The Student Inspires the Teacher

The Student Inspires the Teacher

I planned to make this table runner
Handwoven magazine Jan/Feb 2014
for our Cherished Neighbor Liz

Handwoven January/February 2014

BUT I thought I’d better check
to see if she liked it first

SO I figured out a sneaky way
to work it into a conversation.

I casually showed her the picture
to get her opinion on the project,

BUT to my surprise, she said she would love
to learn to weave sometime,

SO I offered to give her lessons
(with the understanding that she would most likely
end up the subject of a blog post).

I went to the yarn store to get four more skeins
of the sari ribbon

BUT I just couldn’t choose

SO I bought eleven!

Sari ribbon.

Sari ribbon.  (This is what’s left after we both made runners.)

The pattern in the magazine used silk warp

BUT I thought that was too expensive
(after all, I had just spent a lot of money on the weft!)

SO I used black 10/2 cotton instead,
doubled in the warp for extra strength,
single for the weft so as not to overpower
the silk colors.

I wove mine first, to be sure everything would go smoothly
for the lesson.  I used some of the more muted colors,
and it came out pretty well!

Hit-or-miss table runner from silk sari ribbon.

Hit-or-miss table runner from silk sari ribbon.

Liz came over for her lesson.
I thought I would have her weave just
a few inches of tabby,
and probably, like all new weavers,
she would have some trouble with tension and selvedges —

BUT she would soon get the hang of it,
and would want to pull that faulty part out
before going on to the “real” project

SO I started her off with some just scrap yarn —
5/2 yellow and then red cotton.

I had visions of dispensing lots of weaving wisdom
and calling her “grasshopper”
while she slowly achieved the basic skills.

BUT she got the hang of it very quickly, and
every shot looked consistent from the start!

SO I missed out on any opportunity
to utter pithy and sage proverbs.

It was time to advance into the main project —
one shot of thin cotton weft alternating with
one row of sari ribbon.  I had thought she would choose
“safe” colors since this was her first project

BUT she went with jewel tones.
She didn’t want to unweave a single precious row
of the tabby section she had done in red,

SO she decided to continue the red thread
into the pick-and-pick section with the sari ribbon.

I secretly thought the red cotton
would be too thick and bright
to go well with the jewel-toned
sari ribbon,

BUT it was her project after all

SO I let her try it.


A glowing runner brought cheer to a dreary week.

A glowing runner brought cheer to a dreary week.

Poof!  There went my dream of myself as the Wise Weaver.
I couldn’t believe that I had not even thought
to try such a colorful combination!
It looked so good just on the loom
that I had selfish thoughts about leaving it there forever
just to improve the looks of the loom.

BUT there is always another warp,
after all.

SO I summoned up my better self,
helped her finish it,
and even let her take it home.  :)

Almost done...

Almost done…

Seeing the complete runner for the first time.

Seeing the complete runner for the first time.

The first project of many.

The first project of many.

The gorgeous table runner.

The gorgeous table runner.  I wonder if it will magically turn up as the header in this blog.

Detail showing the red cotton in the picks between the silk ribbons.

Detail showing the red cotton in the picks between the silk ribbons.

After just a few more lessons
that little loom itself may follow her home,
and then I’ll have room for the big loom in the house!

“From Every Fiber” Exhibit

Yesterday I went to a fiber art exhibit at The Arts Center in College Station, Texas.  Fortunately photography was allowed, so I can share it with those of you who can’t just drop over to see it in person.

My husband was with me and he was asking me basically what affects the way a piece draws my attention – does the craftsmanship enter in to my opinion?  Or am I just looking at the creative idea?  Do I expect traditional craft skills even when the concept is modern?

It was interesting to think about. Some of the pieces in the show had perfect craftsmanship, but not much to say, at least to me.  Others might have had an interesting concept, but their construction from just big loops of yarn or small scraps of handmade paper didn’t inspire appreciation in me.

Here are five pieces that, for me, struck the perfect balance between creative concept and craftsmanship.  I wouldn’t be able to say which of the two was more important to the finished piece.

Estate Dress, by Tiffany Gordon, 2013-2014.

Estate Dress, by Tiffany Gordon, 2013-2014.

Another view of the Estate Dress by Tiffany Gordon.

I love this piece — every part of it is balanced, beautiful, and complete on its own, but all the pieces combined make the whole more beautiful.  And every part has something extra, something that doesn’t need to be there to make the piece complete, but that adds more interest without overpowering the other elements.  What I mean is, I would find just the ruffled paper skirt pleasing to look at, but then it’s combined with the delicate metal straps – the interplay of the dark and light, linear and solid, holds your eye.  And then the subtle patterning on the paper adds another level of interest.  I also like the play of the geometric floral pattern of the straps with the realistically formed flowers and stems.

Here is part of the artist’s statement about this work:

I create “conceptual clothing” that holds a visual memory of a specific time period and person in history. My goal is to capture a single moment in history and the feelings of the individual who experienced those events….. I strive to combine my expertise in paperwork and metalworking to harmoniously create art that is visually intriguing, harmonious, narrative, and wearable.

The artist, Tiffany Gordon, has been accepted to the Royal College of Art in London for an MA in the School of Material for Goldsmithing, Silversmithing, Metalwork, and Jewellery.  I look forward to seeing how her work develops.

Knitted Self Portrait by Debra Goertz.

Knitted Self Portrait by Debra Goertz, 2013.  Knitted yarn, fusible interfacing, sewn cotton.

Knitted Portrait, detail.

Knitted Self Portrait, detail.

This piece above was a very large knitted self portrait by Debra Goertz, I would say about 3 feet by 5 feet.  I liked it for the unexpected combination of subject and medium, and for the interesting color choices on the shaded side of the figure.

Red Thread by Irene Schlesinger, 2014, embroidery on canvas.

Red Thread by Irene Schlesinger, 2014, embroidery on canvas.

Red Thread detail.

Red Thread detail.

The exuberance of this piece by Irene Schlesinger just fills me with joy.  ALL THE COLORS!!!  The lines going every which-a-way.

Untitled by April Hartley, 2014.  Paper, cotton, and metallic thread.

Untitled by April Hartley, 2014. Paper, cotton, and metallic thread.

Untitled by April Hartley, 2014.  Paper, cotton and metallic thread.

Untitled by April Hartley, 2014. Paper, cotton and metallic thread.

These two pieces by April Hartley hung side by side.  They are about 8 inches (20 cm) square.  I loved the idea of the different layers peeking through and affecting each other.

Her artist’s statement eloquently expressed what many of us feel:

Sewing is in my blood and it is part of my history.  It not only links me to the women in my family tree, but it also connects me to people across cultures and the boundaries of time.  It is possible that every human on earth has a relationship with fabric, be it utilitarian, expressive, ornamental, or sacred. This notion gives me a profound sense of belonging and purpose.

Trees are Poems, by Martha Shade, 2014.  Hand-stitched cotton thread and fabric.

Trees are Poems, by Martha Shade, 2014. Hand-stitched cotton thread and fabric.

Trees are Poems, detail.

Trees are Poems, detail.

This one was my absolute favorite.  The contrast of the filled-in areas with the outlines, and the classic pose with the vivid rectangles, gave me a whole new view of how expressive embroidery can be.

When I saw it, this piece struck me as peaceful.  Sadly, the story behind it is the willful destruction of hundreds of thousands of ancient olive trees, which you can read on Martha Shade‘s blog. Learning about that tragedy gives me more appreciation for the way it is expressed in the embroidery.

There are about 20 more pieces in the exhibit, and none of them are quilts!  interestingly enough.  I was curious to know how these artists were selected, if the pieces were created specifically for this show, if there was a theme stated in advance, and so on, but there was no information given about the selection.  There was a little brochure with each artist’s statement and a brief resumé.  I would have liked to find more information about process and technique for each piece.  Still, I got plenty of ideas and that is all you can ask!

The show is running through March 18, 2015.


Values Clarification

Values Clarification

The artistic kind, not the money or morals kind. :)

I was watching a Quilting Arts video from Season 2, and quilter Katie Pasquini Masopust was saying that she stores her fabrics by color AND within each color, in seven value groups.  Her message was that many quilters make a mistake by working only in the mid range of values, missing the lightest lights and darkest darks.

I would think it would depend on your purposes.  Classic red-and-white quilts or indigo-and-white coverlets surely don’t need a wider range of values, and old quilts in faded pastels are so comforting and calming.  But I tend to use a lot of contrast in my quilts, so analyzing them for value range was an interesting idea to me.  I also wanted to test myself to see if color and value instincts are as good as I like to think they are!

(I worked in Adobe® Photoshop® Elements because I’m familiar with it, but I was looking at that free GIMP graphic editing software on line and I think it has all the tools you would need if you decide to try this on your own photos.)

First I made myself a little mock paint chip card, by just drawing 7 rectangles in a column.

Then I opened up one of my quilt photos in the same screen as the sample paint chip card.

I picked colors from the quilt photo and copied them to the gray rectangles to make a palette.

I picked colors from the quilt photo and copied them to the gray rectangles to make a palette.

Then I used the color picker tool (it looks like an eye dropper).  Clicking it on a spot in the photo magically selects that exact color, and makes it the foreground color.  So I decided which fabric in the quilt was the lightest and clicked on it.

Then I changed to the fill tool (it looks like a pouring paint bucket), and filled the top rectangle.

I went back to the color picker, chose a fabric that looked a little deeper in value to me, clicked to sample the color, and filled the next rectangle.

Once all seven rectangles were filled with a color, I merged them into one image, so I could convert it to black and white.  This showed me what the relative values of the colors actually were.  Here are the results I got from the butterfly quilt in the screen shot above.

Colors picked from the butterfly quilt are converted to black and white to show the range of values.

Colors picked from the butterfly quilt are converted to black and white to show the range of values.

You can see that what I thought were seven different values, are really only five.  The gold, orange, and light plum color are all very close in value.  (It was also very interesting to me that colors that I saw as white and pale yellow, sampled as pale blue and a muted greeny-yellow.)

This quilt looks like it would have lots of value contrast.  Does it?

This quilt looks like it would have lots of value contrast. Does it?

First try to arrange the colors by value.  The B/W side shows that some of the brighter colors are actually darker than I thought.

My first attempt to gauge the colors by value. The B/W side shows that some of the brighter colors are darker than I thought.  I think it’s common for us to believe that more saturated colors are actually lighter than they are.

These color samples are rearranged to better reflect their values.

These color samples are rearranged to better reflect their values.

It may look like a lot of those mid-range grays are the exact same value, but on the computer, as I clicked on each one with the color picker, I could see a definite value change from one sample to the next.

Next I decided to try one of those old tops that I think of as faded, with little range of value.  But this quilt definitely has “light lights” and a few “dark darks.”

This is a vintage top, that I thought would read all in the mid range of values.

This is a vintage top.  I predicted that all its values would be in the light or mid range.

My first attempt at sorting the colors by value.

My first attempt at sorting the colors by value.  There were more darks than I thought!

Again, here the colors are arranged to better reflect their values.

Again, here the colors are arranged to better reflect their values.  I wasn’t TOO far off on my first try.

Another, less computerish, way to do this would be to take black and white photos of your quilts, and then use one of those value cards from the art supply store to see what range of values you had worked into the piece.  I tried converting my photo into black and white first, and then choosing the values with the color picker, but for me it was better to work with the colors first, and then let the computer do the B/W conversion.

I could see using this method with a quilt that was still in the design stage, to be sure that I didn’t have just a few either very light or very dark pieces drawing too much attention away from the rest of the quilt.  But I don’t think I will ever be too concerned about using an exact number of values.  What do you think?  Do you think a good range of values helps make a more successful textile?


3 Refreshing Documentaries

I watch a lot of documentaries and I love how easy it is to absorb information from them.  But although I pick up a lot of memorable facts, and sometimes gain a better understanding of the “big picture” of life, I wouldn’t say I find inspiration in them.  But three I’ve seen recently stand out for the ways they celebrate creativity and honor the human spirit.

In Trash Dance, choreographer Allison Orr accompanies Austin sanitation workers on their rounds and studies the motions they repeat each day in performing their jobs.  With the workers’ input, she stages a performance built around them.  The workers’ personalities shine before the camera and it is a joy to watch their performance.   We have square dancing horses here in Texas at rodeos, but Allison Orr came up with dancing garbage trucks!

