From the Bottom of Our Hearts.”

Continued from Part 5

I am presenting this series of blogs as an overall summary to help you begin to explore fabric collage and thread painting. I change my approach depending on the subject matter. My webinars and workshops go into detail focusing on the animal we are illustrating. Feathers, fur, beaks and claws are all stitched using the same threads, however they may be done in a different way. Always look at the photo to help guide the direction of the stitching path. You are IMPLYING the anatomy or structure of the subject you have chosen.

Please have a good look at the images below as they can explain it more easily.




You are now ready to begin building the collage. Insert the pins into the cloth with the sharp ends all following the same direction – UP. This will make it easier to baste into place and easily remove them as you stitch. Keeping them all in the same direction, may prevent a broken needle.



Next, choose a thread color that is closest to your fabrics. Begin at the very top and stitch a loose meandering stitch being sure to catch each scrap and remove the pins as you go. When you’ve reached the bottom, snip your threads and go back to the top and repeat until all of the pins are removed. If you are comfortable with using a clear monofilament thread, then feel free to use this, just do NOT put it in the bobbin or you could spend more time repairing than playing…yikes, that’s another story. 



I always use Aurifil 50 wt threads on the top and Aurifil 40 wt in the bobbin. I am using a Superior topstitch needle 90/14. The bobbin color does not have to match exactly. Choose lights, mediums and darks accordingly. For example, you don’t want a red thread popping up onto a yellow fabric.

Selecting the colors: The thread choices are determined by the colors in the fabrics. As you can see you may need up to 30 or more. Don’t stress if you do not have the PERFECT color, you are creating art that reflects your heart.



After basting the fabrics, it’s time to begin thread painting. Remember, as we discussed in part 2, when using a line art pattern, you will need to find photos that resemble your subject. This will help you see important areas of the animal or object you are trying to illustrate. You will be moving all around exactly as if you were doing a watercolor. If you have loaded pink in the machine and want to do all of the pinks first, that is perfectly fine. You’ll be changing threads often, so do whatever feels best.

Having your head down in your sewing machine sometimes causes you to overlook things. Step back and PAUSE often. Look at your work carefully by hanging it up or snapping photos.  TAKE BREAKS as you sometimes will see areas that need more attention once you have returned. 


1) Determine which direction to stitch by examining the growth of the hair, fur, feather, etc. Always stitch in this direction. If the muscle changes direction (a joint) just follow that path.
2) Choose a thread color that is closest to the fabric. For example, if you select a red and pink dotted print, choose one of these colors.

3) Slowly stitch over the fabrics in the direction of the fur (or feather). You are IMPLYING fur (feather), and don’t need to stitch every hair. Do NOT zig-zag stitch, this is fine art and will not be machine washed. If it frays, it’s ok.

4) Blend the scraps by picking out colors in the prints. For example, if you have a teal flower in your print and it sits beside a yellow scrap of fabric, stitch yellow into the teal and then go back and stitch teal into the yellow always moving in the direction of the anatomy.

5) When all has been thread-painted, use the reference photo to determine areas that need more definition such as a shadow under a wing or wrinkle near an ear. Look for highlights and shadows by squinting your eyes when looking at the photo. 

6) Lay your template (or pattern), over your work and indicate those areas with a fabric marker. Now add a darker or lighter shade of thread, depending what is called for and stitch it in. 



Break it down and only do one area at a time. I always have my students begin with the eyes. Learning comes from DOING, so just think of this as your PLAYTIME—this is how I approach every project. If it ever stops being fun… I’ll quit!


This concludes my fabric collage blog series.

For more detailed information please consider taking one of my classes. All of my patterns have step-by-step full color instructions which you may also find very helpful.

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