Joanne’s Right: We’re Hungry For It | Lettering + Fabric Art

Creative lettering and art journaling are two of Joanne Sharpe’s wonderful talents. When I heard that she just came out with a book about incorporating lettering into fabric art, I got excited. While browsing through The Art of Whimsical Stitching and seeing her textile work, my jaw dropped. I recently began experimenting with sewing words on paper, and now I know that Joanne’s expert guidance will help hone my skills and ideas.

I know you’ll enjoy this excerpt, in which Joanne addresses why she chose stitching as a form of expression and why you, too, should give it a try. Then, get a taste of what’s in store in this incredible book when you follow a few simple steps to create beautiful fabric art that incorporates stencils.

From "The Art of Whimsical Stitching" by Joanne Sharpe | Fabric Art @
Pin this fabric art by Joanne Sharpe, author of The Art of Whimsical Lettering and The Art of Whimsical Stitching

From The Art of Whimsical Stitching by Joanne Sharpe

Why stitch?

In our highly tech-based society, there is still a need to give attention to the work of the hand, to tactile activity, and to the natural crafting impulses we evolved with as humans. In my international teaching experience, I’ve found that people today are drawn to art and stitching as a way to “be in the moment.” Our culture is craving human touch and activity that isn’t dependent on a keyboard, Wi-Fi signal, or cell tower. Will we leave just databases and text messages to future generations? Hopefully not. A legacy of handmade heirlooms would seem more significant in reflecting the human spirit and a full, rich life.

The Art of the Stitch

Get ready to explore the abundance of options in mixed-media art stitching. You will draw and paint and stitch, but this need not be a huge leap–think about how you can do this most easily. If you’re an artist, you might turn sketches from your journals into patterns and design elements for sewing projects. If you’re a quilter or sewing enthusiast, you could strategize how to add fabric paints to your style of stitching. There are so many directions to take this craft, from making painted and hand-dyed fabrics and quilting them on a sewing machine to using a journal sketch as inspiration for simple handstitching with piles of bright, colorful threads.

My approach to whimsical art sewing is by no means meant to be a guide to making someone a master quilter or painter, but is instead meant to inspire a curious creative blending of art and skill. You need have no concern that I will suggest sewing perfect half-square triangles or 1/4-inch seams. While I’m in complete and total awe of my friends and others who are so disciplined in these skills, that’s not me. Taking a curious approach to making any art allows me to try everything in hopes that I will be inspired by one little task, idea, or technique.

Right now you might be saying, “I don’t need to take on another craft,” and I understand that perfectly well. But if you don’t expand your creative horizons, you might just miss that one route you were unaware of that will lead you right where you were meant to be! Sewing and handstitching are mood-altering, therapeutic, relaxing, stimulating, and tactile. They require a kind of constant, thoughtful motion that is calming. We seem to be hungry for this kind of diversion from our plugged-in lifestyles, and, for some of us, creating with our hands becomes an everyday human need.

Project: Stencil And Sew

Stencils can create instant imagery and patterns for stitchable art. And if you’re a mixed-media artist, you might already have a lot of stencils!

Choose stencils with large cutouts, rather than tiny, intricate spaces. Daub paint on with a sponge or use spray-bottled fabric dyes to quickly cover your fabric surface in repeating allover patterns. Then enhance those patterns with machine or handstitching.

From "The Art of Whimsical Stitching" by Joanne Sharpe | Fabric Art @

1. Gather a few of your favorite stencils (above, left), fabric paints, and pieces of natural-colored muslin to use as foundation pieces.

2. With a glue stick, lightly apply a small amount of glue to the back of the stencil (it will rinse off), so it won’t move when placed on fabric. Place stencil onto fabric.

3. Use a cosmetic sponge to lightly dab the paint onto the stenciled image (above, right). If desired, lift the stencil, reposition it, and repeat the pattern.

From "The Art of Whimsical Stitching" by Joanne Sharpe | Fabric Art @

4. Enhance the designs with loose, free-motion stitching that outlines the shapes of the stenciled images (above).

As you go through this exercise and those in The Art of Whimsical Stitching, think of yourself as being in an art class. Imagine your elementary school self, all excited to venture into new art territory. As children, we were always encouraged to create with piles of assorted materials, combining elements to express ourselves and make a masterpiece. Give yourself permission to be that curious, uninhibited, enthusiastic kid, using all of your art stuff, fabric, and threads to create an experience, make a dynamic piece, and perhaps discover a new passion. ~Joanne

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Preview Joanne’s “Whimsical Words” lettering workshop:


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