In 1978, a society photographer for the New York Times published his candid pictures of fashions he spotted on the streets of New York, and a new feature was born. Now 86 years old, Bill Cunningham still takes photos on the streets every day with the goal of celebrating individual expression.  Bill Cunningham New York follows this energetic and gracious man through his work process.  And if you don’t have time for the whole movie, you can watch 2 minute slideshows of Bill’s recent shots here at the New York Times.

40 Under 40 is a behind-the-scenes look at an exhibit at the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian.  For the Gallery’s 40th anniversary in 2012, the work of forty craftspeople under 40 was chosen.  You can see the pieces in the exhibit here.

Of course we would all choose different pieces if we were putting on an exhibit, and I certainly didn’t agree with all the choices made here, but I loved watching the selection process and hearing the museum staff explain their thinking.  Several of the artists guide tours of their work spaces and explain their process.  It’s fascinating to see how the works are installed and how difficulties are resolved before the opening.

I especially loved the work of Sabrina Gschwandtner, who makes quilt tops out of old 16 mm textile film strips that were being thrown away by the Fashion Institute of Technology.  (I really wish I could have watched those film strips too.)

And I loved One, a giant two-part paper installation by Mia Pearlman, that reminded me of waterfalls and clouds.  (The link will take you to an interactive panorama of the piece, as well as detail shots.)

The only negative for me was that the film shows several intriguing shots of a working spinning wheel made of glass! but it is never covered in depth.  :( Well, I guess a good show always leaves you wanting more!

If you need a creative jumpstart or a mood lift sometime, I recommend these!


1 Fabric, 2 Settings

1 Fabric, 2 Settings

These are some lap quilts for patients at the Veterans’ Administration hospital.

Two lap quilts featuring the same central fabric.

Two lap quilts featuring the same central fabric.

They incorporate two of the fabrics I wanted to use up this year, the pale green with the arc design and the bright turquoise shell print.  I intended to use the pale green just for the backs, and made the first one with the dark purple setting off the turquoise.  I liked the contrast.  But when I went to make the second one, I didn’t have another piece of a dark fabric to use.  Since I was trying to use up the pale green, I went ahead and used it for the wide side panels.  It’s not as dramatic as I usually like, but it seems cheerful and bright.

Two quilts, folded in half, to compare the fabric combinations.

Two quilts, folded in half, to compare the fabric combinations.

I really loved that bright candy-stripe fabric, and cut it carefully to have enough for borders on all four sides of both central panels.  But by the time I was working on the second one, I had misplaced one of those striped pieces!   I hunted for an hour and finally gave up.  I was sure that as soon as I had stitched on another border, I would find the missing piece, but it still hasn’t turned up.  Next time I am pinning all the pieces to a bulletin board as I cut them!

I used the stitch and flip technique, and then did a minimal amount of machine quilting in some of the large open areas.  It is too dreary and damp here to go photograph them outside today, and I need to give them away tomorrow, so these pictures will have to do.  I hope they add some cheer to a veteran’s hospital stay!

Where the Wild Things Are

Kerry at Loving Hands At Home got me thinking with her lovely post about her affection for her home.  What do I love best about my home?  That it is a place where the wild things can still roam.

I share my home with all kinds of creatures, and I notice new things every day.

A great blue heron can look so magnificent one minute...

A great blue heron can look so magnificent one minute…

...and downright goofy the next.

…and downright goofy the next.

But what gorgeous colors when the sun catches its bill!

But what gorgeous colors when the sun catches its bill!

A red-shouldered hawk can also look a little less than imposing...

A red-shouldered hawk can also look a little less than imposing…

...and who knew a turkey vulture's feathers were so gorgeous?

…and who knew a turkey vulture’s feathers were so gorgeous?


Spotting a cocoon of wild silk on a bare branch...

A cocoon of wild silk on a bare branch…

…will release a Polyphemus moth…

...with feathery antennae.

…with feathery antennae.


A forgotten pod explodes...

A forgotten pod explodes…

... white fireworks

… into white fireworks of milkweed seeds.

Wherever I am, I am at home if I can just get outside and walk with wild things.


Twenty-five Days Behind Everyone Else

In 2013, I finished 22 small quilts and weaving projects, but in 2014, I only finished 17, and 3 of those were just tiny practice pieces.  In a way that was okay, because I took the last months of the year to just play around with techniques that I’ve been wanting to try for a long time.

