I love Laura Heine's Fiberworks designs. They're so colorful and whimsical. And I hope to someday go to one of her retreats. But I'm a bit hesitant about jumping into one of her patterns without taking a class. And since there were no Fiberworks Design certified teachers near me, I decided to try a practice round on something small. Here's what I discovered along the way.
I've been drooling over the Fiberworks Designs for years. And every time I'd see one in a shop or scrolling through Instagram, I'd take more than a few moments to admire it. I know that someday I'll bite the bullet and start the Perfect Form Dress or The Dress or Cactus Sampler or Honey Bee or, oh so many others... But dipping my toes into the technique will have to suffice for now.
Let me first throw in a disclaimer - I have not taken a collage class in Laura Heine's technique or any other collage pattern designer. The tips and tools I used, I discovered through watching YouTube videos, reading a few blogs, and my using own ingenuity and noggin. I'm sure my first attempt is flawed and inefficient, as first time attempts often are. But we learn best through making mistakes; the key is to MAKE things. This is a Quilt Lab after all! So this is what I did!
At a visit to Quilters Corner (an awesome shop just outside of Pittsburgh, PA) and their monthly "What's New in the Store" preview, I was bestowed this adorable fat quarter:
Now as lovely as this print is, it's not exactly my taste or style. I'm more of a cool tones kinda girl. But it did present me with an idea: a butterfly collage on top of it, used a background.
I took a close look at the butterflies on the print:
Then searched the web for images that resembled the two butterflies. Eventually I found an outline butterfly that I edited a bit in Paint and printed it out to a size that would cover a descent amount of the fat quarter.
I then choose a lightweight interfacing (non-fusible), to trace the image. This is the template I would glue my fabric on to.
Before I tossed my paper template, I used it as color palette. I knew I wanted to pull colors from the fat quarter so I kept toward the warmer tones.
So here's where it starts to get interesting: pulling fabric. In all the collage quilts that one finds, especially Fiberworks quilts, there are a TON of different fabrics represented. And I'm sure there's a better technique than my dumping of the scrap bin and fat quarter stash to find the perfect bits and pieces for the pattern. Ultimately, I decided to use a base color for each section of the butterfly. Then I'd layer smaller pieces on top to get that collage look.
Using my template, I traced each section to the paper side of of Steam-A-Seam 2 which I then placed on my different color fabric choices. You can see above how they all sorta fit together like a jigsaw puzzle on the right. Then I removed the paper backing and pressed to the light weight stabilizer. (See butterfly body on left.)
Next it was time to audition smaller, accent pieces to the base colors. I wanted the accent to blend in just enough, but not too much. I agonized over this step for days; moving pieces around, cutting way more flowers out than I used, and even walked away from it for a few days to let it marinate in my brain before finally settling on anything.
There's a saying in the quilting world: better done than perfect. So I eventually bit the bullet, grabbed the iron and pressed all my pieces down. The collage butterfly was now set in stone...err... fabric that is.
Once I was sure nothing would fall off, the trimmed away the excess stabilizer - yup, even the antennae - so that I could adhere the whole butterfly onto my background fabric.
Here's where I found several differing opinions as to what product to use to adhere the two pieces together. Some use Steam-a-Seam 2 again, some said to use just a spray basting since it's going to be quilted; some said a blanket or zigzag stitch, treating it as an applique. Ultimately, I choose to use Liquid Stitch. I used it mainly around the edges, along with a couple of stripes in the center. I knew I was going to use dense quilting once dried, so I didn't want to overuse the product. I mainly just needed it to stay in place long enough for me to get it under a needle.
As a side note: I've used both Steam-A-Seam 2 and Liquid Stitch in the past; and I'm comfortable with these products. There may be better options out there, but since this was an exploratory attempt, I stuck with the known products.
As mentioned above, I used a dense quilting, all horizontal lines spaced randomly between a quarter of an inch to an inch width apart. I used a HandiQuilter Amara with the channel lock on when stitching to ensure a straight line. The batting is a thick cotton; I wanted it to have a nice structure since I knew it would be a wall hanging. (I added a few bumblebees as a last minute addition! Can you spot them?)
Trimmed and binding attached - voila - my finished collage butterfly!
And a close-up pic:
In review: Overall, I'm pretty pleased with my first college quilt attempt. It hasn't scared me away from trying something bigger; however, I'm sure I still have plenty more to learn about this technique. There's got to be a secret or tip as to how to choose fabric; and I'm sure I have more to learn about layering fabric and how to draw the eye to different areas of the quilt. In retrospect, for this quilt, I wish I had flipped the color order in the wings; I think it blends into the background a little too much. It's still pretty though, and is proudly hanging in My Quilt Lab.
Have you tried a collage quilt? I'd love to hear your story too!
Back to the Lab!
A list of resources: (please note that at this time I don't use affiliates, so I get nothing from listing these links; I just thought you'd like to know!)
Quilters Corner - Finleyville, PA (southwest of Pittsburgh, PA)