Embellishing an art quilt is one of my favorite parts of quilting. Embellish means to add detail to a quilt top by various techniques. A few of those techniques are found objects, beads, ribbon embroidery, ephemera, and inchies. Some quilts use only one technique while others, such as collage style quilts, may use many techniques. Because art quilts are meant only for display, they are not normally washed. This allows for more freedom when embellishing a quilt.
There are a few things that should not be added to a quilt. Art quilts are usually on the cutting edge of the quilt world. They experiment with new techniques and embellishments. While this is one of the more expressive parts of art quilting, some things should not be included in an art quilt. Perishable objects that may rot, mildew, or spoil should not be added to your quilt. This seems like a no brainier. That includes soft plant matter and food items. If you really want to include a plant, use it as a stamp with paint of photograph it and print it on fabric. Sharp objects like wire are very popular in the art quilt world right now. Applying them to a quilt requires care. They can easily rip or tear your quilt. Use good judgment when looking for innovative objects to add to your quilt.
Found objects can add character to a quilt. Found objects can be any object that was not originally intended to be included on a quilt. Seashells are a favorite embellishment of mine. They are small and can be attached using thread or glue. Small pieces of dried driftwood can be used as well. It must be very dry. Small plastic toys also work well. Plastic lizards make great embellishments to floral quilts. Broken pieces of jewelry, Cd’s, microchips, small mirrors, and mesh vegetable bags can all add meaning, texture, and interest to a quilt. Let your imagination run wild. Allow the objects to help tell the story of your quilt.
Beads are the easiest form of embellishment. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. They are available in all major chain craft stores. They can be used sparingly, for a little sparkle, or the top can be encrusted in beads. Each makes for stunning quilts. When beading, wrap the thread around the base of the bead and then go back through the bead. This will help the bead lay down. Beads can also be layered. Place a large bead on the bottom and a smaller bead on top. This gives height to your quilt. Beads can also be used in strings. Place a few inches worth of beads on a string then couch the string down. The beauty about strings of beads is they can yield beautiful curves. The key to beading is to use a small needle, strong thread, and strong knots.
Ribbon embroidery has been around for centuries. It is probably best known for its use in crazy quilts. Ribbon embroidery is using silk ribbon and sewing decorative embroidery stitches. These same stitches can be used in art quilts to add interest and texture. Ribbon can be used for details on water, trees, grass, and fish, among many others. This embroidery may seem old fashioned, but when mixed with other techniques it looks very modern. For more detailed information check out this website. This is the site of Judith Baker Montano, a master crazy quilter.
Ephemera refers to printer material, such as cards, letters, newspapers, magazines, maps, etc. Paper can be used in many ways. The technique used should be based on the project and its intended life span. Untreated paper can be used as is. Trim the paper and sew onto the quilt with a sewing machine. Use a long stitch, a short stitch will increase the risk of tearing. Paper can be treated with Modge Podge . This coating will act as a preservative. Follow the labels’ directions. Once treated the paper can be sewn on. Another technique is to use various papers to make paper fabric. In a nut shell, you layer paper on top of muslin and cover with glue and paint. You continue to make several layers until you have the look you want. Then you let dry, cut it out, and sew onto the quilt. This is a fun process. It makes a stiff product that is hard to classify, but fun to use.
Inchies are a fun new embellishment I tried this year. An inchie is a sewn and embellished 1 inch square. They are usually made in larges pieces and then cut down to one inch. Once made they can be sewn onto any project. Basically, you take a piece of fabric. Layer it with ribbon, yarn, lace, and anything else you can think of. Sew everything down. Then cut the original piece of fabric into 1 inch squares. They are very fun and versatile.
All of these techniques are easy, fun, and versatile. They can be used on traditional quilts as well as art quilts. If you haven’t tried embellishment yet, give one of these a try. I warn you, they are addictive.
Sources: Personal experience