Fabric Collage and Thread Painting – Part One

In this blog, I would like to go deeper into my creative process. This will be a 2-part blog. The first part will be on fabric collage, how I think in terms of collage, some of the history behind it and why I use it and what I love about it. The second part will be on thread painting or free-motion embroidery.

Collage is putting together different bits of items like paper, fabric, and small items together to create a story or a decorative item. Here is a more conclusive definition by The Art Story along with the history of art collage.

Fabric collage is done with bits or scraps of fabric however one can add in other items like lace or yarn or even wool roving and various fibers. There are many artists that work in textile/fabric collage. I have always adored fabric as it was natural for me to gravitate to fabric collage. However, when I took a seminar from Sophie Jane Standing four years ago, I was hooked. The combination of the two techniques has jumped my creative process like I never thought. I see things so differently and I am constantly reanalyzing my process to try and improve it.

 My process for each artwork is put together mostly in my head but I have been known to write it down. I start with a reference photograph ( if you use another photographer’s photo be sure to get permission or use your own photos and always give credit ) and have it printed to the size I want the piece to be. In general, terms if the subject is somewhat large I will try to recreate it larger for example this dog, Gizmo. I will use Gizmo to discuss my process from start to finish on how I created him.

He is part of a quilt I did of 3 dogs and while the other dogs will be in the pictures I am posting, I will use Gizmo as my example.

 In textile work, I map out how I will complete the project because many times I paint the background on cotton fabric or cotton Duck-cloth. If I decide to paint the background I don’t draw the animal until I have painted the background.

 First, I always want the best photo of the animal’s eyes and with the best light possible.

This photo was perfect. The eyes and nose were clear and bright. There was just a bit of fuzziness on his forearms but I could work around that.

To be sure I understand the anatomy of the animal, I draw it out on paper. In this case, the client and I decided to use fabric collage in the background so I drew out the dogs on a white piece of fabric that had been stabilized with an iron-on Pellon.

Here Is my paper drawing of Gizmo.

Here is my Fabric drawing of Gizmo.

I feel that this is a lengthy but worthwhile process to understand the dog’s anatomy.

From there I cut apart the large photo of the dog to trace each body part and then draw in the parts of anatomy so they are as perfect as I can make them.

I use those pieces as a pattern to put down over the actual drawing on the fabric. Many times I cut up the pieces to add more detail of patterned fabric. I pin them on, then later when I feel the composition has come together as I like it I glue the fabric pieces down. I like to use a Elmer’s glue stick. This works well because if I change my mind I can still take it off.

You’ll notice I don’t use fabric around the eyes or the nostrils of the nose. This allows me to thread paint those areas more precisely and there will be no need for fabric there. If I am collaging the background I do not glue down the edges of the dog. I leave them so I can slip fabric under the dog’s body.

This piece was completely collaged so I did all the dogs then the background.

A Background fabric and batting are placed underneath the entire piece. The entire piece is created bigger than the finished piece so that it will be cut down to size. Note: that quilting actually shrinks the overall piece and I add extra collage fabrics so that I can cut it down to the desired size. In this case, the client wanted a 40” x 30” quilt.

For the background, I will use a stronger glue because the edges need to be completely glued down so that the foot of my machine glides over the surface while quilting all the pieces down.

Once quilted, I will turn my efforts to thread painting the dogs.

So far in this blog, we went over collage and specifically fabric collage. There are many out there that do fabric collage. Pinterest is loaded with wonderful collage artistry.

For me, I love using fabrics in my collage. I like to let my intuition take over and put bits of fabric that tell a story within the animal itself giving it personality, character, and brilliant details.

Gizmo is a bird dog and goes hunting with his owner for chukar. He lives in the foothills of Nevada and his owner takes him and their other dog, Thor ( black dog, the grey dog is Lucky and sadly, he passed away) on hikes in the brush and hills of our beautiful Nevada desert. I incorporated fabrics with foliage and a dessert feel with bird’s feathers on the body of the dog and in the collaged background.

In the next blog, I will discuss thread painting. Stay tuned. If you like my blog consider signing up. If you know anyone who would appreciate this blog, feel free to pass it their way.

As always Happy Stitch! Holly

Discover more from Holly Gardner Textile Art

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading