Exploring New Materials in Fabric Art: The Possibilities of FOSSHAPE

One of the characteristics of art quilters I like most is their sense of adventure with fiber and textile art techniques. You name it–metal, plant material, Tyvek® envelopes, dryer lint–they can imagine stitching it. The same goes for surface design. Painting on fabric, slashing and burning, encrusting it with embossing medium–fiber artists will experiment with pretty much any method to see what they can create.

3-d quilting with fosshape by leisa rich
Leisa Rich created this 3-D quilt with felt-like FOSSHAPE and paint.

I suspect that if you asked a fiber artist why she (or he) created with an unusual material, the answer would be, "Because it's there."

Leisa Rich is a fiber artist who definitely fits the description of artist as explorer. She creates works in conceptual 2D, sculpture and installation format using thread, fabrics, industrial felt, mixed media and detritus as her primary materials and free-motion stitching as her favored technical method of creating.

In her quest for unusual fiber art materials, Leisa discovered FOSSHAPETM. This unique material is a white, pliable, nonwoven fabric that resembles felt but can be formed into various shapes when exposed to heat and pressure. It is most often used in the theater world to construct parts of costumes, props, and sets.

The FOSSHAPE can be cut and sewn onto anything you can run through a sewing machine. It can also be steamed and melted to create several amazing visual effects. You can paint it with fabric paints and dyes.

sculptural fabric art by leisa rich
"Falling From the Nest" by Leisa Rich. Fiber art sculpture made by stitching and heat-molding FOSSHAPE.

Consider these possibilities for using this unusual material in your fabric art projects:

• Texture: Stitch small bits of FOSSHAPE to your fabrics, and heat them up to create tendrils that yield wonderful texture.
• Topography: Cut a large piece of FOSSHAPE into sections, and heat them up to create your top layer, adding other elements and fabrics underneath.
• Words: Try cutting the FOSSHAPE into letters and creating hard words that will pop up from your quilt.
• Fusing: Fuse elements of ribbon, netting, and more into the FOSSHAPE to create wonderful effects.
• Stitching: Free-motion or machine embroider the surface of the FOSSHAPE, heat it up, and alter it in creative ways to add to your work.

Leisa shares her FOSSHAPE discoveries, including how to stitch and paint it, in In Stitches vol. 11, now available for download. To explore with FOSSHAPE yourself, you can find it in the Quilting Daily Shop.

P.S. What's the most unusual material you've ever used in fiber art? Leave a comment below.

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2 thoughts on “Exploring New Materials in Fabric Art: The Possibilities of FOSSHAPE

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