What Do I Do With These Weird Colored Fabrics?

What Do I Do With These Weird Colored Fabrics?

Comments I’ve received in some of my previous blog posts have asked me to share some of the makings from my various fodder explorations. Sometimes it’s very hard to cut into any of those things we’ve spent so much time making. We need to save them as samples, right? They become too precious to us to even think about cutting them up!

I recently got a little push from that mentality.

One of the quilt guilds I belong to (Contemporary QuiltArt Association https://www.contemporaryquiltart.com/) needed to replenish their fiber art pieces for their fundraising stash. At the last in person meeting I attended, I picked up two yards of fabric that had been hand dyed by two past members and wasn’t selling at the fundraising events as raw yardage. We were asked to try to add surface design techniques to the fabrics to see if the pieces would sell better as yardage if they had another layer on them. The other option was to make some fiber art pieces using that fabric. I decided to try using up some of my own stash and collaging onto the hand dyed fabrics. I had picked an orange color and a grayish color. I decided to focus on the orange fabric first because I like orange! I wasn’t having much luck finding colors to match from my stash until I came across some of the printer ink pieces I had made in a Lorna Crane (https://lornacrane.com/) online class I took from Fiber Arts Take Two (https://www.fibreartstaketwo.com/). FATT has great YouTube interviews of a variety of artists from Australia and Europe. The fodder from Lorna’s class was in my PRECIOUS category.

These are the brushes I made after taking Lorna’s class (before they got ink all over them!)

Pretty primitive but very effective!

handmade paint brushes


And here is some of the fodder I made using those brushes and Epson printer ink. I didn’t have any ink for her class, the delivery of my order was a week or so away and I really wanted to get started on her process. I had purchased the wrong ink for my Epson printer and was going to send them off to the thrift store when I started wondering if I could use them. I did a bit of research and it looked like they might work. Each color was 65 ml. I just had to figure out how to get the ink out without spilling it all over the place before I could get it into a more accessible container.

I also used the brushes I made to paint the ink onto the paper and added some other mark making and acrylic paint layers.

fabrics and papers awaiting collage process

This is a mixture of inked paper and fabric pieces made into scrolls. Each of the scrolls is 3” wide x 35” long. I have quite a bit of leftover paper and fabrics plus these scrolls, so I think I have enough for my 5” x 7” series. (In the end I couldn’t cut the scrolls for use in the 5 x 7’s but DID cut them up for use in some 12” x 12” pieces).

finished scrolls

The printer ink made some unusual colors on the fabrics and papers.

But the background fabric is unusual as well. I tore pieces at 7” x 9” so I would have some play room for fussy cutting the finished size. I could get 6 pieces out of one 9” tear. (At this stage, I was thinking “OMG what am I going to do with the other 26” of this weird colored fabric??”)

Six 5x7 fabric pieces ready for collage

I’m still learning how to collage. It’s a combination of design principles and intuition and in my honest opinion not an easy feat. Especially when dealing with odd colors.

Here is a photo of them after working on them the first day.

fabric collages first try

Here is a photo of them after the second day. I was thinking about adding some blue to the mix, which is why you see my baggy of blues in the upper left. I found it difficult to try to add new colors in. They just weren’t working.

fabric collages 2nd try

I was grateful to have the white window tool to view them as I worked on them. They look really chaotic to me without a frame to contain them.

On the third day, faces started appearing. I’ve been focusing on portraits in my current work so maybe it’s to be expected that faces started appearing to me.

How silly is this guy!?

collage 4 with face

I think one could fiddle with these for days, but I needed to keep moving or I’d never get this blog posted!

The next step was trying to figure out how to adhere the pieces to the background fabric.

The collage pieces are a combination of paper and fabric. I didn’t want to stitch them down so I thought I would use either Matte Medium or Soft Gel Matte to glue them down as well as put a layer over the top of the whole piece. I bravely took one of my least favorite 5 x7’s and started with the Matte Medium. Ack! The white of the organza fabric blended into the orange fabric after gluing. Would it dry back to white or stay orange? Of course, I should have tested the Matte Medium before I possibly ruined one of my 5 x7’s but I was living large that day! I’ve also had some experience with the Matte Medium on cloth so I kind of knew how it would look. I took a deep breath and left the piece to dry overnight. I was pleasantly surprised when I looked at them the next day. There is a hint of white but mostly orange showing up. I went ahead and used the Matte Medium on the other 5.