But I think with a little structure, I can accomplish more this year.  I saw a planning idea I liked from Laura at Made in Oxford ( I was led there by Nana Cathy) and I am adopting that for goal-setting this year.  It’s fun to see what plans different people fit into this format.  Here’s my list:

15 in 2015

  • 15 fused applique blocks – just blocks that I will join together into one quilt at some time in the future.
  • 14 finished-up fabrics,and scrap bags.  I say this every year, but this year I have pulled the ones that I want to bid adieu, and I am going to work with them first.
  • 13 technique try-outs.  This will be continuing my foray into the miles and piles of articles I have saved.  I am going to join in with the Love Your Library challenge group hosted by Emily at Snapdragon Crafts (and I was led there by Laura, above).  Emily even has monthly themes for working through your library.  Unfortunately I cannot figure out how to get her cute banner as a widget in my side bar, so I will just have to link to her periodically.  (I did not add “become more technologically ept” anywhere in my list of goals for this year.)
  • 12 mini practice quiltlets.
  • 11 video segments viewed.  I have some Craftsy classes and Quilting Arts videos and I never watch them!
  • 10 materials try-outs.  These are materials I have on hand, mostly for surface design or embellishment.
  • 9 new dye plants.  In 2013, I sampled about a dozen plants from my yard.  Last year I looked at how colorfast they turned out to be, but I didn’t throw even one more plant in a pot!  This year, I need to sample more, especially the fall plants.
  • 8 small quilts – crib quilts and lap quilts.  I already have one done!
  • “7 layers of design” cloth.  This is a concept I learned from Jane Dunnewold and I want to make some practice pieces.
  • 6 activities to share textile skills, like giving weaving lessons, speaking to an afterschool group, or volunteering at a quilt show.  I already have 3 of these scheduled.
  • 5 fiber field trips
  • 4 warps
  • 3 tops (the kind to wear, not quilt tops).  I have the fabric, I have the patterns, I just need to make them!
  • 2 larger quilts – large for me is twin-size and up.
  • 1 show entry!  In each of the past two years, I have taken on one thing that is a challenge for me.  One year I joined an online quilt show, and one year I submitted an idea to a magazine for their reader’s challenge.  This one is less challenging than it sounds, because a local church is having its first quilt show, and they will take all entries with no fee and no jurying.  :)

Laura points out that this equals 120 total goals!  But most of mine are small, and things I normally spend time on.  I may not achieve all of them, but I think this structure will help me achieve more than I did last year.


First Finish for ’15!

My daughter That Clever Chick needed a baby boy quilt for one of her friends, who is on bed rest for seven weeks.  I always wish I could consult with the recipient and see what their taste is – do they prefer bright or neutral fabrics?  Do they have a decorating theme in mind? But in this case I couldn’t, so I decided to go with fairly predictable cuteness.

Baby quilt

Baby quilt

I wanted to incorporate these blocks that I had made a few years ago, but had given up on because they were just too blasé.

I love this penguin fabric, but its color palette is so limited, I had a hard time finding other prints that would blend with it.

I love this penguin fabric, but its color palette is so limited, I had a hard time finding other prints that would blend with it.

I took them to the quilt shop with me and found some fabrics to mix in with them and give the quilt some life.

Could these creatures be any more adorable?  And sea turtles!

Could these creatures BE any more adorable? And sea turtles!

(I might have found just a few other fabrics to take home too.  And Melanie, I would love to discuss that with you, but my husband reads my blog.)

For this kind of quick quilt, I lay out the whole backing and batting, and then start the top with a panel of the “feature” fabric in the middle.   I lay a border strip on one edge of the panel and sew through all the layers, and then just rotate around the central panel with strip after strip, all the way out to the edges.  This makes one giant log cabin block.  I use thin strips, fat strips, and sometimes big chunks of pieced blocks.

I hesitate to call it “quilt as you go” because there is not a lot of actual quilting going on.  The various strips have nice neat edges that look as though I am the queen of stitching in the ditch.  Once everything is sewn down, I do go back and do a small amount of quilting in any big open spaces. (Part of me wants to get really good at quilting and strive to be as good as Doreen, but the other part just wants to jump into picking the next set of colors and patterns to combine into a new project.)

