Dont Judge An Art Quilt By Its Fabric

You've heard the expression, "Don't judge a book by its cover," right? Well, at the recent taping of "Quilting Arts TV" Season 7, I learned you shouldn't judge an art quilt by its original fabric.

Here's what happened: We booked mixed-media artist and photographer Deidre Adams for a segment on the show. I have long admired Deidre's painted quilts that feature intriguing textures and muted tones. She is drawn to crumbling, decaying buildings and landscapes and the wide-open spaces and simple compositions she observes during her travels in the West and Southwest. But what's truly fascinating about her work is how she transforms ugly fabrics into beauties.

So, imagine my enthusiasm when we were preparing for her segment and these appeared:

I couldn't wait for her to share her art with our TV audience!

These pieced quilts were just the starting point for her process. Deidre next free-motion quilts over the fabrics, creating tightly stitched whorls, designs, and patterns. After that she applies layers of paint.

This experience got me thinking about other ways to turn so-called ugly fabric into beautiful contemporary art quilts and other fiber art projects.

One of my favorite ways to alter the look of fabrics is through surface design printing. On "QATV" Series 600 alone, there are at least five ways to turn bad fabric into beautiful art, including: using flour-paste resist, gelatin monoprinting, digital over-printing, and screen-printing techniques.

Maybe the lesson here is that there are no bad fabrics…just opportunities to get creative with surface design techniques!

How do you turn so-called "bad" fabrics into beautiful art? Share your tips and tricks in the comments section below.

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Art Quilt, Quilting Daily Blog

10 thoughts on “Dont Judge An Art Quilt By Its Fabric

  1. I like to take my “ugly fabrics” and cut them into small pieces. These pieces are then stitched back together to create a new fabric or sometimes they are used for the colors in a snippets technique.
    Fairways quilter

  2. I like to collage them under hand painted sheers, stitch random designs with variegated threads over the top, then cut this project piece up into pieces for other projects.

  3. Is there really any “ugly fabrics. One person’s ugly is another person’s WOW! We had a quilt challenge to base a wall hanging on an ugly fabric and then bring eough of that fabric to share with others. I was amazed at whot some people – myself included – thought was ugly. Often all it takes to make an ugly fabric not so bad is to use it. Placing it next to the right fabric may be all it needs. Or covering it with a nice sheer to soften the ugly a bit, I have even turned it over and used the back as the front. Paint, thread, inks can all help. And when all else fails, give it to someone who doesn’t think its so ugly!

  4. I agree with fairwaysquilter…I too cut the “not so pretty” fabrics into smaller pieces and use them in the “background” of a quilt. As long as the colors mix well with your color scheme, the “ugly” isn’t noticeable. Ugly is in the eye of the beholder, for sure, since I really can’t say that spending thread, time and paint on Deidre’s fabrics improved any of them. I don’t see the “pretty” in what she created. Must be an “art” thing that I just don’t get….

  5. I love the idea of reinventing fabrics! Several years ago when I was reading about African textiles I learned about how they re-dyed textiles from other cultures (some were even re-woven) and I have experimented with doing the same. Even with my own shibori and resist dyed projects, if they don’t turn out the way I want, I keep redoing them until I have something I like.

    Fine artists repaint over canvases, why not redesign the surface of fabrics?

  6. I sew laces, gimp, embroidered ribbons, add buttons, beads, bits of fur if I have it, ultra suede and old jewelery to make a “NEW” fabric. Then I make that new fabric into clothing for Santa or a wall hanging. Thanks for all the “encouragement” I read in the words of the blogs etc. I am really getting into art quilting. THANKS AGAIN. Elizabeth