Sunday, April 3, 2016

Make a Fabric Collage, and Still Have Time to Sleep

Ever wished you could quilt and sleep at the same time? I haven't figured out how to do that yet. However, if you make quilted collages from novelty print fabrics (i.e. fabric with stuff on it - hippos, marbles, candlesticks, anything that's a noun) - you will become so relaxed that it's almost as good as sleeping. Plus, the project will go so quickly that you'll have time leftover for a nap.

In January, I received a birthday party invitation from a friend who used to live in Hawaii, so I whipped up this swimming pool, which includes turquoise and rainbow batiks I'd bought on last summer's fabric-finding trip to Kauai.
The waves are quilted with holographic Sulky thread. The other components are stitched down with invisible monofilament.
The shallow end:
(I happen to have a swimming pool obsession. See how to create a 3-D pool ridge in this post.)

Combining prints with batiks can be tricky - but in all three of the pieces I'm showing here, batiks make an ethereal, fuzzy background, with printed objects in sharp focus in the foreground. Which, by complete coincidence, is sort of how reality looks. 

Next, "Gazing Ball." It's only about 5" square and incorporates three batiks, and two prints, including a fabric depicting a candlestick that serves as the ball's pedestal.
It's satin-stitch edged with gold metallic thread, and entirely appliquéd, not pieced. 

Finally, here's my accidental quilted review of the "March of the Penguins," the poignant National Geographic documentary that blew the covers off the wretched, frozen lives of Emporer penguins. They could have called that movie, "Les Misérables, II: Antarctic Edition." 
The piece is 9" wide. The innermost sky rectangle, with mottled khakis and cobalts, inspired everything else. Those little guys, from a Japanese fabric, are trudging together to the bitter end, as is penguins' wont. 
To make your own collage, all you need is a little bit of fabric, a zig-zag capable machine, and a fairly sharp pair of scissors. Fusible web is optional (glue sticks work too). 

Here's my usual procedure: 

1. Choose a main background piece, the largest piece that will go behind all the elements - for two of the pieces here, I used batiks that suggested skies. 

2. Shop (in your stash or LQS) for novelty print fabrics with the elements you want for the foreground. (A tough job, but someone's.....)

3. Rough-cut all the printed elements larger than the final size you want. Iron paper-backed fusible web to the back of all those elements. 

4. Peel away the paper backing, and, with a sharp scissors, cut the applique elements down to their final size.

5. Arrange. Fuse in place. 

6. Add batting and backing slightly larger than the front. 

7. Stitch all the elements down. I usually zig-zag with invisible thread, but a shiny metallic can add sparkly importance to selected objects. You'll be saving time because you're quilting and appliquéing simultaneously.

8. Trim and finish the quilt's edges with binding, satin stitching, a couched cord, fused strips - whatever you like. Here's a useful Quilting Arts booklet in PDF form, that explains a bunch of diffferent options. 

In summary, you will make and keep wonderful friends if you march through the blizzards of life like penguins, eat only fresh sashimi, pass your offspring back and forth between your feet like priceless soccer balls, sleep standing in a huddled mass, and make fast quilted collages for each other's birthdays in all your leftover time.

PS Shared on Nina Marie Sayre's Off the Wall Friday, an online art quilt exhibit, at 


  1. The penguins are my favorite. Love this tutorial which is not only educational but entertaining too.

    1. Thank you, Shasta! You have a wonderful name!

  2. And who said quilting is work? I see play! Thank you for reminding me to just have some fun and not be so serious. Pas usual you inspire;-)

    1. Wait, are you saying my quilts aren't SERIOUS???? Glad you enjoyed them anyway!!!

  3. I remember those poor, miserable penguins! These are so much fun;I often wish I could sleep and quilt simultaneously so maybe this is the answer.

    1. It's one of the fastest possible quilt projects, unless you agonize excessively over fabric choices....(which I often do....) Thanks for visiting, Kaja!

  4. Hi Cathy, I love these. I tend to take a lot more time agonizing over where to put stuff and if it looks realistic. I think I need to let go of the "realistic" bit. Using the batiks as background would help. Thanks, Andrée

  5. I err on the other side - I think I should strive for realism, but so far it hasn't worked out for me, Andree! But seriously--batik backgrounds can be so inspiring, and a short cut to something wonderful. Thanks for your comment!