We have had two months of dreary gray weather, so it was fun to work with these bright colors.  I hope they brighten the waiting period for the new mom, too!

Shadows of the Past

Shadows of the Past

Three years ago when I was photographing this dress from the 1800s, I got to wondering how it would look by candlelight, the way it was seen when it was new, 170 years ago.  Our friend Cara graciously agreed to model it for me, and while the pictures did not turn out as well as I hoped, I still think they capture the beauty of the dress.

Beautiful fabrics as they were originally seen.

Beautiful fabrics as they were originally seen.

1800s cotton dress by candlelight.

1800s cotton dress by candlelight.

The back of the dress is as beautiful as the front.

The back of the dress is as beautiful as the front.

So even though I need to try photography by candlelight again, this is my response to the Weekly Photo Challenge: Shadowed.

Dating the dress is a little tricky.  According to Joan Severa’s book My Likeness Taken: Daguerreian Portraits in America, the fan front bodice was popular from the 1840s until about 1853, but it was often cut long, going to either a point or a softly rounded line.  This one has the fan front but it is gathered at the natural waist.  The narrow bias cut sleeves are very simple. with no fullness, ruffles, or caps, making them harder to tie to a certain year.  And to be more accurate, I should have come up with some sort of white collar.

This fabric still feels amazingly soft and comfortable, not brittle at all.  Severa says that the US had a large textile-printing industry by this time.  To see more details about the dress’s construction, including a close-up of the weave, cartridge pleating, and tiny tiny hand stitching, visit the original post.

Texas became a state in 1845, and our town, Montgomery, was in existence then (and the place that the Lone Star flag originated!) so I will guess that as the date for the dress.  Its owner may have kept it as a commemoration.

And thank you to Cara for bringing this dress back to life!

Digital Collage with Fabric

Digital Collage with Fabric

For weeks I have been trying to figure out how to take my own fabric swatches and digitally blend them with specific shapes, to use in art quilts.  Even though I have a lot of photo editing books, my problem was that the books are organized by term, to explain what each program feature does, but I had no idea what term I was looking for.

Finally, after going through practically every option in every tool bar, I figured it out. After seeing the plethora of effects you can get, you might want to try it too!

I use Adobe® Photoshop® Elements 12 software.  Fortunately Adobe allows use of screenshots of their programs for educational purposes on websites*, so I can show you the process.  (However, they do not allow cropping or otherwise adjusting screenshots, so the thumbnails will be hard to see here.) If you use another photo editing program, I hope these steps will be helpful there too.


A practice piece that combines Grandma’s cream pitcher with some handwoven fabric, and photo editing magic.  From here I could print it on fabric, and then use it in an art quilt.


Prerequisites for this technique – a basic knowledge of how to select parts of an image, and how to create layers.

Step One:  Take a photo of your object against a simple but highly contrasting background.  It doesn’t matter what color it is, because you can change that later.  Upload to your computer, straighten, crop, and otherwise get the image to your liking.

For this sample, my object is the white cream pitcher, the background is the bright orange fabric.

I will refer to the pitcher as the object, and the orange fabric as the background.

Step Two:  Copy your original image to a new file with a transparent base layer. I like to set up a new file that is a standard size, regardless of the size of my original photo.  I use 8.5 by 11 inches, 180 pixels per inch in resolution, with a transparent base.  (The small gray and white checks denote transparency.)

The original photo is on the left.  I never work with the original, I always copy it to a new transparent base layer.

The original photo is on the left. I never work with the original, I always copy it to a new transparent base layer.

All Adobe product screenshots reprinted with permission from Adobe Systems Incorporated.  See terms of use link at the bottom of this post.

I like to set up my working layout in columns (the layout button is on the bottom left tool bar).  Whichever picture I am working on will show that it is active by a white highlighted file tab, and on the right, its layer thumbnails will be visible.

Step Three:  Close the original photo.  Now we are going to separate the object from the background, while keeping both available to use as we wish. It is like cutting a paper doll away from its background, while keeping both parts intact and useable, but since we are going to do it with pixels, it’s going to take a little more work.  The benefit is that once it’s done, we can use it over and over.

Use the magic wand tool to select the background. I have zoomed in on my image so you can see the white dashed line that shows the border between the selected object and its background.

The magic wand tool selects the orange background and separates it from the white pitcher.

