Drawing the Threads Together

I have been wanting to do a series of still lifes based on favorite vintage items, from the kitchens of my grandmother, mom, and mother-in-law — things like teapots, recipe boxes, and figurines.  But every time I try to draw a group of these things, I have problems fitting them on a page, and getting all the lines at the right angles and distances from each other.

So, inspired by an article called “Photo, Paint, Stitch” by Kelli Nina Perkins*,  I decided to let the camera and the computer do the hard work of capturing arrangements and details for me, and for the last few weeks I have been absolutely obsessed with photo editing for fabric.

Material for future projects - outlines, digital collages, and printed images.

Material for future projects – outlines, digital collages, and printed images.

I hope to show many of the variations I tried in future posts, but today I will start with the one that uses the computer in the simplest way.

Here’s the photo I started with.  In Photoshop Elements, I used the “poster edges” filter to emphasize the contour lines.  That’s the extent of editing on this sample; I was ready to print.

A photo of zinnias with the "poster edges" filter applied.

I could never have gotten all those petals and leaves in the right places.

However, I was out of printer fabric sheets.  Fortunately these drawings of Grandma Lin’s reminded me that I could use regular cotton fabric for the background.  I have read that you can iron freezer paper to the fabric, to give it enough stability to get through the printer, but that didn’t work for me. I ironed Heat & Bond fusible on to the back, left the paper backing on, and it ran through the printer great.

I really liked how the fabrics gave added detail to the image without overpowering it, and how, in different lights, the fabrics took on different looks.

I like the subtle effects that the two different fabrics give.

I like the subtle effects that the two different fabrics give, and how they help unify foreground and background.

For this project, I picked the print on the right, with a white-on-white design for the base fabric.  I peeled off the fusible backing, made a quilt sandwich, and did some free motion quilting around the image.  The thread kept breaking, so I put a sheet of stabilizer on the back of the whole quilt sandwich, and that worked wonders.  I added some decorative stitching to accent the centers of the flowers.

Then I added some Jacquard Lumiere paints to give more definition to the petals and leaves.

Close-up of the flowers.

Especially on the red flower, you can see the white-on-white floral print of the background fabric coming through, making the surface more interesting.

The bottom of the picture was too bland, because the white pitcher was sitting on a white platter, so I repeated some of the flower colors in a color wash with Derwent Inktense watercolor pencils.

Two green borders looked okay, but too predictable.  I had an 8 inch strip of batik scraps in the right colors, already pieced, so I slice that into 2 inch strips and used it as another border.  Then I took a long string of pink beads that I have had forever, and stitched it on too.

Bead border detail.

Bead border detail.

The finished size is 14 inches by 17 inches.

This may be the cutest project I have ever made.

I can see so many possibilities for future projects!

I loved this project because I was able to use what I learned in earlier practice sessions with stabilizer, paints, and watercolor pencils; and I was able to use up some scraps.

I did not get very many big projects done this year, but I did accomplish my goal to take the time to try new techniques, and I am looking forward to doing more with these techniques in the new year.

* This article is from the July/August 2009 Cloth Paper Scissors magazine.  It gives a lot of clear directions and design options, but I ended up using a different process than what is given there.  Maybe I will get to those ideas soon.