Is there such a thing as too much texture? I don't think so! Texture is what we art quilters are all about. Texture is what excites the quilt artist and it's what entices the art quilt viewer to come up and take a closer look. Plus, adding more texture to our quilts gives us a great excuse to get in the studio and play!
So, how can texture be achieved? It usually starts with fabric. A soft pile, a nubby surface, or an open weave not only feels more tactile, it conveys texture visually. In the June/July issue of Quilting Arts Magazine, Susan Brubaker Knapp talks texture in her Thread Sketching 101 column. Here are some tips for adding texture to your artwork adapted from Susan's article.
Focus on the details. When you choose the color palette of your quilt, don't just think "green" but "emerald, seafoam, or mint." Don't think "rough" but "gritty, wrinkled, or spiky." When you get specific with texture in your mind, it translates to the choices you make in your art.
Think about feelings. Humans associate textures with feelings and memories. Dupioni silk might make you think of your wedding gown and the excitement and romance of that day, whereas navy wool could conjure up memories of the hot, itchy suit you wore to your first job interview. Use the connotations associated with textures to your advantage as you select fabrics and fibers for your quilt.
Choose threads wisely. Heavier weights of threads add more texture while fine threads add less. Shiny threads reflect light and can change texture dramatically. Color shifts in variegated thread can also change perceived texture.
Stitch matters. Varying your stitch lines can change the visual texture of your quilt. Long, smooth, straight stitches would be good for depicting long blades of grass, while short angular lines would best portray scrubby grass.
Consider the quilting. Quilting adds texture by compressing or expanding the surface of the fabric sandwich depending on how heavily and closely you quilt. Also, the pattern of quilting can alter the texture of the quilt, so give that some thought before you start the piece.
In addition to Susan's advice, here are some of my favorite tips for adding texture.
Layer. Layers of fabric not only give the piece more dimension, but by using techniques like reverse appliqué and raw-edge appliqué, you can pump up the texture volume even greater.
Embellish. Adding beads, found objects, or hand-embroidery stitches will quickly kick the texture up several notches.
Apply mediums and pastes. Mix paint into gel mediums, especially ones with texture like beads or pumice. Then, apply with a palette knife over a stencil. When you remove the stencil, the raised pattern remains. Or, apply molding paste with a palette knife to the fabric and press a stamp or found object into the paste. Let dry and paint over the resulting image.
There are so many ways to add a jolt of texture to your art quilts, so go play! If you're ready to do some textural stitching, you can download the pattern for Susan's "Wool Yarn" thread-sketched quilt design on the Quilting Arts Community.