Here is a before and after comparison.


collage before gluing



collage after gluing

Next, I needed to decide if I wanted to do any stitching on them. I ended up running some straight machine stitches with black 30 wt Sulky thread in a couple of the areas.

I’m pretty happy with how they all turned out. The guild will mount each of them behind an 8” x 10” mat board. Hopefully each of them will find a new home and make the guild some money so we can continue to have all our wonderful speakers each month.

They are going to have to really like orange though!

Here are the finished pieces.

collage 6 done

collage 5 done

collage 4 done

collage 3 done

collage 2 done

collage 1 done

Now I need to figure out what to do with the gray fabric!

Happy Creating! Thanks for reading!

Tesi Vaara


18 thoughts on “What Do I Do With These Weird Colored Fabrics?

  1. It is hard, very hard, to use stash that falls into the ‘precious’ category but we just have to be brave and go for it otherwise it will never benefit us.

    What a successful experiment! We loved reading and seeing the photos about your process. Colours are funny things. Sometimes when you try to put a new colour into the mix, although you think it should look good, it can ruin it.

    We often spot faces in our felt pieces – and once seen they cannot be unseen.

    We hope the finished pieces will sell – you’ve done a great job on them 🙂

    1. Thanks for your comments. I’m happy to be getting positive feedback after their exposure to the world! I was not sure. Not my normal palette but fun to explore anyway!

  2. Love your experiments, Tesi. What fun you must have had with all those tiny bits of fabric (love me a bit of collage!)

    Using the white frame was definitely a great idea, the whole thing looks immediately more put together once there’s some space to let it breathe.

    I hope you sell lots of them, and I’m sure even those who aren’t orange lovers will see how beautiful your creations are!

    1. Thanks Leonor! It’s fun to work in a series all at the same time while creating so you can find a cohesiveness to them. Plus if you really don’t like any of them, you’ve got lots more to choose from.

  3. I am not a fan of the color orange, but I’m really attracted to your creations! The faces, as I see them, have a Picasso feel. 👩🏻‍🎨 I am certain they will each find buyers, and bring much needed funds to your guild.

    I like Leonor’s comment about the breathing…😁 That’s a good point, whenever anyone finds themselves going a little crazy with their favorite color.

    Well done, Tesi!

  4. I absolutely love these pieces and orange is not a real favorite of mine….but these are wonderful!

  5. These are wonderful Tesi. I used to say I don’t like this certain color or that color. But now, after many of Gail’s classes, I find that I like many different colors and many different color schemes. I love your pieces and hopefully, they will sell well. I love the faces. I have been working on faces too so it is easy to see a face when you have been thinking about faces. I agree that collages can be hard. For me, I have to keep going. It’s easy to say something doesn’t look good but harder to find another addition or take something away that will improve the composition. Great job!

    1. I seem to be doing that with green the last few days. Not at all my favorite, but really drawn to it. Thanks Ruth!

  6. Good work Tesi with your abstract pieces….complete with faces. As said….once seen, never unseen!

    Colours can be interesting, or difficult, & often depend on the texture particularly when trying to add another colour.

    I hope they soon adorn various walls so that you can enjoy more talks.

  7. I hope they sell too! One good thing about Zoom is that we have gotten some excellent speakers!

    1. Thanks Lynn! I hope the 12 x 12’s I’m working on will work out too. Then I’ll be on to trying to do something with what I think is a muted blue green color. It’ll be challenging!

  8. Great pieces. I am fussy about how I like orange too. Like Ruth I have grown to like more colours and colour pallets through my felting. I used to say I hate green but there are so many shade of green I just cant say that anymore. I hope you raise lots of money for speakers.

    1. Thanks Ann. I hope they are successful too and I really hope I can make something wonderful out of the gray fabric as well.

  9. Co-incidentally a friend who stayed over last week gifted me a brush she made on Lorna Crane’s course – it’s very beautiful, nearly too good to use. I will have to take it out and stop admiring it and use it! Now that I have seen your post I can see the benefits.

    It takes bravery to take the scissors to fabric most especially the precious pieces. But what reward! Your pieces are very beautiful and I have no doubt, will sell like hot cakes Tesi.

    Helene x

    1. Lucky you to be gifted a handmade brush!! They are hard to use but super easy to whip up another one if you need to. It’s been a year since I started Lorna’s course and it opened up again this year with Lorna’s input and very yummy photos being uploaded to the Facebook page.

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