I don’t do a whole lot of applique on my quilts. I’m not sure why, since I love the way it looks and I even like coming up with designs that are suitable to cut out for applique. But that doesn’t mean I don’t do any applique at all. I’ve recently come up with an applique pillow cover/wall hanging that I intend to finish in an effort to make my quilting output more well-rounded. In the past, I just tended to make applique items that are not quilts.
I wrote about how I use applique to create new artworks from old cards I’d received. Around the same time I also started making art pieces that were completely appliqued – just not to fabric. You can fuse fabric to almost anything! I looked at it as a separate endeavor from my patchwork quilt making, which was more about color, pattern, technique, tactility and having something useful upon completion. These applique pieces were more about making recognizable compositions that somehow express more abstract ideas. Also to make an appealing image. I don’t know if I succeeded altogether, but I had fun!
The pieces above and below were both fused to card stock as paper is a bit too flimsy to support multiple layers of fabric. I based them both on rough sketches I had done. The trick is to look at your fabric prints not as what they are, but what they could be to conform to your idea. For example, in the piece above, the face and hands were cut from a fabric that was printed with girls in swimsuits. I think one of the hands is cut from a bent knee. I defined the fingers with pencil, but otherwise, the fabric coloration is just believable enough to make it work in this new context. The hair is cut from a fabric printed with a wood grain pattern, I just took care to fussy cut it so that the curves of the grain matched the curve of her hairstyle.
This one follows the same principles – obviously I had a brick wall-patterned fabric burning a hole in my stash. The umbrella fabric is cut from an Asian-inspired fabric with stylized shrubs on it, but I thought those tiny back lines were perfect to represent the inside structure of an umbrella. If you look closely, you can see subtle shading on her hair – that was cut from fabric that had all different kinds of silly hats printed on it. It’s cut from the crown of a black hat. Even the dots on her dress suggest the movement of fabric caused by her pose. Those little details just help make the image more convincing, and it’s fun (though a little tedious) to search for those little sections of print that reinforce your ideas.
These pieces are both pretty small, about 6″ x 8″. I think ultimately they just work better on paper – some of the fabric pieces are less than 1/2″ so trying to sew the raw edges down might do more harm than good, and quilting would probably be more distracting than enhancing in this case. I framed them both behind glass. If you decide to do that, just make sure you (or your professional framer) put spacers between the image and the glass. It will look better and last longer.
I plan to do even more traditional applique after I finish my Cheshire Cat piece, by traditional I mean technique-wise, not necessarily design-wise. The more you do, the more you know and the more you have to show!