Sunday, April 17, 2016
From Flower Photo to Fabric Collage
During my many years as an avid gardener, I took loads of photos of my flowers. When I started doing fabric collage, it was logical to find ways to transform my photos into works on fabric that could stand alone or could be stitched together in a variety of ways. There are lots of ways to go about this process; this is one I developed myself, for better or worse.
I began with the photographs. (You’ll see later on that one photo that was transformed into a collage was not even a good one, but it did provide enough information.) I cropped the images until I had just one flower. Then I used my image editing software to turn it into a black and white image, with strong contrast that made the shapes more conspicuous. (I have used the free software Paint.net for years, acquired when Photoshop cost a few hundred bucks and there weren’t many other options that were user-friendly. Not as powerful as Photoshop, but I don’t need endless tools. I love Paint.net, so I send a few dollars every couple of years to keep it going.)
Next, I sized the image with the software to what worked for my piece and printed a few copies on plain paper. I spent some time simplifying the shapes and then made my outlines bold with a marker. Each piece was then numbered on one copy I used for reference. I needed a couple of my copies to include all the overlapping pieces. Then I duplicated the shapes on tracing paper (adding the numbers) and cut them out. I stored them in a labeled envelope.
By using some beautiful batiked cottons, I was able to use the patterns already on the fabric to get loads of texture and detail, as well as variations in tone. I added some heat fusible adhesive to the wrong side of the fabric and then carefully laid out my tracing paper patterns on the front, pinned them, and cut them out. I then ironed some of the cut fabric pieces onto the black background fabric – just the ones that would be stitched first so I could overlap the ones that needed to be on the top layer later.
For this project, I made a sandwich of the black fabric with the flower pieces, thin cotton batting, a layer of stabilizer, and a lightweight cotton backing. I did my stitching through all these layers. The back side is almost as lovely as the front. Do be careful to plan your stitching on the flower pieces so your overlapping pieces go on in the right order!
I added some free motion stitching details on each piece. I made three of these collages and I plan to add fabric borders so I can stretch them on canvases and display them as a set, but these are lots of ways to finish them.
Here is another of my collages, this one made in the same way but from a rather poor photograph. I especially like the fabric in this one. The patterns in the batik add a lot to the piece.