Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Woof Woof- the dogs are out!

Happy Wednesday everyone!  I've been sewing lately, but not manically and not with much to show for it. Last weekend was filled almost entirely with non-sewing obligations, and the next three weekends I'll either be out-of-town or have guests visiting.

Bonus though, the guests this weekend are my sister Becky and the beloved not-quite-a-baby-anymore Anna Banana!  I'm so super excited to see them.  Becky thinks Anna is old enough to be introduced to (edible, non-toxic) play doh, so we're going to make some and see what happens.  Also, super exciting news, Anna's going to have a baby brother along in September, so boy sewing starts now!

Anyhow,  I want to share a bit this week about a project that I've finally pulled out of the wasteland of the WIP-drawers, my dog portrait quilt.  This is actually the only item left on my very first UFO-WIP list, from back in 2011.  Sadly, I haven't really done anything with it since then.  I mentioned back at the beginning of this year that finishing it was going to be one of my goals for this year.  I hadn't planned to start working on it until this summer but my mom sent me this call for entry and I thought I might try to finish it and enter.  

I started with three pictures of my (then) three dogs, Pumpkin, Bullett, and Missy and then edited them in photoshop.  Pumpkin has since passed away and we've acquired two new dogs, but I'm just doing these three for this project.

I printed them on fabric sheets we treated and ironed to freezer paper and then sewed them together, so each one is about the size of four 8.5 x 11 pieces of paper.  I put interfacing on the backs of all of them but evidently not strong enough because Bullett and Pumpkin both shrunk up when I started the thread painting.  I got so frustrated with that, I put them away (for a couple of years!).  I really love the edited pictures though so I'm just going to power through and finish them.  They'll all be assembled into one piece, probably with offset grey borders/sashing.

Bullett has been completely thread painted.  Pumpkin was two-thirds done when I put them aside; in the last week I've finished her left eye, ear, and the side of her face. My goal for the rest of this week is to finish her mouth and chest.

Pumpkin, Detail

Since I'm thread painting really densely in one area but not others (the backgrounds) I don't think there's any way to completely avoid the shrinking.  However, to minimize it I've started hooping whatever section I want to work on, which has the added benefit of being easier to maneuver.  I've decided I'm going to get all three dogs done and then block them out as flat as I can, then layer for quilting before filling in the backgrounds.  I'm not optimistic about this since they're really wrinkly, but I'll hope for the best.

Anybody have any experience with this kind of thread painting?  I haven't started Missy yet, so any suggestions for a better approach would be greatly appreciated.  

I'm linking up with Lee over at WIP Wednesday and Nina-Marie over at the Off the Wall Friday.


  1. Wow, that is incredibly impressive!

  2. I've only just learned thread-painting but my instructor told us to use stabilizers and hoops. Tear-away works great but the more densely you stitch the more likely it will be to shrink… I know she sometimes uses buckram as a backing but I'm not sure if that will suit your final product…

    Gorgeous work, by the way.

  3. Wow! I didn't know you were doing thread painting AND dogs!!!!

    Beautiful. I have not worked so densely, but I have learned to overcut my backing and trim later. You can also ay a water soluble stabilizer on top of the piece as well.

    Good luck!

  4. Your dog Pumpkin is stunning. I've also been doing a lot of thread painting, but I'm really impressed with how you've used the blue colors and it still looks so realistic. I'd love to have you share your work on my Design Wall Weekend blog party at

  5. FABULOUS! I love these in a serious way. Every so often take a steam iron to the back and block it. Sometimes even a little spray of water is needed. That should flatten it. Also the next one you do, and you should do more of these - your new dogs will be very upset to be left out. I have heard thread painters use a stiff foundation or back but that does take away from the quilty - ness of it although if the whole thing is thread you won't get that any way. Maybe try one to see what it's like.

  6. I have a lot of experience with this kind of work. I now do all of it on a peltex backing. I cut the peltex down after the threadpainting is done. You did a good job, but there is no way to keep it from drawing up without a backing. I now just do all the threadpainting on the peltex. Then I just applique it onto the background.

  7. Wonderful portrait of your puppy dog!

  8. Gorgeous work! Your thread painting is beautiful!

  9. LOL - now THAT is thread painting - wow - I bow to the expert - now I have a goal to reach toward!

  10. Hi, Shannon. Lovely piece. As Judy suggested, one solution is to do the thread painting, then cut it out and appliqué it to a background. I don't work this way. Rather I work directly on a background because it's part of the composition and I never really know how much stitching I'll do. I use old fashioned newsprint as a stabilizer underneath (that's what's available to me). I frequently get severe buckling, but, I know it will all quilt out--I think! I suppose I'm saying that to do the stitch and cut-out method, you have to think ahead...which is painful to me. You'll find the best way for you; it just takes practice and experimenting and playing. Looking forward to seeing the next dogs!
    best from Tunisia,

  11. I agree with Nadia, you can't always work out what is going to happen till you compose the piece and start working. Sometimes I have added another back, quilted round the edges of shapes in the figure and turned the distorted bit into a bit of trapunto - putting wadding into the shape and making it 3D. people think it was planned, so it must work!

    I have found that with looser weave fabric the background can quilt out easier than with tight weave. Looser as in the difference between a silk dupion background and a cotton lawn. but you really have to do intense quilting.

    I have used upholstery weight calico (Americans call it muslin I think) or sew-in dressmaking interfacing. They cost less than official stabiliser.

    I am a dog lover and I think you have really done well. I feel like I can 'know' this dog from the picture. not just 'oh that is a dog.'
    Sandy in the UK

  12. I have no useful tips to add...but you are amazing. Exciting news about your nephew!

  13. In a class with Ellen Ann Eddy, I learned to do the main object with all of its thread painting as a separate piece instead of on the background. When all your stitching is done and all the shrinking and distortion of the background fabric is done, you cut out your dog or flower or frog and add it to your background with a line of stitching right around its edge. Trim well and add a bit more stitching on the edges if it is needed. Works like a charm. The background is flat and the object-dog- isterrific.