The previous posted ended with my decision on color for the figure of my dad (age 9) and his dog, Jack. “Sepia” is what I’m calling it. More thoughts on my color choice: I thought if I went with black and white, it would give the impression of an old photo, yes, but I didn’t want to be caught up in trying to exactly match all the shades of gray. I know, it might be easier that way, but I guess I’m just too independent minded to take the easier route. And I really think lifelike color could have made the whole thing too contemporary–my dad’s turning 85, the photo is 76 years old, I want my art quilt to tell that part of the story. So, that’s that!
I had my pattern all traced on (taped together) tracing paper. There are many ways to create the fabric pieces from this point. Some of the choices depend on just how exacting you want to be. I rather like to allow myself to be “in-exact” as this is, after all, ART, not another photograph!
Creating an art quilt which has sewn edges is a whole other creature, which we’ll not get into today! I’m doing raw edge applique. I love fabric, I don’t mind my pieces looking like they’re made of fabric, and fabric is made of threads. So, there are going to be some threads, or edges, evident. In fact, I like to use those textural possibilities in my pictures! This is Fiber Art!
One nice method for raw-edge applique is to use fusible webbing on the back of all the fabric pieces. Steam-a-Seam is great, the pieces can be moved around before they’re ironed down for permanence.
My thought here was, I just didn’t want to be bothered with all the ironing of the Steam-a-Seam. I’ve done this type of quilt before (tho never a portrait) and have used another method successfully. I put my tissue pattern on my light box, anchoring it with some scotch tape on each side. Then I placed my chosen fabric over the area and trace my piece’s shape directly on the right side of the fabric using a sharp pencil or very fine point pen. This is quite easy, of course, on light colored fabric. You can see, though, that I have quite a bit of dark fabric. I still traced it this way. I drew with a light gray chalk fabric marker (any light colored marking pen or pencil is fine.) And I re-drew, darkly, pattern areas where I couldn’t really see my lines through the fabric. I also flipped my fabric back frequently to double-check where my pattern lines were.
Where the pattern areas were quite large (like the dog’s body, the boys’ coat) I used a couple of pins to anchor the fabric to the tissue. You can also tape the fabric piece to the tissue, then carefully peel the tape away when you’re finished tracing. I left those large pieces pinned to the pattern for quite some time as I worked on getting pieces cut.
Pieces have to be cut with consideration for overlap. Edge-to-edge piecing can end up with lots of gaps. Think about what piece laps over which and add a little (1/8″ to 1/4″) seam allowance in those areas for glue.
Some considerations about cutting the pieces:
I use small, very sharp scissors (some Fiskars, actually). It’s usually best to turn the fabric as you cut, rather than the scissors. That way you keep your hand and scissors at about the same angle and can keep control and precision.
I’ve learned from experience that, though I think I’m drawing a fine line, it’s still best to focus on cutting on the outside of my drawn line. It does make a tiny bit of difference, which can be a big difference when you’re putting it all together.
And it’s OK to re-cut a piece. Give yourself permission to get it the way you want it. It’s not like you’re wasting a yard of fabric! This all takes time, and it’s a bit tedious sometimes, so be patient with yourself.
After I cut a piece, I lay it right over my pattern to see if I’ve got it about right. You can lay it under the pattern tissue as well (this works especially well for piece placement.)
You can see I started in the middle, with the dog’s body. I’m not sure it matters exactly where you start, but starting with a large piece makes things a bit easier.
I did have to be careful, and re-do a bit, with regard to the dog’s nearly white body and all the darker fabric around it. Sometimes I thought it would look nicer for the dog’s body to overlap another piece, but sometimes you could see through the white too much, so I had to make very small seam allowances, or change the lap.
The way I attached my pieces to each other was with some watered down craft or fabric glue. I pour a little out in a little plastic lid or something and use a toothpick to dab glue under the edges I want to glue to other pieces of fabric. I did not glue all this down to the tissue! A bit did stick here and there, but I could easily pull it off.
To be quite honest here on my blog, I’m posting a couple of pictures of Dad’s face as I worked on it. This was definitely the hardest part. I had very small pieces to shape and place, and fabric choices were kind of difficult (though I find that part really fun!)
Here’s the face when I played with some fabric that had stones on it. I was using the wrong side for its subtler colors. I liked how I could get the highlight on the tip of his nose and the shadow at the bridge of his nose. However, it just wasn’t an improvement over what I’d done before. Kinda weird looking, actually. 🙂
Another change in this photo is the mouth. Previously, I’d gotten the lips too dark and they looked too big (tho they were the right size according to the pattern.) It all had to do with fabric choice. This time, the upper lip is just a shadow, and the bottom lip is, well, there isn’t a bottom lip! What I’ve done is just place a little piece of fabric that creates a pale shadow under his bottom lip, creating the effect that his lip is there.
There comes a time when I know I better leave well enough alone. So this is it. I did cut out some “whites” of his eyes and some little dark pupils. They are not glued down–more just to play with. I may use them, or I may paint or thread paint the pupils. Just don’t know yet. But overall, I’m satisfied.
So what I’ve created is a big applique piece that I’m going to put on a background piece, which is yet to be discovered! When I get going on all the thread work (thread painting, quilting), this piece will really come to life!
Next post will have a background and some (if not all) stitching done.
Thanks for reading!