Incredible Ideas for Shrinking Fiber Art

From the moment we start learning to work with fabric, we're taught that shrinking means disaster. But when it comes to fabric art, shrinkingbefore or after you stitchcan be a friend to your design. Shrunken and puckered fabric adds dimension and texture to a fiber art design.

dimensional fabric art
Detail of untitled piece with shrunken
felt circles, by C. June Barnes.

In her book Exploring Dimensional Quilt Art, quilt artist C. June Barnes explores various folding, gathering, pleating, shrinking, padding, and layering techniques. Her ideas for textile art are definitely off the wall, taking quilters above and beyond the surface with innovative techniques for raising surfaces and creating three-dimensional fabric structures.

Here is her description of how she created this untitled piece using acrylic felt circles.

"I used the amazing shrinking properties of wool/viscose felt to manipulate stitched shapes added to a background. The trick with this sort of technique is to leave areas of the work unstitched, allowing the felt to shrink to its maximum extent. In some areas the top layer is not attached to the felt, leaving the fabric free to expand outward into dimensional shapes.

"Circles of the same size were cut out of colored fabric and acrylic felt. Lengths of 'scoubidou' plastic laces were stitched to the underside of the fabric circles with water-soluble thread, radiating outward from the center, and a button was attached in the middle (see diagram).

dimensional fabric art sketch
Sketch for the felt circle design, from Exploring Dimensional Quilt Art.

"The fabric circles were then attached to the acrylic-felt circles, with the scoubidou laces sandwiched between the fabric and the felt. The layers were quilted together. The assembled units were then stitched to a grid made from contrasting fabric and backed with black wool-viscose felt. Only the centers (the area around the button) and the circumferences of the circles were attached to the background.

"When the work was washed, the wool-viscose felt shrank most where it was not attached to the fabric circles, forcing the circles to extend outward."

I found the ideas and techniques in Exploring Dimensional Quilt Art fascinating and exciting. I'm sure it will inspire many ideas for your own quilting and fiber art.

P.S. Have you used shrinking or puckering to your advantage in fiber art? Tell me about it in the comments section below.

Other topics you may enjoy:


Quilting Daily Blog

5 thoughts on “Incredible Ideas for Shrinking Fiber Art

  1. Are you and Ms Barnes using the terms “acrylic felt” and “wool-viscose felt” interchangeably? Isn’t acrylic fiber synthetic, while wool and viscose are, respectively, animal- and plant-based fiber?

  2. I experimented with nuno felting a silk chiffon and wool roving to make my rendition of a japenese ruri ceramic vessels. I used both sides of the felt to have the ruching give texture. I would like to try more of these techniques.