How to Make a Quilt with Metal as an Embellishment

6 Jun 2012

I'm pretty sure that when most people think about how to make a quilt, "metal" isn't the first thing that pops into their mind. But there are so many ways you can incorporate metal into your quilts and wall hangings, adding texture, dimension, shine, and that element of surprise. 

how to quilt with copper foil
Copper foil stitched onto a quilt adds shine, texture.
By Mary Hettmansperger, Quilting Arts Aug./Sept. 2010.
Here are just a few ideas that are easy to try:

Screens and mesh:

  • Metal mesh and screening can be printed on, stitched, and embellished to add texture to a quilt.
  • With patina solution, you can change the color of the mesh in interesting, unpredictable ways, adding yet another layer of dimension.

Metal sheeting (craft metal or shim/foil):

  • Emboss metal with engraving tools, rubbing plates, or found textures.
  • Add paint or ink to embossed metal to create even more depth, color, and interest.
  • Stitch through metal to add texture and to apply the metal directly to your fiber art.

If you want use metal sheeting in your quilt making, metal and fiber artist Mary Hettmansperger offered tips on using copper foil as surface embellishment in the August/September 2010 issue of Quilting Arts Magazine (part 1 of a six-part series):

how to quilt with metal embellishment
You can scrunch the foil to add depth
and still stitch through it.
1. Copper foil is a good choice to start with, because it is especially easy to sew directly to fabric.

2. A standard 80/12 needle and #40-wt. polyester thread work usually work best for Mary, but you can also use a metallic needle and experiment with different types of threads (such as cotton) until you find the one that works for you.

3. Copper foil can be used as an embellishment on top of the surface of a finished piece (couched or hand stitched onto the fabric).

4. Try scrunching the foil before sewing it down to add depth to a piece. The needle will still sew through the layers.

5. Experiment as you combine metal with quilt projects. You can sew through just metal or metal and paper. It is not necessary to have a layer of fabric underneath.

With a background in metal jewelry and fiber art, Mary is an expert at combining the two textures to create unusual and beautiful effects. If you missed her series on how to quilt with metals, the issues the articles appear in are available on the 2010 and 2011 Quilting Arts CD Collections.

I love how there are so many ideas and techniques for quilt making, don't you?

P.S. Have you ever used metal in your quilt projects? Any advice to share? Leave a comment below.

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on 7 Jun 2012 1:23 PM

Many years ago I made a copper and embossed paper quilt for an online alphabet journal project.  Copper foil is  metal and sharp edges should be burnished down.  After adding texture by embossing, etc, color using alcohol inks.  I found a size 90 needle and 30 wt thread worked well.  It was fun!

wendylstarn wrote
on 7 Jun 2012 10:01 PM

I made a quilt with copper mesh & organza.  Here's a link to a photo:

wendylstarn wrote
on 7 Jun 2012 10:01 PM

I made a quilt with copper mesh & organza.  Here's a link to a photo:

jroberts123 wrote
on 8 Jun 2012 9:12 AM

I have been planning to make my brother some wall art for his new place.  Wanting to use several elements, I have been collecting a hodge podge of items (wood, glass, metal hardware and various fabrics)  I just ordered some metal sheets in aluminum, brass and copper and in my mind I know what I want to do, but have been hesitant to put needle to metal.  I logged on hoping to get some instruction or inspiration and this was perfect.  Thank you for pointing me in the right direction - nice to know I can still order back issues.  Thanks!