Art quilts are pieces of art that are not intended for use. They are intended to be art. They incorporate many construction techniques, surface design, and embellishments. This article concentrates on three construction techniques. Art quilts can use traditional and nontraditional construction techniques. A few common construction techniques are raw edge applique, collage, and mixed media.
Raw Edge Applique
An easy construction technique is raw edge fusible applique. This technique uses a fusible (heat set) web to adhere it to the fabric. There are many brands of fusible web available. Each one has its own set of instructions. Be sure to read them before you start. Some products are heat set to the applique fabric and then heat set to the base fabric. Others are only heat set once. A few popular brands are Steam-A-Seam2, Wonder Under, and Peltex. Most brands come in single sided and double sided. They also come in different weights. Most projects require a light fusible web. Some 3D projects will require a stiff fusible web.
To use fusible web, read the label of your chosen brand. These directions are based on my experience with Steam-A-Seam 2. First chose a pattern. Next, draw the pattern onto the paper side of the web. One side of the web pulls off easily the other does not. Draw the pattern on the side that does not pull off. If your pattern is directional, be careful, draw the reverse of the pattern. Pull the other paper baking off and place the web on the wrong side of the fabric. Use your hand to smooth it out. Use your paper scissors to cut out your design. Cut on the line. When using fusible web, there is no seam allowance. Cut carefully, how you cut the fabric out is how it will appear. When finished, place your design on your base fabric. At this point your final project will determine if you heat set it now or continue to add more appliques to the base fabric. When you are ready to iron, have the iron set to cotton and press the piece. Again, read the directions of your fusible web for the amount of time to press.
The beauty of fusible web is nice clean lines, with no turned edges. After the piece is fused, based on your project, then you can begin quilting or thread painting. Quilting can be applied to the edges only. If you are more daring, use the thread as a crayon. Add highlights and detail work to your piece with the thread. Use more than one type and color of thread. Some people don’t like fusible because there are small threads on the edges that occur. I think it adds more interest and texture.
The collage method of art quilting is fun and freeing. This method is similar to the fused method. It is also a raw edged quilting technique. Basically, you layer the fabric onto a base fabric. Cutting out specific shapes as you go. Place the very bottom of the fabric underneath the previous fabric. You can use a dab of fabric glue to keep the fabric in place. When the piece is complete you have two options. One, use tulle over the fabric. Pin the tulle down and then sew over the tulle. The quilting lines will hold the tulle and the fabric together. You can add extra thread work as you go. I have used this method and it works very well. There are a few things to remember. Tulle rips easily, so you need to use caution as you sew. Tulle also melts. Do not iron anything with tulle. The other method is to pin the fabric down and do the quilting with out the tulle. With this method be sure to sew down every piece. If a piece of fabric is left unsewn it can easily fall off.
The collage method can be used for an entire quilt. It can also be used for specific parts of the quilt. For example, if you are making a flower quilt, the background can be pieced. The flower can be constructed with the collage method on a piece of fabric and then cut out and sewn onto the background fabric. This a fun approach.
Mixed Media Method
Mixed media quilt construction is a little harder to explain. By definition mixed media is the process of constructing and finishing a quilt with more than one method. They can consist of traditional as well as nontraditional techniques. These quilts have a lot of surface design. Some have a layered collage effect while others are some what sparse. They bring in unusual details, such as paper, metal, and found objects. A found object is an object that has been “found” and re-purposed for use in a quilt. An example of a found object is a sea shell. Mixed media quilts are hard to fit into a specific categories, because they include a variety of techniques.
Here is an example of the construction of a mixed media quilt. The background is pieced in a one patch pattern. A grouping of collaged flowers has been added. Strings of green fabric has been fused on for grass. A child’s plastic lizard is sewn into the grass. A lace applique butterfly was constructed and placed on the background. Pieces of yarn has been added for texture. Paint has been added for detail on the flower and background. Fabric paper is made, cut out and added to the top. Text has been written on the background as well. Free motion quilting with thread work is added for texture. To finish the quilt a zigzag stitch is used instead of binding. This is just a quick example of what could be considered a mixed media quilt. The possibilities are endless.
These three techniques open up a brave new world of quilting. It allows the quilter to toss rules to the side and step out of their comfort zone. They offer the freedom to try new things and explore new possibilities within quilting.