Monday, May 8, 2017


I have tried twice unsuccessfully to create a thread painted portrait.  The thread painting went great.  I find it easy and relaxing.  Color choice was the issue.  I took a class from Lea McComas awhile back and she suggested doing the portrait on fusible Pel-tex (or Tim-tex).  No quilting required except maybe the background.  I fused background fabric onto it,  printed my portrait on fabric and fused it down.  Everything was fine until I got to the shadow side of the face.  Way too dark.  By the time I knew I didn't like it, it was too late to take it out.  Thread painting is a bear to remove so I didn't even try.  I did the whole portrait twice and still didn't get it right.

TIP:  You've heard me say it before.  Let it sit and percolate.  So I did.

Lea McComas does her big, photo-realistic quilts by fusing fabric down onto four layers:  background, canvas, batting and backing.  As usual I am using her basic method with a difference.  Sometimes I don't follow directions well.  In order to avoid ruffling at the outer edge resulting from heavy stitching I am stitching the face on canvas.  I have made a separate background, which I will quilt.  Then I will cut out the finished, stitched portrait and stitch it to the quilted background.  I have done this before and have been pleased with the results.  That is the overview of my plan.

TIP:  You don't  have a design wall?  Try a flannel-backed tablecloth.  You can see mine with the bottom turned up in the photo below.  Why turned up?  Only because my sewing machine is right there and the fabric being stitched sometimes gloms onto the flannel and knocks the whole thing catty-wampus and then I have to crawl under the table to pick up fallen pieces.

Now to start.  There is a lot of prep work for a project like this so I will give you the short version of my method for a 12x 16 inch portrait.  If you want more in-depth instruction I recommend Lea McComas' book, "Thread Painted Portraits."

Photo, posterized full size photo, mylar drawing on foam core board;
unquilted background in the back to the right.
1.  Create a full-sized, black and white, posterized version of your portrait with 4-6 value divisions.

TIP:  If you want you can do your posterized version in color, but drop the opacity way down so the color doesn't distract you.  That is what I did in the above photo.

2.  Tape the posterized photo to a foam core board and cover with a sheet of mylar.  Using a black, fine tipped Sharpie draw around all the lines delineating the different values.  The pen lines can be erased with a little rubbling alcohol on a Q-tip so don't panic if you make a mistake.

TIP:  The fine tip Sharpie is the only one to use (so I am told) because the others don't erase with alcohol.  I had some that wouldn't come off from my last project and found that "Goo Gone" does the job too.

3. Trace the lines from the mylar to freezer paper.  You can see through easily to trace.  Give each value a number:  #1 = very light.......#5 or 6 = the darkest value, and write that number in the appropriate spaces on the freezer paper.  Make another freezer paper copy exactly the same.  (See - it is a lot of busy-work, but believe me it is worth it.)

4.  All the pattern pieces are now marked except the itty-bitty ones.  On one paper copy, starting with the lightest value, use a red pencil and make tiny arrows wherever that piece bumps up against a darker value.  This will be a guide to remind you where to add a little extra when cutting your fabric so it will go under the darker fabric.  Don't worry about the itty bitty pieces.  We'll deal with those later.

Pattern pieces defined and marked.
Shows the posterizing better.  I tried doing all the labeling
on the computer.  Forget it.  I went stark, raving mad!
Now you have two copies and the one on mylar.  You will find that you use them all.  That should do you for this week.  Check back next week to see how I use all those copies.

Sew a happy seam this week or do some drawing instead.


  1. This is going to be a fun project - thank you for sharing with everyone on how to get it started!

  2. Very interesting! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Interesting! I can't wait to see how it progresses.

  4. Belle démonstration je me réjouis de la suite