Fun with Foils

Fun with Foils

Like many of you, I belong to some textile groups that would normally meet in person but this year have needed to find alternative ways to work together. One such group is the Farnborough Embroiderer’s Guild (EG). This EG group is quite unusual in that rather than inviting speakers to talk about their practice, we all take it in turns to teach each other new skills. Three months ago we started meeting via Zoom and I have to confess in some ways I actually prefer it! We aren’t a large group but when we meet in person I often end up only talking to the 2-3 people I am sat nearest to, on Zoom the whole group shares the same conversation which is nice and feels very inclusive. The other advantage is the lack of commute, for me, this means I get to eat before we gather and I can have a glass of wine while we play together 🙂

Last month Sue took us through a technique to create foiled pictures; I don’t know about you but I can’t resist a bit of bling! As we are approaching holiday season it also feels very appropriate to share this with you now, I think it would make some wonderful textile Christmas cards and gifts. I hope you enjoy it and feel inspired to have a go!

Although I have played with foils before it was only as decorative finishing touches never as the basis to create a whole textile picture. Even so, I still managed to make every mistake in the book but was pleased to find foils are remarkably accommodating, if you make a mistake, it can (mostly) be rectified with layering more foil over the top.

Unfortunately it did not occur to me to take photos of the process until I was half way through my picture, I apologise for the lack of photos covering the initial stages of the process. The first few photos are where I went back and reapplied the bondaweb on the beak as my initial application had not transferred completely.

This was the reference photo I used for inspiration:

Some useful tips before you start:

  • set your iron on a low to medium (1 to 2 dots) setting without steam
  • always use a sheet of baking parchment to protect your iron
  • work on an ironing board

1: Cut a piece of medium weight, iron-fusible interfacing / fabric stabiliser slightly smaller than the background fabric and iron it to the back of your fabric. We used black cotton velvet but most non-synthetic fabrics will work (synthetic fabrics are best avoided for this technique as they might melt when heat is applied).

2: Draw out your design with a pencil on the paper side of a sheet of bondaweb. If you aren’t confident drawing freehand, you can trace the design from a printed image. Cut out your design, either as one solid shape or in sections if you plan to create a stained glass effect. For the hummingbird I cut out the whole bird as a single piece.

3: Transfer the bondaweb design onto your backing fabric.

If you are using the stained glass technique you might want to transfer one piece at a time, foil it then apply the next bondaweb shape.

4: Once cooled, carefully peel off the paper backing from the bondaweb.

5: Lay a piece of foil (coloured side facing you) over the exposed bondaweb and cover this with a piece of baking parchment, using the tip or edge of your iron, apply gentle pressure to the areas where you would like that coloured foil to appear.

Allow the piece too cool before peeling back the foil backing.

Tip: you can cut out pieces of baking parchment paper to mask off areas where you do not want that particular colour to appear.

If there are areas where the bondaweb has not transferred so well, or you have already applied several layers foils and want to lay a different colour over the top you can reapply the bondaweb but cutting a shape to match the area, I did this for the edge of breast where I wanted the purple to form a solid line:

If you want a sharp edge in a specific shape, it is also possible to cut the foil to match the shape you desire:

6: Continue adding different coloured foils to your design. If using cotton velvet for the backing it is possible to build up layers of different coloured foils without applying more bondaweb.

Tip: keep the scraps of partially used foils, they can be used to overlay different colours on top of each other very pretty marbled colours.

It is possible to “draw” lines of foil using just the tip or edge of your iron, I used this technique to create the feathers on the wings:

It is not very easy to capture foils in a photo, especially the holographic ones so I shot a short video that I hope shows all the different colours more effectively:

Our group met again last night to add some embroidery to our designs, this is how far I managed to travel in the couple of hours we had together.

…and a little sneak peek of my most recent foiled “painting”.

Have you tried making foiled paintings?

16 thoughts on “Fun with Foils

    1. Thank you Jackie, they are a lot of fun to do and the foils are available in variety packs on places like ebay so can be found relatively cheaply if you are prepared to be a little adventurous in the colour selections! Please let us know how you get on… 🙂

    1. Thank you ladies, I was surprised that you could layer foils on top of foils without applying an extra layer of glue or bondaweb, especially on the velvet. Next project is to try this technique on wool….

  1. What a great idea! I have used foil for embellishing but not for the entire piece. Your choice of a hummer for the focal point is inspired. Thanks for the video as it really shows off the shine. It would make a lovely winter/holiday scene.

    1. I was the same until last month, just using small patches of foil as highlights, I think I would have been too intimidated to make a whole piece in foil if it wasn’t for Sue’s encouragement. Where would we be without our textile groups and forums?!! 🙂

    2. I forgot to say that I have used foils on wool and it works just fine. Should be pretty much the same as the velvet, probably just a little thicker, otherwise not much different.

  2. Wow. What a great iridescent effect. I love both the hummingbird and the frog. I’ve never used foils but am definitely tempted now. Thank you for the clear step-by-step guide. I recently saw a flock of lapwings whose beautiful wings could be embellished this way….

    1. Thank you Lindsay, it sounds like you can’t resist a bit of bling too! 🙂 I look forward to seeing your lapwings in foil!

  3. What a great effect! I’ve also only used foil for accents on textile work so it’s nice to see how impressive it can look as a whole piece, especially once it’s been sewn, and your bird is very impressive! If anyone is interested Angie Hughes uses foil in a lot of her work and she is doing a live Zoom foil workshop on 28th November

  4. How interesting this technique is! I never thought foil could be applied this way to fabric. Looks like a fun way to embellish something that doesn’t get handled much 🙂

    (And hello, fellow Zoom fan! I too am loving doing things indoors without commuting, my Yoga classes are much more comfortable…)

    1. Thank you Leonor, I was reading up on foils after our first meeting and it appears this technique (bondaweb and folis) is used on wearable items such as t-shirts too.

      I imagine socially distanced yoga is an improvement on some of the classes I have attended where they really crammed in as many people as they could, constantly trying to avoid being slapped or kicked in the face as we changed poses! I imagine zoom is hard work for the instructor, trying to describe how your pose isn’t quite right rather than gently nudging your offending body part to where it should be.

  5. This is fascinating and you have achieved fabulous results! I could be tempted into trying this technique.

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