Paint With Fabric


We explore quilts that look just like paintings.  Some of them are pieced, but many are done with different techniques of painting with fabric.

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Paint With Fabric

There are quilts that look just like paintings. Some of them are pieced, but many are done with different techniques of painting with fabric. You probably have heard of collage and maybe Snippets. There are also "crumb quilts" and postage stamp quilts. At Houston, I saw a quilt that someone made by using a small colored square of fabric that corresponded with each block of a cross stitch pattern. Nope, not doing that one!

Paint With Fabric


But I do love both Snippets and collage quilts. Snippets was created by Cindy Walter, who studied the impressionist painters and taught herself to re-create the effect with fabric. Here is my first Snippets painting I loved it so much, my husband framed it. It hangs in our living room. Yes, I do save every scrap of fabric that already has fusible on it from other projects.



From there, I decided to re-create a crayon drawing from my 5 year old granddaughter that hung on my fridge. Frog was born. Frog is a little different than my later "paintings" because he has a black foundation fabric that shows through.



Of course, playing is a huge part of teaching yourself something new. I was only vaguely aware of collage painting when I decided to see how I could fit together some leftover scraps of ocean scenes and creatures into an aquarium. By itself, it doesn’t look like much, but framed in a shadow box, it looks a little more authentic.



"Collage" is a term that comes from French "coller" meaning "to glue". You can take classes or purchase patterns, but you can also just start gluing. That’s how Rainbow Seahorse came about. I looked at photos online and decided how I wanted to approach my design. I cut a piece of interfacing in the shape of a seahorse and started gluing on the fabric. It was then stitched and quilted.


This Reddish Egret was done from one of my own photos. Using your own photos evades the problem of copyright, although I’m not certain that Mother Nature cares about copyright. I photocopied the printed picture and used it to make the basic shapes. Other parts were done with landscape techniques. As I learned to paint with fabric, I got much better at layering the fabric.

reddish egret


With Pine Dragon, I cut pieces to match the shapes I thought I needed before gluing. The original diagram and pieces were numbered so I could find the one I needed to glue. The reason I used a pattern for this is that the fabrics were much thicker and not always cotton, so layering was much more difficult.



Bison takes my work one step further. It, too, was done from one of my own photos taken in the Badlands of North Dakota. This work combines landscape techniques and collage techniques. But the extra step was to use embroidery stitches to make the buffalo hair stand out as it should. This is also framed in a shadow box to give the perspective of distance. Never get too close to bison!



You may want to try a pattern, but I would encourage you to snip and glue, snip, and glue. You’d be surprised what you can paint!


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The basic unit of a quilt top, usually square but can be rectangular or other shapes. Blocks can be pieced, appliqued or plain.
Various webs or interfacings which can be ironed onto a fabric for easier applique or to support the fabric.
Debi Warner
Author and humorist, Debi Warner, retired after many years as a clinical librarian and information specialist. She has her Master’s in Library and Information Science and achieved a Distinguished level in the Medical Library Association’s Association of Health Information Professionals. She has worked on teaching physicians to use computers and electronic resources. She also worked on several grants teaching the public how to use the National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus public database and is co-author of several articles on health literacy. She took up quilting after retirement in 2012 and chaired the Rio Grande Valley Quilt Show in 2019. She currently teaches several quilting classes over Zoom and writes for QuiltingHub.
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