Applied Fabric Techniques
Here I am looking at different appliqué and layering techniques.
I’m particularly fond of these walls. The bricks were manufactured by Boral and discontinued around 14 years ago. When the sun is setting the orange and black parts come to the fore and a warm golden glow is diffused across the surface.
I’ve chosen a textural stretch furnishing fabric as my base, a velvet linear upholstery fabric for my bricks and a very fine brown tulle as an overlay.
The tulle has been applied in single and double layers in different areas to give a more varied appearance to the bricks. The fabrics were placed on to a light weight interfacing and I tightened the sewing machine tension so it would create a slight pucker as I straight stitched around the bricks. This had the effect of pushing the individual bricks forward and getting more dimension in the thick fabric. I then used Perle 5 and hand chain stitched in some areas partially surrounding the bricks to give a higher definition and enhance the cement.
Using the picture to the left – which has been worked on throughout several projects, stages and exercises – I started wondering what could be inside these boxes. Perhaps the orange circle is a hollow and there are more layers to be found.
I decided on a change of colour scheme. I started with medium weight iron-on pellon and applied the gold centre circle. I laid the purple and green on top, hand stitched (back-stitch in Perle 8) around the circle shapes and then cut away the inner parts to reveal the layers below and leave raw edges. The orange was ironed on to heavy weight pelmet vilene with the outer edges turned under and the piece was slip stitched into position using a polyester machine thread**. The inner edging was stitched exactly the same way as the previous pieces and then cut-away.
** The course manual clearly states that when trying to achieve an invisible application and slip stitching a surface piece onto a background “Choose a thread which matches the colour of the background rather than the applied fabric.” I have to disagree here. For the sake of the instructions, and the course, I did apply (against my better judgement) the orange surface onto the brilliant green background using a green thread. It was unbelievably hard to avoid tiny pin-pricks of green dotting the edge and spoiling the precise sharp line of my motif and giving a slight ‘railway track’ edging appearance. I managed by bringing the needle up at an angle underneath the orange and catching a tiny scrap of the lower edging before going back down through the green. I’ve done a fair amount of appliqué in my time but for anyone who has never done it before I don’t think these are the best instructions. Most people will bring their needle straight up through the layers catching a little of the top edge of the top layer before going back down. You are always going to see a bit of the thread until more experience is gained. It is far better to match the thread to the top surface as it will blend in and the stitches will be less visible.
I liked this piece from some earlier painting and sketchbook work so I used it as my inspiration for the next appliqué. I made a fabric ‘sandwich’ with a blue sateen base, sheer green, blue and purple triangles on top and then totally covered with a very light weight pale yellow sheer. The whole lot was fused together using Vliesofix and then cut into strips and Vliesofixed to another blue sateen background. Perle 5 was used to stitch woven bars and elongated sorbello stitch.
Fused samples top right clockwise: red sheer Vliesofixed with sequins and threads covered with fine brown tulle – orange organza top and bottom using HeatnBond Lite encasing sequins and thread – white organza top and bottom using HeatnBond Lite encasing sequins, thread, cord and fabric snips – blue/yellow sample as described above.
Note: Vliesofix is a light weight fusible web which still allows some fabric freedom of movement whereas HeatnBond comes in different weights and is a fusible sheet which gives a plastic and stiff appearance to light weight fabrics as per the two lower samples above.
A couple of years ago I did a one day class with kim Thittichai where we cut rectangles of Lutradur, differing weights of Tyvek and various organzas and proceeded to machine stitch them together with the heaviest weight on the bottom working up to the lightest organza on the top. We then applied a heat gun to the surface and burnt some of the layers away. I wasn’t happy with my results so had another go using her method today.
Below are some Tyvek samples I did prior to this OCA course which I much prefer.
Left: Tyvek was coloured and cut into shapes, These were layered on to tulle and held in place with a couple of beads. The Tyvek was then heated from the side, separating the layers so they distorted individually giving the leaf and petal shapes of the flowers.
Left: Heavy weight Tyvek was randomly machine stitched to a firm background (furnishing fabric) and pinned to the ironing board , then heat was applied. This forces it to stay flat but allows holes to form. It was then cut away from the base and the stitching removed, leaving interesting little puncture marks throughout.
Right: A finished piece using the same technique followed by painting, applying to a background and decorative hand stitching – large colonial knots and detached buttonhole rings.
I find appliqué and layering of surfaces to be a vast subject and I’ve only covered a little here but I hope it gives a good indication of some of the results that can be achieved.