How to Turn Pictures into Photo Quilts

15 Feb 2011

pokey bolton

quilting arts photo postcard
I almost fell off my chair laughing when I saw this fiber art postcard from U.K. artist Priscilla O'Rourke. It seems no sooner had she received her copy of the February/March issue of Quilting Arts Magazine than she turned a photo of the staff she found on the Editor's note page into quilted imagery. 

Priscilla did a great job of cropping the image down to its essence, and then using her quilt and fiber art skills to capture not just the visual elements but the mood of the original photo. Thank you, Priscilla!

I know that like me, a lot of quilt artists like to use photos as inspiration for quilt design, because readers often ask us for tips and techniques on how to make a photo quilt. I'm happy to say that today's technology makes it easier than ever to take photos in the first place, scan or upload them into a computer, and then translate that into a photo quilt, digital fabrics, or another fiber art rendition.

pokey bolton photo quiltPersonally, I have two favorite techniques. One is printing my photos with my inkjet printer directly onto treated fabric. I use that method a lot with my pet portraits. I also scan or upload a photo into my computer and then turn the image  into a black and white line drawing from which I make a Thermofax screen. I then use the screen to print images onto fabric with paint or ink.

Quilter Maria Elkins is famous for creating photo quilt portraits using digital imagery. She uploads a photo to her computer, crops it, turns the image to grayscale and "posterizes" it. This highlights the values in the image. 

Maria uses the printed image to make puzzle pieces of the values that she cuts out of fabric to create the faces.

elkins photo quiltHer process, which she demonstrates in detail on her Quilting Arts WorkshopTM DVD, "Making Faces," is easy and ingenious.

Mixed-media fiber artist Kelli Perkins turns her colorful collages into "digital fabric" which she makes into home décor, jewelry, and more. Her projects are always so colorful and fun! 

Kelli draws, paints, and collages pictures (such as cupcakes), scans them into her computer, and prints them out onto treated fabric. Then she adds free-motion sketching or hand stitching, depending on the project. 

Kelli shows her techniques, which are perfect for beginners, on her WorkshopTM video "Stitch Imagery: From Photo to Fabric Fun." The title says it all.

knapp machine stitchingIf you've ever seen free-motion stitch wiz Susan Brubaker Knapp's articles in Quilting Arts or watched her demonstrate her techniques on her machine stitching WorkshopTM videos, you know that she often starts with a photo when beginning a thread-sketched quilt.

Using a light board, she traces the outlines of her focal image. She then assigns numbers to the pieces and makes a plan to cut out fabric for fused appliqué. I'm always impressed by Susan's organized approach to her quilts, but then, she gets incredible results!

All this talk of photo quilts has me itching to grab my camera and head for the studio with my laptop. If you're itching to get started, too, you should know you can download these Workshop videos right now, and they're 20% off.

These are just some of the ways you can turn pictures into photo quilts. What's your favorite method? What have you always wanted to try? What was your biggest success? Leave your comments below or upload your own images to the gallery here on the Quilting Arts Community.

 
P.S. Want more photo quilt techniques right now? Download our eBook
How to Make a Quilt:6 Image Transfer Techniques for your Art Quilts. It's free!


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Comments

on 15 Feb 2011 4:47 AM

I've uploaded a picture to the photo gallery of a fabric ATC self-portrait I made a few years ago that began life as a photo.  This was such a fun little project to complete.

@rtchick wrote
on 15 Feb 2011 1:39 PM

I've been looking for that "posterize" technique in my Adobe Elements program FOREVER!!!!  I just didn't know what to call it!  Thank you so much for posting the piece about Maria Elkins -- you're the best!!!

cazms5 wrote
on 16 Feb 2011 7:36 AM

I have a printer that does not print well on anything but paper...very frustrating!  Pokey, and everyone else, what type of printer do you use?