Produce Painterly Results with Thread & Ink

You know how I feel about frogs, right? So when Karen Fricke submitted her thread-sketched frog quilt, "Coqui Up Close" to Quilting Arts Magazine back in 2007, I was captivated. And not just by the frog motif, but by her technique for turning a photo into a thread-sketched design on stabilizer.

Karen has written several articles for Quilting Arts and our sister publications since then, and she has been developing her thread-sketching techniques as well. So I was thrilled to have her join me on an episode of "Quilting Arts TV" when we taped Season 6 earlier this year.

She not only revealed some of her favorite thread-sketching tricks on a bumblebee design, but also showed how she uses inks to add colors and shading to her design after she stitches. To give her bee more realistic dimension, Karen used metallic fabrics for the wings and the head, which presented some special challenges.

Here are some of the tips Karen shared during her segment on Series 600, which is now available for pre-order:

  • Instead of tracing the image, print a grayscale image of your subject directly onto heavy-duty tear-away stabilizer, with your inkjet printer set on "best quality.
  • If you lose some details through the printing process, go over the printed image with a permanent marker, referring to the original photo, to define any lost elements you want to capture in your thread sketch.
  • Place the fabric of your design element (such as the bee's body) on the background fabric and outline that part of your image with plain black cotton thread and free-motion stitching.
  • Cut close to the stitching to remove the excess fabric from around the stitching, being careful not to cut through the stitches. Using curved scissors makes it easier to do this.
  • Metallic fabrics fray easily, so after stitching on them, run a line of anti-fraying solution to the wrong side of the stitches before cutting off the excess fabric.
  • After she fills in the details of the image with thread sketching, Karen paints with Tsukineko inks and Fantastix sponge applicators to add shading and highlights. Because the applicators hold a lot of ink, she recommends dabbing them on a scrap of fabric first so you don't saturate your design.
  • When you're satisfied with the colors, look over the entire design. If more detail is needed, thread-sketch again with a really fine zigzag stitch.

Karen makes the process look so easy to create this sketch-and-paint art quilt, and with her step-by-step explanation, it is!

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