutral fabrics are fantastic, just be sure they are not too busy or they will compete for attention and distract from your main character.

3) Transferring the Pattern
There are various ways to do this and the most common method is using a light box. You can also achieve this same effect by adhering the pattern to a window using masking tape and tracing over it. Trace onto the background fabric you have selected in step 2. Use a drawing tool that allows you to clearly see the pattern. I use fine line black markers (do not use a thick marker) or pencils. You will be covering the traced lines with fabric. If your background fabric is dark, you will need to find a tool that does the trick. I use Sewline™ drawing pencils. You can also flip the pattern over and use a Sulky™ heat transfer marker. Trace the pattern and iron this on to the background fabric. Just be sure you trace the transfer line of the REVERSE side of the pattern before flipping it over to the RIGHT side and ironing it onto the background fabric.
4) Select Fabrics

There are many wonderful fabrics to choose from. Look at the animal in your pattern and decide what you want the overall “feel,” or mood to be. Whether it’s blue, pink, orange, or purple is entirely up to you. When I teach a flamingo workshop, students create them in every color of the rainbow.

Once you have decided which colors you want to include, be sure to select at least one 4” square of each of those colors in lights, mediums, and darks. If I were using pinks for instance, I would have five to eight scraps in all three shades… pastel, medium, and dark.

Choose fabrics that will help accentuate the anatomy of the animal. A curved leaf can help shape a muscle, a stripe allows the eye to move down a leg, petals may work for feathers. Choose fabrics that are varied in size of prints as well as hues. I stay away from solids and batiks when doing my fabric collages, as I am relying on the “movement” of the prints to help render the illustration.


Continued in the next blog, Part 2.

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