A Foiling Technique for Writing on Fabric

You know the saying, “A picture’s worth a thousand words”? I find that’s true most of the time. But sometimes when I’m designing a quilt another phrase comes to mind: “Get it in writing.”

foiling surface design technique
Detail of Deborah Boschert’s quilt “In the Moment.” The word “Moment” is highlighted with foiling.

Incorporating words into your artwork can literally help get your message across. There are many ways to put text on your textiles using surface design techniques like screen printing, fabric painting, digital image transfer, and simply writing on fabric.

Whether you add scribbles in the background or highlight just one word, the materials you use will also convey a message.

A few years ago, fiber artist Deborah Boschert was inspired by illuminated manuscripts. These handwritten texts, which first appeared between 400 and 600 A.D., were decorated with initial letters, detailed borders, and other illustrations, and they were usually enhanced with silver and gold.

Hundreds of years ago, artists used vellum, papyrus, and parchment to create these manuscripts. Decorative elements included scrolls, leaves, stars, and a variety of lettering styles. To capture this look in fabric, Deborah uses several kinds of fabrics, including sheers, and foiling to illuminate the letters.

foiled letter a
An illuminated A using Deborah’s foiling technique.

Here is her illuminating technique:

1. Choose a letter, word, or number to use as your foiled focal point. Use a word-processing program and choose a size and font that will fit your composition. Print the letter (or word or number).

2. Cut a piece of fusible web slightly larger than the letter. Trace the letter onto the paper side of the fusible.

3. Cut the letter out of the fusible, fuse it onto the background fabric, and peel off the release paper.

4. Place a small sheet of foil over the fusible with the foil side facing up.

foiling supplies
Supplies needed for illuminated letters: printed letter, fusible, foil, and fabric.

5. Using a hot iron, press the foil over the fused letter. (You may wish to use parchment paper to protect the foil and the iron.) Let cool.

6. Carefully lift a corner of the foil and peel off the excess foil.

7. Embellish with stitching, paint, or beads.

Deborah’s use of lettering and surface design techniques inspired by illuminated manuscripts helped her infuse a series of modern quilts about her everyday life with a sense of the sacred.

You can read more about how she makes these quilts, plus eight more techniques for adding text to textiles in our new eBook, Text on Quilts: Techniques for Adding Words to Quilts, now available for download.

P.S. Do you like to add text to your quilts? What’s your favorite method? Leave a comment below.

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4 thoughts on “A Foiling Technique for Writing on Fabric

  1. I use text on quilts when I create collages for my Photo Quilts. Here is a Remembering Quilt I created and donated for a Gold Star Mom. Her son sustained injuries in Iraq three years ago and suddenly died of complications. This mom shared over 300 photos and I was able to use 80. The text included letter, poems, events and dates, all using photoshop. You can see close up photos on my Facebook Page: RememberingQuilts http://on.fb.me/ItjrM4
    I have donated several photo quilts to Veterans suffering from TBI and/or PTSD.
    I use this technique to add text so the quilt is 100% washable.

  2. I have collected favorite inspirational quotes for many years and added entire quotes or a single powerful world to quilts, pillow covers, etc. This year I decided to experiment with rust-dying and created words using nails, screws, washers, staples, anything I could find…some of my results can be found here http://www.etsy.com/shop/JonesFiberArt . As Helen mentions, I needed something that wouldn’t wash away.