Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Recipe for Sweet Leaf Composed Fabric

I demonstrated this technique at my local quilt guild's School House Demo night a few months ago. I thought it was time I actually wrote it up.

Ingredients :

  • Base Fabric
  • Scraps from trimming and sizing up blocks (bits otherwise considered “too small to save”).
  • Strings from squaring up fabric.
  • Thread tails and other scraps. Schnibbles (that tangled mess after washing cut fabric)
  • Yarns.
  • Old thread.
  • Candy wrappers or foil.
  • Paper scraps.
  • You can even “shred” larger scraps if you need more of a particular color.

Basically, anything you can sew through will work.

I keep a cup next to my sewing machine to catch the thread tails, and clippings. When it gets too full, it all goes into a zip-lock bag for later use. Usually, if I'm working on a project the colors are loosely coordinated, so it all kind of works out. If I were anyone other than my grandfather's progeny, I would throw this stuff out as trash, but in his words, "It's good yet!" Some people call these scraps "ort" as in ort-work (as opposed to artwork).

The Basic Technique

1) Lay out a base fabric. It can be anything, ugly or not. It will be covered up with scraps and snippets anyway. Muslin will also work. This piece is about 18 in x 24 in--the size of the cutting mat underneath.

2) Sprinkle the snippets, scraps, yarns, threads, lace, whatever, onto the base fabric. Arrange them however you please.

Even candy bar wrappers are fair game. I rip these into smaller pieces. I like the metallic blue of these Ghirardelli milk chocolate bars.

Foil bits add bling.

See : Isn't that better?

3) Cover with a layer of tulle netting. In this case, I used black because it tends to disappear, but try tulle in different colors for different effects. Organza or other sheers would also work :

4) Pin baste the quilt sandwich :

You could use fusible in the layers to hold it all together here, if you so desired. The pin-basting method works fine for me, so I leave out the fusible.

5) Free-motion stitch all the layers together :

This becomes a meditation. It's also great practice for free-motion stitching. You can't really see the stitches, so it's a great time to practice without worrying so much about the results. For a piece this size, I used just over 1 full bobbin of thread. You can really burn through thread with this technique. It's perfectly ok to use threads you'd just like to use up--as long as it works in your machine and doesn't give you breakage problems, use it. If it is breaking on you, spool it off and add it to your composed fabric collage!

Here's the back. Remember that horrible base fabric? It's still here and put to much better use!

Voila! I have a groovy background for ATCs, fabric post cards, blog banners, journal covers, textured applique, art quilt backgrounds, or anything else you might want to do with it.

Options : You can put a layer of Modge-Podge over the top. That will fill in the holes of the tulle and really make it disappear. It also gives it a plasticy-synthetic feel that will add to it's durability.

I like looking these because I can see all the bits and pieces and scraps from past projects. It's kind of a scrapbook of the things I've made. A memory book in fiber and stitch.

Paying Homage :
Nellie Durand over at Nellie's Needles is a master of Ort Work.  Please stop by her blog to see the wonder ways she uses these bits and scraps in her work.   Her Lake-scapes and Prairie-scapes are breathtaking!

Sue Bleiweiss also offers a Fiber Art Collage Art Cards Tutorial with a similar technique.

Have fun with your recycling trash into treasure!

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