Thread Painting Portraits - Tips for Success

28 Jul 2014

Let's face it, lately quilters and fiber artists seem to love creating portraits--from pixel quilt designs, to collaged faces, to thread painting and sketching techniques.

thread painting by melissa averinos
One of Melissa Averinos's 'Thread Ladies,' made by drawing
with thread and painting with water-soluble colored pencils.
We recently devoted almost an entire issue of Quilting Arts to portraits, including an article on thread painting techniques by artist and quilter Melissa Averinos.

Melissa, who is a longarm quilter and fabric designer, "discovered" her Thread Ladies while playing with motifs on her machine. Soon she was creating portraits large and small, adding color with Derwent Inktense Pencils and water.

For many people, writes Melissa, the thought of free-form drawing with thread without a plan inspires panic. "If this sounds like you, I encourage you to try it anyway!" she says.

Here are some of Melissa's tips, taken from her thread painting tutorial in the magazine:

  • I use a longarm quilting machine, but you can try this technique with a home sewing machine and lowered feed dogs.
  • Use inexpensive quilting fabric- cotton or muslin-so you don't feel like it has to be perfect. Perfectionism is a creativity killer.
  • To ease into it, start off with something that you sketch first-like a leaf or a face. Then work on loosening up and embellishing it as you go.
  • Try sketching in shorter random movements and then try longer sweeping curves. Another thing to try if you are feeling intimidated is to do a bad one on purpose! It really helps to let go of the fear of messing it up.
  • If you like parts of your samples and not the others, cut them up. Turn some into little brooches and toss the rest.
  • If you like some of your larger pieces, cut them out and sew them onto another piece as a starting point.
  • There are no rules, so just have fun. Loosen up and enjoy the process.

I love Melissa's advice to play with your materials and forget about rules. That's how we discover new techniques and a personal point of view. If threadwork isn't your thing, try collage, photo transfers, or mixed-media techniques.

Our How to Make Fabric Art Portraits Digital Collection includes all the instruction you need to create portraits that will express you or your subject perfectly with fabric, thread, mixed media, and more. 

P.S. Have you tried a fabric portrait? What media did you use? Leave your comments and any advice below. 


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Comments

on 1 Aug 2014 7:10 PM

I've never tried fabric art . I hope to one day.

4chippie2 wrote
on 2 Aug 2014 10:52 AM

I love using the Dewent InkTense pencils and sticks. If I want a watercolor type look, I use water with the pencils, but if I don't want the bleeding, then I use clear Aloe Vera gel. It allows you to paint with the pencils and not have the colors spread like they do with water. Once the colors are dry and I heat set, they never come out! When I thread paint, the background InkTense allows for shading and depth so I don't have to cover everything with thread. The colors peeking through the threads really adds to the finished product.

4chippie2 wrote
on 2 Aug 2014 10:52 AM

I love using the Dewent InkTense pencils and sticks. If I want a watercolor type look, I use water with the pencils, but if I don't want the bleeding, then I use clear Aloe Vera gel. It allows you to paint with the pencils and not have the colors spread like they do with water. Once the colors are dry and I heat set, they never come out! When I thread paint, the background InkTense allows for shading and depth so I don't have to cover everything with thread. The colors peeking through the threads really adds to the finished product.

Dutchmom wrote
on 2 Aug 2014 11:59 AM

Thanks 4chippie2 for your tip with the Aloe Vera and the ink tense pencils.

Denise Hosea wrote
on 24 Aug 2014 7:50 PM

I made a small portrait of a purple haired lady - Love this it is so freeing.

I used water color pencil as that is what was in my cupboard.  I still need to put the finishing thread touches on and shading.  did I mention this was so fun!

Denise Hosea wrote
on 24 Aug 2014 7:51 PM

I made a small portrait of a purple haired lady - Love this it is so freeing.

I used water color pencil as that is what was in my cupboard.  I still need to put the finishing thread touches on and shading.  did I mention this was so fun!