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Fabric Collage for a Lesson in Fun

I have not felt like sewing on my machine lately. Sometimes it is helpful to take a break from one's regular routine, change things up a bit, and find a new point of perspective.

So for the last few weeks, I have been picking up the scissors and glue stick, instead of spending the day with my 3 B’s (aka Berninas), Bernie, Bernice and Bernadette.

I got the idea when I pulled out some art collage quilts I made a few years ago; I wanted to hang up for some festive decor for Halloween. I was reminded of how much fun they were to make.

I made a skeleton to represent each family member - finding ways to personalize them was the best part.

Remembering how fun it was to collage with fabric gave me the idea to make a gift for my veterinarian. She was so helpful with all the sadness we went through with our pet a few weeks ago. I wanted to show my appreciation. Making a fabric collage seemed like a perfect answer. It took a day to cut out, arrange and play, then a second day to quilt and bind. I wasn't really thinking at the time, but it turned out to be a very healing project for me. Simple tasks, no rules, and a lot of play. Just what I needed!

I made sure to add my sweet Betsy in, with some butterfly wings.

As I said, fabric collage does not play by any rules. That is what makes it fun. Put on some good music, or an old favorite movie, and let loose. No rules - but I could share a few tips:

1. Don't limit yourself to one fabric design, maker or style. Once you begin collaging, they all seem to work together. I had realistic animals, and very simplified versions of animals. Once you stitch them all down, they all become friends.

2. Be sure to vary the scale and overlap throughout your collage. Cluster a big image next to a few small images for interest. Place some images in front of others, arrange some to touch and let some be off on their own. This is what makes the layout interesting and adds personality to your collage. If things start looking like they aren't cohesive, throw a black and white print in - it always helps.

3. Don't feel like you have to glue down each and every spot. Just enough to hold it in place to stitch it all down. Then sandwich the top, batting and backing together and you are ready to stitch/quilt all at once. I like to use black thread to do this part. There is something very "sketchy" about black thread. If you do not try for perfection, and embrace doodling, you will be surprised at how it pulls everything together. If it doesn't look quite right, go over the shapes a few more times. This makes the messy look intentional. It is a bit addictive once you get in the groove.

I could be done with the story now, but I wanted to share this fun process with others. I grabbed some leftover Halloween and Day of the Dead fabric scraps, did some cutting, and made a simple placemat. This afternoon project (!) turned out to be the beginning of a few new classes at Hello Stitch for their Fall schedule.

Last weekend, I taught my first in person class since 2019 at Hello Stitch Studio, in Berkeley, CA. It was so fun! I think everyone was just happy to be present and get to play. No rules, no perfect points. Just sharp scissors and a stack of fabrics from the scrap bin. What fun!

The fifth photo is actually the back of one student‘s project. Phoebe D. used the black thread "sketchy" technique I mentioned to stitch her collage down. The backside shows how freeing it can be. It is so wonderful!

We had such a great time that we are going to repeat the class again in December. This gave me an excuse to make more collages. If you are in the Bay Area region of California, check out the Hello Stitch website. We will be adding the class in the next few days. I would love to have you join me for a play day.

After all of that, I am ready to get back to sewing on the machine - with a fresh outlook and feeling reinvigorated. Now, which project do I start with?

Have a great week! Pati

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