The magic wand tool selects the orange background and separates it from the white pitcher.

Step Four: From the Layer menu in the top tool bar, choose Layer/New Layer via Cut.

This will give you one layer with the object, and one with the background and an object-shaped hole cut out of it.  When you look at the image in the main screen, you won’t notice any difference, but the thumbnails show what is on each layer.  The positive shape and the negative space are separated and are each on their own layer.  In the screenshots below, I clicked on the little eyeball icon in each layer’s thumbnail one at a time, to make that layer invisible, and show you the image separation.

The background layer once the object has been cut out.

The background layer once the object has been cut out.  Both of these screenshots are from the same step.

When I make the background layer invisible, we see the object by itself on a transparent ground.

When I make the background layer invisible, we see the object by itself on a transparent ground.

Step Five:  Now open the photo you want to use to combine with your shape.  I am using one of my handwoven samples here, but I could use a photo of a sunset, or a flower — you get the idea.  I would only ever use my own work, though.

The fabric I am going to use to fill the shape is on the left.

The fabric I am going to use to fill the shape is on the left.

And here is the real magic, the shortcut that took me weeks to figure out!

Select the layer with the object in it; not the transparent layer and not the background – you can see a blue bar selecting it in  the layers menu on the far right.  (I have made the background layer invisible so this shows up better, but you don’t have to.)

From the top tool bar, choose Layer/New Layer.  A dialog box will open, and check the little box in the middle with the phrase, “Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask.”

Check the box to create a clipping mask.

A swatch of double-woven fabric is on the left.  To apply it to the pitcher shape, I checked the box to create a clipping mask.

A new blank layer will open above the object layer, but indented to the right.  Copy and paste your filler photo into that new blank layer.  You may have to move it and/or expand it, but IT WILL FIT THE SELECTED SPACE PERFECTLY!!!!

I used the move tool to adjust the fabric expand to the pitcher shape.

I used the move tool to adjust the fabric expand to the pitcher shape.

(This was very counter-intuitive to me, because in every other process I have ever done in Photoshop, I have worked from the top down.  Usually, the topmost layer blocks the visibility of the images on the layers below. So in adding the fabric swatch image to a top layer, I would expect it to hide the pitcher outline, and if I just added a new layer in the regular way, that is what would happen.  But the check box switches it to an alternative function.  The upper layer becomes a sort of subordinate layer, and the lower layer controls where it is visible.  If it was up to me, instead of calling it “Clipping Mask from the Previous Layer,” I would title it something like, “Upper Layer Drips into Lower Layer.”)

Optional Steps

For just a flat cutout look, you could stop here.  Choose Layers/ Merge Downward to link the clipped layer (what I think of as the fill) down onto the object layer.  Then the new surface and the shape will bond together as one, and you can move them, resize them, etc.

But before that step, I like to play with all the filters and see what effects I can get.  To make the featured image at the start of this post, I applied a stained glass filter to the layer of the double-woven fabric.  For richer color, I used the “multiply” adjustment layer, and then duplicated that whole layer.  You can see the two identical thumbnails on the right hand side below.

I reduced the opacity on those colorful layers to about 75%, so the white pitcher is still visible underneath.  Its highlights and shadows show through somewhat and make the new creation look more three-dimensional.

When I am happy with my choices, I merge the layers.  Then the effects will stay with the pitcher shape — I can copy it and use it on another background, or resize it.

The stained glass filter applied to the double-woven fabric layer.

The stained glass filter makes the double-woven fabric unrecognizable.  I made the background layer invisible so I could concentrate on the pitcher’s appearance.

I like to use the background that was in the original photograph, because the shadows match up and add to the 3-D effect, but I change the color to complement my new object, using the Enhance/Adjust Color tool.

The slider adjusts your existing color, it doesn't match the color in the display bar.

The slider adjusts your existing color, it doesn’t match the color in the display bar.

pitcher 2

The edge on this one is not great, but at this point, it’s only a twinkle in my laptop’s eye!

So much whimsy, so early in the year.  :)

So much whimsy, so early in the year. :)

I always have more ideas than I have time and materials to actually make.  For me, digital collage is a fun way to play with a lot of ideas in a short amount of time.  Now that I have figured out the process, I think I’ll be doing more with it this year.


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